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I’m Posting This Sh1t Online,
Now Whaddaya Gonna Do?

Part IV
Commercial Publication
What we really want

This series aimed to address the arguments against webfiction.  It will conclude by addressing the one assumption that powers most of these arguments:

Commercial success is the goal of every artist.

The beginning of this series I mentioned that I disagree with the notion that commercial publication is the only option.  We all know it’s not.  Is it, however, the best one?

The dream of commercial success is a fantasy that only a miniscule number of people achieve.  But I confess, if I were offered a fat contract, or a thin contract, or even an anorexic contract, I would take it.  I’m a greedy asshole and the people at the grocery store won’t trade food for stories.

So I dream of publication. And I dream of all the things that come with it:  having a team of experienced editors, chosing stunning cover art, seeing that stunning cover art grace bookstore shelves, flipping open the stunning covers to sign the inside for lines of eager fans, reading five-star reviews in the Sunday paper, and of course, watching the royalties roll in.  Even small time writers get the thrill of working with a pro editor, having cover art done, seeing their book on shelves (even if they’re a bit dusty,) and arranging local signings (even if only a couple of people come and they were really just there to pick up a coffee.)

However.  This is the dream.  Not the goal.

The goal is to create and share work.  If that sounds familiar, it’s because I began this series on a similar note.  That’s sort of the whole point of this series.  Why?  Because it’s true.  The modern world has a very proprietary notion of art, and proprietary notions of anything tend to exist because people want to get money/fame/success from them.  But writing is art and art is culture and culture is shared.  You don’t have culture alone.  At best, you have a dying culture.

To summarize:
Commercial writing  =  money (even if it’s a only little)
writing   !=    money

Does this mean:
writing  !=  Commercial writing?

In other words, we’ve established that commercial writing–the kind with advances and royalties and whatnot–is not the only viable kind of writing, it’s not the only viable kind of publication. However, is it still the best?  Or what writers should be asking themselves:

Should this be the goal?

I’ve talked before about the limitations of webfiction.  Does this mean that we should embrace webfic, but still strive for the traditional rout even though the traditional rout may mean tailoring your work to that market?  Can we balance artistic license with making something marketable?  Or is “balance” just another word for compromising artistic integrity?

If money came along, I’d take it.  If success came along, I’d take it.  If advances and royalties and cover art and book signings and reviews came along, I’d take them.  (See above, re: food)  With no scientific or statistical evidence whatsoever, I’d estimate that most people would do the same.

Should we?

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