Thursday, March 17, 2011

It Doesn't Matter if You're Published, it Only Matters if You're Read

Reading thuRsday

I've mentioned Life, the Universe, and Everything (LTUE),  the SF/Fantasy/Writing Convention I attended in February. It's an amazing event: three days packed with multiple panels from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. Of necessity, you must pick and choose, knowing that you're missing great things in the panels and sessions you can't attend.

I missed a particularly good panel, so I'm shamelessly borrowing the following from Julie Wright's LTUE summary at Writing on the Wall:
It doesn't matter if you're published. Being published is nothing. It is everything to be read. --Tracy Hickman

[Julie] This is absolute truth. My first book was published by a very small press. I was published. It was exciting! But was a I read? no. No, not really. And looking back, I am glad I wasn't read. it was a first book. I was a very green author. I had no idea what the rules were. I had no idea about craft. I had a long way to go. Being published isn't really the goal of a writer. What we want is to be read. We want to enter that dialogue with the reader. We want the intimacy of pulling readers into worlds we created--even if we'll never meet those readers, even if we're separated from those readers by continents, or even centuries. What a writer really longs for its to be read. The best way to achieve that is to learn the craft and write well.
A contrarian might point out that being published matters to your pocketbook. But if your pocketbook is what matters most, there are far more efficient (and less risky) ways to line your coffers than write a book.

The deeper truth here is that books, whether fiction or not, only have value if they provide an experience and contribute to the conversation.

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /


  1. Love this post. So true. I have always written out of this NEED to do so. I belonged to small communities of online writers so that I could get an audience to read. As I've moved on from these groups and have begun writing for editors, publishers, and the readers that read their journals and websites, I'm much more aware of them and this has helped me hone my writing skills and style. I've been amazed at this evolutionary progression in my writing and how that equates to an increased # of publications.

  2. An important part of that evolution, I suspect, is in the feedback you get from readers.

    Evolution is, by the way, an interesting analogy, specifically the notion that fitness increases over time through natural selection.

    The writing equivalent is that your writing tends to improve along the line where readers respond more strongly.


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