Commercial vs. Literary Fiction



“Medieval Scribe” was my MSN screen name for quite a while ^^

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I think my highest ranking so far is #205 (“Master & Servant”, a bdsm short story in the B&N store). Screenshot below.

master and servant

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I had three basic writing/financial goals — out of those 3, I have 1 more left to cross in 2011. My plan was to hit the goal first, then figure out how to keep the sales numbers/etc ‘consistent’. In my experience, the first $100 was hardest to make (from my self-published/independently-published material).

A big part of the motivation to have some kind of income coming in (from writing books/fiction), is due to anger, and a whole load of other quite-negative drives and emotions (if I stop to think about it). Whether it was said directly or indirectly, kindly or insultingly, I remember things people have said to me over the years.

That my chances of striking the lottery are higher, than writing the next Twilight or Harry Potter (despite the fact that I never said I wanted to write the next TL or HP). That self-publishing is too expensive and time-consuming, that I should have other goals in my life, etc etc.

I dunno. I think it reminds me of the time where I left a mass communications course halfway (the day before I turned 18). It was the first time in my life that I did something for myself, because I believed I could be doing something better with my life. Selfish as it might sound/look on the surface, I look at my own self to decide what I want to do / where I want to be — because if I did everything that 5 (or 50, or 500) people told me to do with my life, I wouldn’t have a life at all by the end of the day.

A quick Google search for “Commercial vs. Literary Fiction” comes up with some interesting results. I think there will always be that pull between aesthetics (art) and business (money) — personally, I think finding a balance between both components would be the most ideal situation ;).

While labels and categories (for books, films, music, whatever) can be advantageous to a certain extent (especially re: marketing), I think a piece of work will eventually find the correct audience sooner or later, if the person behind the work (1) desires for success, and (2) believes in themselves + their work. Basically, I guess it might boil down to belief/passion + persistence/perseverance (but I think the first category is more important / passion will offset the ‘drudgery’ involved with ‘perseverance’).

There was a time (during my late teens/very early 20s) where I used to get very incensed that I couldn’t just go the commercial route (write in a popular genre, not do anything different with each new project, etc etc). Right now, I have both mainstream and alternative material out (in different genres)…perhaps to prove to myself that it’s really possible to just do what I want (meaningful work), and have my own life. Not one that’s dictated by the dynamics of the rat race, so on and so forth.

I’ve received a few emails in the past half year or so, from indie writers who feel that their (non-commercial) work is never going to take off. It might take longer to “take off” (as compared to something that’s commercial/easily categorizable), but I think it would be inaccurate to say it would be impossible to never get moving too.

I started off at $10-$40 per month (back in 2009), and while I thought that amount was really abysmal and worrisome, I continued putting out new work. Later (in 2010), it started to plateau at “a better rate” per month. The next jumps have been slow (to me), but I can “see” things continuing to improve. I live simply; dreams matter to me; I like doing what I do. I like to aim for some kind of combination of style and substance, and people can label it however they want (‘commercial’, ‘literary’, ‘great’, ‘atrocious’, ‘authentic’, or ‘pretentious’). And maybe somewhere out there, somebody will appreciate what I like to write/talk/think about too. What have I got to lose?

My current plans for (the first half of) 2011 basically consist of cranking out as much material as I can. I’ve slowed down in the past week, but hopefully I’ll be able to pick up with where I left off, next week or so. I had writing goals in a timeline — I wanted to achieve certain goals at the following ages in my life: 18, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 31 (don’t ask me what happens after I turn 31). I’ve managed to hit the goals I set at 18, 19, 21, and 23 (which, technically, is half of the timeline). I’ll turn 25 in September this year. I’d like to hit the goal I set for 25, lol [and the one at 27; 31 was kind of “open-ended” (for better or worse)].

P.S. Some of the new material containing underage sex (less than 18 y/o) will ONLY be available on my website (and I’m interested to see if that will end up being my bestseller — we all want what we can’t have…). It was my intention since long ago (with that novella I have in mind) to trace the characters’ sexual interactions from the time they were/are tweens and young teenagers. Just because something is censored based on grounds of morality, doesn’t mean it’ll cease to exist in the real world. And it is this aspect I’d like to try to capture in that novella [something real, something slightly gritty (maybe)…with a romantic ending (maybe) — as in, I’m not going to punish my characters by having them “die for their sins,” if it’s not absolutely necessary to the plot].

P.P.S. I was considering “rushing through” the next bdsm story — but I think I’ll slow down a bit. Might as well take the time to do something right…


3 thoughts on “Commercial vs. Literary Fiction

  1. I like that… might as well take the time to do something right. I just had that thought this morning as I started going through my latest book, “Kicking Life’s Ass!”. I realized it needed more. I was at 52,000 words this morning and now at 57,000 – and no end in sight. Working tonight after princess goes to sleep.

    I really want this book to be my best book yet (non-fiction). It’s going to take more time than I want it to take – but, that’s the point… to be the best book it’s going to take a little more time.

    Cheers Jess!


    • Hi Mike,

      I KNOW! I think it can get quite annoying for “people who like to work fast” — but I think I’ve learnt my lesson with the elves book. First draft was 40,000 words, not enough texture / ended up around 66,000 words.

      Time will have to be spent “fixing” the rushed-through portions anyway, if not done correctly -_-. All the best with the “Kicking Life’s Ass” book (hope you reach the “final word count” soon)!


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