Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Why Do Authors Do What They Do?

Why do authors spend inordinate amounts of time alone, carefully creating stories that may or may not get published; and, even if self-published, may or may not sell well?

There are something like 2,000 books published in the world, Every Day

I found an article by Cory Doctorow, Why Should Anyone Care?, that should be read by any writer who’s uncertain they have what it takes to pour themselves into endeavors that have slim odds of paying off—even if the pay-off is only having a lot of folks read their books.

Here’s Cory’s description of the normal routine in a book’s life in a bookstore:

“…a publisher’s rep would come in and tell us breathlessly about the lead titles—how much promotion they were up for, how much the house believed in the title, how well the author had done before. We’d order a pile of hardcovers, generally a smaller pile than we’d been asked to take, and usually, they’d sell modestly well. Then we’d return the leftovers, and some months later, they’d resurface as remainders, with their dustjackets clipped or magic-markered lines drawn on their page-edges. Then they’d come in as paperbacks, hang around for a few months longer, and vanish. Sometimes, a copy or two would surface as used trade-ins, and sometimes a regular would ask us to order a copy, but within a short time, the book would no longer be in the publisher’s catalog in any form. It would be gone.”

But, what about the Internet?

“The advent of online stores like Amazon combined with efficiencies in short print runs has made it possible to keep modest sellers in the stream of commerce for something like perpetuity. But one thing hasn’t changed: most books—even those that are deservedly well-loved by publishers, readers, and booksellers—make hardly a ripple on release and fade away to nothing before you know it.”

Cory also addresses those who feel they have what it takes to market/promote their own books and I encourage you, whether you’re a writer or know a writer, to read the full article.

His closing thoughts are somewhere between “Chilling” and “Realistic”.

“Getting people to care about the products of your imagination is a profound and infinitely complex task that will absorb as much attention as you give it. Every book and every author brings a different proposition to the negotiation with readers, but there’s one thing they all have in common: unless someone takes charge of doing something, something clever and active and good and slightly improbable, no one will care about the book or the person who wrote it.”

Of course, with a person as experienced and well-known as Mr. Doctorow, the comments readers left are equally interesting

Are you a creative writer? Do you know one?

Why do authors pour so much of themselves into creations that may not be appreciated?

Why do so many take on the burden of promoting their own work?

I’m a self-published writer who’s doing my own promotion. Am I crazy?
EDIT: Joel Friedlander also thought Cory’s article worthy of mention
Our Comment Link Is At The Top of The Post :-)

11 responses to “Why Do Authors Do What They Do?

  1. Simone Benedict September 7, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    That was a wonderful article. Why do authors seek to sell the “products of their imaginations”? I’d like to think for many it’s because they wish to make the world a better place, one reader at a time. I think that may be the second most difficult product to push. I believe the most difficult product to push is the writers who wish to add something new and vibrant to the art of writing.


    • Alexander M Zoltai September 7, 2011 at 3:50 pm

      What a Glorious Comment, Simone!!

      Yes, making the world a better place, even if only by “entertaining” folks to lighten their load, is the second hardest product to promote…

      Would that more writers had the courage to give “something new and vibrant to the art of writing”.


  2. Gwenette Writer Sinclair September 7, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    I think there is a biological answer to your core question, which is basically: Why do we write at all?? (The push to share or sell is a separate question, yes??) When I write, my MIND is very active seeing visions, seeking words, hearing sounds . . . and I actually experience an altered state of being, I sense my own mind and I sense completeness when the vision, words and sounds all slide together, meshing into a perfect form . . I actually feel a chemical happenstance in my brain and body . . . and I Like it! That is why I write. This is true whether I am writing an essay, a short story, a poem, a political treatsie or a technical manual:) Whether anyone else reads it or experiences it . . that is an added pleasure. As a teacher, I do know that if I experience that state of perfect meshing. then use that piece with my students, they DO respond differently. They sense the balance I think – the state of communication in equipoise:) Information in equipoise can be more readily envisioned and accepted. Written and spoken language (I include singing and chanting here) is inherently a pathway to CONNECT with others. Those direct connections are almost as good as the first creation sensation . . . almost ;-D So, we reach out to share and sell . . .


    • Alexander M Zoltai September 8, 2011 at 12:29 am


      Very glad you clearly separate the act of writing from sharing or selling the product.

      I would quickly die from creative anemia if I were forced to write for money

      I Love your use of Equipoise, Meshing, and Completion for the feelings you associate with having writ right :-)

      Your experience with your students is entrancing to me; the feedback must be energizing!!


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