East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Book Day

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Today is the international book day, or so I am told – good internet practices require a blog post about the joy of books. The book that changed your life, the first book you read, the book you hate, the book you are reading right now…
And yet, it’s not like we never talk about books hereabouts.

Today, on the other hand, I was discussing with a friend and she asked me Why?
More specifically: Why do you write?
And it turns out that when you write, at least part of the reason has to do with why you read – and why other people read. So it fits perfectly the book day theme. And the answer to the question is not so simple.

Because of course right now I can say “I write to pay the bills.”
And I do.
I am paying my bills, and putting bread on the table, with my writing.
I started out calling myself a science fiction or a fantasy writer, but right now the preamble is useless. I am a writer, and here’s what I write:

  • Short stories and novellas, any genre, or cross-genre.
  • Special and exclusive content for my Patrons.
  • History or science articles for magazines.
  • Reviews.
  • Gaming and other stuff as work for hire.

But paying the bills can’t be everything there is – were it just for money, I should stop writing the stuff I listed above, and move to erotica.
That’s where the money are.

So there is something else – I write and try to pay my bills by writing what I like and what I am good at writing.
The two usually go hand in hand, and are connected with what I like reading:

  • fantasy and adventure stories
  • mysteries
  • historical fiction and non-fiction
  • science books
  • biographies
  • gaming material

There you go.
And this is of course part of the problem – because maybe what we like, that usually is what we are good at, doesn’t sell.
I am lucky – what I write sells enough (or, has been selling enough so far – fingers crossed) and it’s varied enough I can shift from one genre to another in case of need, either to escape boredom or a market downturn.

I still write what I like, and I write about topics I want to explore.
With an eye to the market, and without obsessing about the details.
Popularity is important if it means more readers, and more sales, and a farther reach. Popularity as a justification to put “Author” after my name on Facebook is meaningless.

Which makes everything quite clinical, maybe, if not downright cynical, but still not cynical as just going for what sells, and damn all the rest.
The saying goes Fake it ’til you make it, but in some fields it doesn’t work.
In most of them, I think.
We can’t fake it. Not really.
Or, better – we can fake it but we’ll only be popular with fake readers.
And fake readers don’t buy books.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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