I saw this infographic today, about the Six Types of Writers.
Great, I thought – I like cute and fun online Facebook tests about writers that momentarily distract me from the challenges of writing. I was asked, “Which one are you,” so I searched.
Here’s the problem, these aren’t the six types of writers. These are the six types of failed writers. These are the things writers do that make them unsuccessful. They could be called the six sins of writing.
It also makes a major categorical distinction, which I reject out of hand:
The fact that “real” writers are creative and don’t think about business; and that people who think about the business can’t actually be good writers. Alexi’s website says the “Greasy Palms” are the writers most likely to be on the bestseller lists, but that…
they don’t really like writing and are not really suited to anything creative.
And while that makes me furious, it’s a pretty common thinking among writers, who consider “commercial success” to be proof of artistic poverty and lack of integrity.
It means, for example, when I (after spending 20 years honing my craft and learning the business, as I have done), publish fiction that becomes a bestseller and makes lots of money, there must be something wrong with me. I must not be enjoying it, or my writing must actually suck, which feels condescending towards all the readers who enjoyed my novels..
You shouldn’t want to be any of these six types of writers. So I’ll create a new one:
The magician accepts total responsibility over their creative production, (by becoming a fucking literary genius and the best damn writer in the world), and also takes responsibility over their reception, (by writing books for a specific audience, cultivating that audience into rabid fans, and learning how to build an online system that does your marketing for you so you can spend more time producing bestselling books).
You don’t need to choose between success or quality, or writing for yourself and writing for the market. Those are stupid, false dichotomies failed authors use to make themselves feel better about their continued failure.
Don’t identify the source of your failure and then just give up and say “well, that’s the type of writer I am, and I’m not going to change because if the world doesn’t like my writing, they can suck it.” Nobody owes you anything. Success doesn’t mean selling out; it means being flexible and learning how to win. It doesn’t mean you’re a worse writer. Successful books are successful for one reason: people like them.
Also, while I disagree with Alexi’s infographic, I should point out that making the infographic was brilliant, and potentially more brilliant because of its flaws (which creates controversy, and gets someone like me to share). And a quiz to discover your writing type is great content too, because everybody’s favorite subject is themselves. In most cases, memes make people feel good because highlight shared insecurities. It’s probably mostly true, that the vast majority of authors are somewhere among those archetypes, and that very few “real” authors (those we consider famous) were *only* writing for the money as a business. But it’s also, at the same time, mostly true that ALL famous authors are only Still Known *because* they were commercially successful in their lifetime or soon after – the majority of them, though there are outliers – and that this has spend up with time. It’s very unlikely you’ll be rediscovered after death, it’s not like someone will keep your old laptop charged for half a decade and then go digging for your unpublished manuscripts. It’s far more likely you’ll publish something nobody wants and become a bitter failure (give up) or a greasy palm (pivot, persevere, profit).
There are many ways to write a book.
There are only a small number of ways to write a bestseller, and the the only metric that really matters is whether people enjoy your writing or suffer through it.
Side notes: I’m definitely a weird recluse. Oscar Wilde totally wasn’t a ray of sunshine.
And I resent that the “business” is represented as dirty and slick, but also outgoing and extroverted “pressing the flesh” yuck!
I wrote an article about book marketing for introverts, because pressing the flesh is oldschool marketing that doesn’t work. It may have been useful for traditional publishing, closing deals, hooking agents through charm and persistence… but if you’re self-publishing, trying to sell one book to one person is always a bad idea; you need to build content that attracts the right audience, and position and package your books to make it irresistible.
That’s something I can help with.
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.