Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Money or Accolades?

by Sariah S. Wilson

I've been following with some interest the backlash against James Cameron's "Avatar" being nominated for an Academy Award for best picture of the year.

The critics are crying foul - they see this solely as an attempt on the Academy's part to get the millions of people who paid a lot of money to see "Avatar" to tune in to the award ceremony in order to root for "Avatar" to win.

No one is disputing that James Cameron is a fine filmmaker - and he has the awards to prove it. The critics say though that despite the amazing eye candy, the characters and plot in "Avatar" fall flat.

But was the storyline in "Avatar" a tired retread? Have we seen the same story in movies many times before? Does that mean it's not the best picture because it isn't as original as it could have been?

James Cameron doesn't seem to much care. He made the movie he wanted to make and he'll be laughing all the way to the bank.

Which got me thinking...there are some very famous authors that are repeatedly accused of not being very good writers (Nicholas Sparks, Danielle Steel, Nicholas Sparks, Stephenie Meyer, Nicholas Sparks, etc.), and yet they make an insane amount of money despite the critical backlash.

Then there are revered writers who can do no wrong and are celebrated as being top notch authors, yet many of us will never hear of them (and I can't list them seeing as how I haven't heard of them).

So if you had to choose, as an author, would you rather be a well-respected writer that everyone considered talented, or would you rather have wheelbarrows full of cash?

You can't choose both - we're leaving the JK Rowling types out of this exercise.

One or the other - money or critical acclaim?

(I'll post what I'd pick in the comments.)


At 3/06/2010 10:45 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

I would take the money. That shows that the people liked what you did and who cares about critics, they are overly picky.

At 3/06/2010 11:34 PM, Blogger L.T. Elliot said...

I think I'd just like my work to be read and a reader to have been touched by it.

At 3/06/2010 11:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


More people are getting the story/message you share when your book is popular. Besides, why do we give "critics" any authority to begin with? The proof of good writing is in the pudding, or in this case, the bank. Grammar and writing rules mean nothing when the reader likes the story.

At 3/07/2010 1:58 AM, Blogger Nathan said...

My passion will come out in the writing no matter what, so I would pick to have money. Critics would be a much smaller headache to me than the bills and stresses that come on the financial end of things.

And honestly, (in my opinion)when that many people have already voted by going to the movie, or reading the books in such great numbers... come on critics, Cameron and others obviously hit on something, and you can't tell me it is only eye-candy.

Universal themes will never become cliche, because there are always new audiences coming up from behind who are experiencing these for the first time. The older folks get, the more inevitably cliched their encounters with literature and film become. But if you can touch on universality with enough freshness to draw in those moving through the mainstream of our culture, then you've made a wider mark than critical acclaim can proffer. (In my opinion)

At 3/07/2010 9:42 AM, Anonymous Wm Morris said...

It's fun to think about this, but really, it's a false choice because there are some gradations and configurations.

How much money? How do you get that money? Who do you have to publish with and what do you have to publish in order to get it? Which critics? What kind of criticism?

Would you take the critical acclaim if deep down you knew the critics were completely misunderstanding your intentions?

Would you take the money if deep down you knew you had sold out to the demands of the marketplace?

And what does breaking it big financially really mean in relation to your work? That you got lucky? That your publisher marketed the work right? That you managed to grab the coattails of another author? That you managed to tap in to the wallets of a corrupt, lazy society? Or that you touched a chord and improved the lives of thousands or even millions of readers?

Sorry to be grumpy, here, but I don't think the proof is in the bank or in the critics. Well, it is, but it all depends on what you are trying to prove.

So I'm with L.T. -- the motivation behind wanting to have larger sales should be to have your work read more widely and (hopefully) have readers be touched in some way by it. The motivation behind wanting the critics to appreciate your work should be to a) lead to more sales so that more readers can be touched by your work b) lead to persistent sales across generations [e.g. have your work canonized] and c) to have that moment that comes when you realize that a reader [in this case a critic] appreciates your work AND can express why in a creative, lovely way.

Perhaps a better way to express it would be: would you rather be Stephenie Meyer or Orson Scott Card? Or would you rather be Terry Brooks or Neil Gaiman? Or Anne Tyler or Jackie Collins? Or John Grisham or Cormac McCarthy? [or any other number of configurations]

Which is all to say that I would guess that most of us would love as much money and acclaim (and the form that that acclaim comes will differ in what is desired depending on the author and the genres/modes he/she is working in) as we can while still staying true to the passion and vision we have to our work.

At 3/07/2010 7:36 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Both money and acclaim have their merits, but someone who writes strictly for the money or someone who writes strictly for some kind of status or acclaim is not what writing is about. Most of us write because we can't not write. Wm. Morris expressed very well my sentiments on this old question. Writers are human and we love both money and acclaim, but neither one verify quality and though I'm a critic I would never presume that everyone is going to agree with me on every book I review. There are few books I can't find something admirable in---or something less than brilliant. Acclaim by large numbers of people and huge royalties don't mean a book is good or bad; it merely means the writer touched something many people could identify with or the writer has a superb marketing manager and a lot of people bought into the hype. People love to join in on fads, jump onto the "winning" side, or be popular, which accounts for large sales of well-marketed books. Some deserve the money and acclaim and some don't.

Most writers never achieve fame or fortune. Most can consider themselves lucky to make a comfortable living. That doesn't make them good or bad writers; that's just the way it is.

At 3/07/2010 7:49 PM, Blogger Karen Hoover said...

I just want to reach the people. The rest of it doesn't matter. :)

At 3/07/2010 8:54 PM, Blogger Karlene said...

Cash. I'm going for the cold, hard cash.

At 3/08/2010 4:11 PM, Blogger Charlie Moore said...

Jennie, you're right in saying we're all human. I do take exception to that equating to we all love money. I do want sufficient funds to take care of family needs (and, yes, to buy a truck), but we should remember that a love of money isn't healthy (spiritually). Someone important said that. Not said to be preachy, although some will see what I just said as that. I am simply responding with my opinion on an important topic.

To answer Sariah, what I have published has made me very little in financial reward, but I've received some nice reviews and comments. So, basically, I write because I enjoy it. What I write has to be important and acceptable to me, first and foremost. If others appreciate it, then that is a bonus.


At 3/09/2010 11:07 AM, Blogger Traci Hunter Abramson said...

I agree with a lot of what has already been said by Jennie and Charlie. The bottom line is that if my motivation for writing becomes anything but what it is now (writing for my own enjoyment), I think my creative process would lose it's value.

Whether I receive money or critical acclaim for my next book (or neither) I think I'll just keep writing what I enjoy and hope that others find enjoyment in those words as well.


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