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What In The Hell Do I have To Put On The Paper To Make A Sale?

In your writing career, if you have never uttered sentiments similar to the title of this post, you are either a famously successful and fabulouly wealthy wordsmith or you just don't give a flying crap. In either case, this posting is not for you. The big sellers in writing, for the most part, believe they have all the answers. "Just look at my checkbook," or, "Count my followers on Twitter." Those who don't give a flying crap as to what happens to their writing, well I don't give a flying crap either.

The rest of us are staring at a shrinking market, an increase in the number of writers, and in an economy in which more of us will be flipping burgers and greeting folks at Walmart than had planned to do so. The ticket into the literary life, we are told, is a sale. Survival requires more sales. A writing career requires even more sales and for big bucks.

Yet, in the midst of this economic disaster, there are any number of writers who go out of their way to teach the art of writing to aspiring key-ticklers, and are very free with their experiences and hard-won bits of knowledge. By so doing, they increase the number of manuscripts competing against their own for the few story slots available in genre magazines and book houses. That doesn't seem to make sense. Looked at as an economic, profit-making enterprise, no it doesn't make any sense. So what's going on here?

Some writing is a craft. A craftsperson assembles units of something for sale. If the craftsperson sells many units, the craftsperson is justified in saying, "I am a success!"

Some writing is an art. An artist creates works of art for the sake of creation; that's what artists do. If the artist creates works of art that fulfills his or her need to create, the artist is justified in saying, "I am a success." These are the writers who also find fulfillment in helping new artists find their voices.

Where many of us get into serious trouble is by judging our success as artists by craftsperson's standards. "Why can't I make a sale? I'm a failure!" What really has us scratching our heads is when we run across well-off craftspersons (brokers, salespersons, government employees, short order cooks, bartenders, tech writers, etc.) who are in therapy or being talked down from a ledge on a tall building because, "I just don't feel like I've done anything with my life."

So, what to do? Well, what I've done is prepare a talk, coincidentally titled "What In The Hell Do I have To Put On The Paper To Make A Sale?" that I have proposed to Rose Fox at Readercon Programming for this years con, Readercon 23, July 12-15, 2012, at the Boston Marriot Burlington Hotel. If I had all the answers, I'd make it a lecture. This is the kind of subject that needs thrashing out on a face-to-face basis, however, and that's how it will be done.

There is a way to survive as a writer-artist, and if Readercon puts it on the program, I will be there to share my experience and to gather what I can from those who attend. If this subject has relevance to any aspect of your writing career, I hope you will attend.
The image link goes to Readercon's homepage.

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What About This Blog?

For writers & readers. For writers, this is stuff I've learned, am in the process of discovering, and stuff that is imparted to me by other writers. For readers, I believe the more one knows about what goes into the writing of a story, and into the life of being a writer, the more one appreciates an author's writings.

This is a two-way blog. Your comments on the blogs are welcome, as are your questions. Comments on blogs can be made directly on each blog entry. For questions and comments not related to specific blogs, use the eMail link below.

Barry B. Longyear is the first writer to win the Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer all in the same year. In addition to his acclaimed Enemy Mine Series, his works include the Circus World and Infinity Hold series, Sea of Glass, other SF & fantasy novels, recovery and writing instruction works, and numerous short stories.