Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hey, Authors!

Do you agree with Seth Godin?

"Authors don't care about units sold. They care about ideas spread."

I publish entirely non-fiction these days, and I'm not sure my authors would consistently agree with him -- and I think the mostly fiction-writing folks who read this blog will be even more dubious.


BenTGaidin said...

From his article:
"It's entirely likely that many people in the chain WON'T make any money. That's okay. That's the way change works."

And that's fine -- as long as this change also includes the people in the grocery chain, and the housing chain is cool with this, and they don't mind also not making any money while continuing to supply food and roofs, I think everything will be okay.

Jess Nevins said...

Here's one author who actually does care about units sold.

Of course, I just write reference books, so I don't count to people like Godin.

Kaz Augustin said...

Yeah, what is this idea that authors don't care about the practicalities of life ... such as eating and affording a place to live, anchored as they are to the loftier concepts. This myth has got to start dying.

graywave said...

It doesn't even depend on whether the author hopes to make a living or not - units sold must matter. Without a book reaching lots of people, it's ideas won't reach lots of people.

Where would Richard Dawkins' notions of the selfish gene, or even memes, be without massive sales? Who would know George Orwell's philosophy without the success of Animal Farm or 1984?

Anonymous said...

clearly, this guy is not trying to pay the bills on a writer's income.

I don't know why I'm supposed to be happy to starve to death, if people will only read my books!

This attitude that "units sold" doesn't matter can only come from someone who doesn't make their living based on exactly that.

Kate Lord Brown said...

The romantic allure of writing in a garret/basement tends to pall a bit once you throw things like family into the equation ... One thing starving yourself for your art, but small children? This argument is as tired as the one that all artists are mad bad and dangerous to know. Personally, I want to write thought provoking fiction that sells too - simple?!

Unknown said...

Absolutely. If you just sell books you have not built an audience. By spreading ideas, you connect with people who will probably buy your future books too.

Without a connected audience, an author has no future.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Eric: I think you've missed my point about the difference between fiction and non-fiction.

Both of these things that you said are true:

By spreading ideas, you connect with people who will probably buy your future books too.

Without a connected audience, an author has no future.

But they don't necessarily logically follow from each other.

Let's take the example of James Patterson. He's probably the single most successful writer of our era, regularly selling immense numbers of books to a faithful audience.

Now, tell me: what are his ideas? And is that audience buying his books for their ideas?

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