Saturday, March 16, 2019

Writing for love and money

So Tess Sharpe posted a twitter discussion recently about writing books for love vs. writing books for money. But the main take away, for me, right from the get go and throughout the whole discussion, is that she pitted them against each other. You can write for love, where a book is about you and your readers, OR for money, where you (the author) are taken out of the equation. But she generally seems to believe, at least to go by her discussion, that a book cannot be written for both love and money. One single book will always be one or the other, and you can write both throughout your career, but they'll never be the same book.

And I have a couple of problems with this.

One, it perpetuates the concept of the 'starving artist' that authors, musicians, and other artists struggle against. A concept so deeply rooted that people think $4.99 is too much for a book, $1.29 is too much for a single song, and $15.99 is too much for unlimited access to entire swaths of movies and TV. Art, people think, should be free, because artists should only do what they love (or they're inauthentic) and if they do it for love they shouldn't want money for it.

This sort of thinking applies to no other industry. Artists struggle against it daily. If I got the money I deserve for every pirated copy of my books, my wife and I would not be living down to the wire every month. I could help my family while my dad is out of work. I could get the breast reduction surgery that would help my back and neck pain. I could get my eyes fixed. I could help my dad's ankle. His teeth. My brother's teeth. My sisters. My friends.

But because I love what I write I shouldn't want/don't need money for it.

So I get upset every time someone says that love =/= money. Whatever the intent or thought, that sort of thinking perpetuates this harmful stereotype.

My second problem is that being able to choose between love or money that way is the luxury, in a peculiar way, of people who could, frankly, make money doing what they love. People who already have money, and therefore the luxury of choice. Do you know what queer people like me hear all the time? "If you want it, write/draw/make it, stop whining that other people don't."

So in order to see myself in books, to see the books I want to read, the books I love, I write them. The romance genre as a whole still doesn't care much, as a whole, about non-het romances. So I, and many other writers, write what we love to make money because nobody else cares about us.

Like, yes, we write in a niche genre that's most often subject to 'lol, those straight women and their gay porn' like there isn't much more depth and nuance and importance to it, but we're just as valid and important as het romance. We shouldn't have to throw away what we are, what we do, and resign ourselves to writing straight romance for money we probably won't make anyway because the het romance market is twenty times the size, at least, of the queer romance market. There's no guarantee we'd get that money. So why write what we don't resonate with for money we won't make when we could write what we love—what we need—for the same slim chance of making money?

So yes, you can write for love and money at the same time, and it's privileged to say you have to choose. Because many of us don't have any choice at all, except to give up what and who we are to please the people who keep telling us we don't matter unless we pretend to be straight, in life and art.


  1. Yes! To all of this. Beautifully said.

  2. As someone who works in 'mainstream' arts and gets flack for it, ALL OF WHAT YOU SAID.

    Why was it that when I was struggling to pay rent and choose between food and gas (never mind car vs health insurance, car won every time), that was fine, but now that I can pay my bills, travel, saved up for a down payment on a condo in one of the most expensive cities in the world, I'm considered a sellout?

    It took nearly 20 years for me to be able to not worry (too much) about bills. And, all it takes is a change in the economy for me to worry about going bankrupt, as I nearly did several years ago.

    No one says to a mechanic, a lawyer, a doctor, a house cleaner that they should do what they do for free. Why is it that those of us who work in the arts are made to feel guilty when we get paid? Why is stealing a book, tv show, music okay, but a car or shirt not?

  3. Dear Megan, What you said is so sad. That people think as such. I am het, been married for 48 yrs. But I consider most het. books truly boring. I love your books, and I do not mind paying whatever I have to. You should get paid with no complaint from anyone. all artist of whatever type should get paid properly and love what you do too. I wish I had such talent. JC


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