Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Your Book - Creation or Commodity


You’re an author, and you’ve finally finished your book, the project you’ve slaved over to make as perfect as you can. It’s your personal tome, a part of you, your baby, your creation.

Now what?

Now that you’ve finished the thing that’s taken over your life for (insert number of years you worked slavishly on your book), what are you going to do next? Are you going to stuff it away somewhere, never to be seen again, or are you going to tout it to the world? The next logical step for most authors serious about writing is to seek publication. A good many will not take this next step due to personal fears or other obstacles, but one thing’s for sure … the motivation for writing will drive what you do next.

So, why’d you write the darn thing in the first place?

Every author has a reason for writing, and not all authors’ reasons are the same. Some dream of instant fame and fortune so they can quit their despised ‘day job’ and not have to worry about money or anything else ever again. (A fantasy that rarely comes true for the typical author.) Others have something to prove to someone, the world, or themselves – usually that they can finish something they set out to do. Still others have a story inside them that’s bursting to be told. The reasons are probably as numerous as the authors who harbor them, but one thing’s for sure, very few people will have spent years of their life losing sleep and missing the growing up of their children just to write a bunch of words that will sit forever in a dusty box under the bed. Writing is a legacy, a thing left behind to remind the world that the author lived and had something he or she felt was worthwhile to say. And that is why most authors want to see their work published and read by others – as a testament and sharing of their thoughts, their lives.
Which brings us back to the question … creation or commodity?

While the story remains in the sole possession of the author, it remains his baby, his creation. However, as soon as the author relinquishes control of the story for publishing, it ceases to be the author’s possession. It ceases to be one of a kind, an oddity or curiosity for contemplation and appreciation. It ceases to be a creation.

When the story is published, it becomes a thing to be replicated and packaged and marketed and sold to consumers. It becomes a commodity.

And why is this distinction important?

One word: marketing. The publisher wants to sell books to make money. The reader wants to buy books to read. These two groups therefore look at the book as a commodity to be bought and sold and used (or consumed) for a practical purpose. A creation on the other hand, while it might be purchased, does not usually serve a practical, consumable purpose. So once the author’s work is handed over for publishing, it becomes a commodity that must be marketed if it is to be sold.


While no author wants to imagine reducing all his hard work and thoughts – his soul – to a pricetagged item for sale, that’s exactly what the author’s book becomes in the hands of those who will use or consume it – his readers. But this shift in thinking is absolutely necessary for the author to realize that sales of his book may very well depend on his own salesmanship.
The author may have spent years honing his writing skills to perfect his book without ever realizing he’d have to equally hone his sales skills to get his book into the hands of interested readers. But that’s exactly what has to happen.

We’ll talk more about marketing in a later post. For now, let it be enough to burst the bubble of the fantasy that sets the author apart as a creative genius with no responsibility for the future success of his creation. The author must sponsor and promote his creation so that it thrives in the commercial world of commodities for sale and consumption.

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