On Selling Out

So i09 sums it up better than I could and Scalzi himself touched on it today, but I wanted to throw my two cents out there, mostly because this is a subject that hits somewhat close to home for me.

First off, I think the debate is, at best, circular and at worst, pointless. People debate it as if there is this magical line where you go from having artistic integrity to sell out- and that is somehow determined by the consumer, as if to say “I WILL GIVE YOU MONEY FOR THE PRODUCT I WANT ONLY AS LONG AS A BUNCH OF OTHER PEOPLE DON’T WANT IT TOO”.

This makes you a hipster. Don’t be a hipster.

I recently ran a Kickstarter for my 3024AD series. I’ve discussed it at length, but the short version is, it didn’t go. Talking with my friend David of CaffeineForge (whose Kickstarter was funded), we discussed what was successful on Kickstarter, and the running joke of “a steampunk/cthulu crossover featuring a gender-confused teen” was born, because holy crap, that’s half the books on Kickstarter. Now, there is no doubt in my mind that if you write a book with any or all of those elements, you do so with nothing but pure, white, shining artistic integrity.

Not so much if I wrote it. If I wrote it, it would be 100% to sell. Nothing more.

But wait, there’s a catch: When I started writing the 3024AD series almost a year ago, that was my stated goal. I have written for years, for fun. When I sat down to start this, I said to myself “I will sell this and I will be successful at it.” In fact, I wrote it down. It’s my goal.

There’s a catch to that, too. I love this series. Love it. I love writing it, I love working on it, I love coming up with ideas for it. Even editing it isn’t much of a chore. It’s as artistically-pure as anything I’ve ever done (with the exception of some captivating doodles in psychology classes).

So where is the line? Does it come later? Is it less pure because I plan to sell it? But does sharing it with an audience make it more or less pure? Is it impure because I charge for it? But if I charge for it, I might not have to do other stuff all day, thus enabling me to create more?

As I said, circular and pointless. It boils down to this: The artist creates it, and if they choose to share it, that is up to them as an individual- not the consumer. The integrity is their own, for good or ill, and it’s not our place to judge.

If you’ll excuse me, I have a steampunk/cthulu crossover starring a gender confused teen to write.


2 thoughts on “On Selling Out

  1. Vance Kotrla (@vkotrla) says:

    You’re right that it’s a circular and pointless argument. I think the pejorative “selling out” should imply that someone knowingly compromised their art — made creative decisions differently than they otherwise would have — in exchange for money. If someone offered Leonard Cohen a billion dollars to cover a Katy Perry song with a kazoo backing band and he took it, for instance, instead of recording another album of heartfelt sing-spoken poetry. But that’s not what fans usually mean when they say “selling out.” They mean, “This is new and different from the last thing and I don’t like it as much even though this person/group is more popular now, so they must be sell-outs.”

    What also grays the line is age. Did Metallica sell out? Or did they just get old? We’ll never know…

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