The skills to pay the bills

Monday, June 21, 2010

Elissa Bassist from the Rumpus thinks self-publishing may be the answer to making money from your writing without having to compromise, and lays out her plan for doing so by creating a single-purpose website for one of her essays:

This wasn’t my idea. It was Susannah Breslin’s idea, as told to me by Tracy Clark-Flory of After I asked Tracy if this piece could work in any piecemeal form on Salon, she asked, “Why don’t you self-publish?” This was the best rejection/advice ever. The most common response I received from editors was, “I just don’t see where it fits.” For every time an editor says this, my response will be, “Why don’t you self-publish?” Math is not my forte, but I imagine that many unpublished pieces remain unpublished because they don’t fit neatly into the excess of fiction-geared literary journals or reportage-based magazines.

I like the idea but I have to question her overarching quest for money. At some point the vast majority of writers have to accept that we won't get picked in the NBA Draft Lottery of Writers and will have to make do with various day jobs, teaching gigs, freelance assignments, etc to finance our obsession. Readership is the real payoff. It's not a question of failure, just economic practicality. But my wife, who runs her own business, swears up and down that the path to making money starts with doing something you love and doing it well. So far she's been right, and I make a habit of not disagreeing with her.