Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Would you take money or an award?


You are visited by a genie. He offers you two choices.

One, your book will become a runaway commercial success and you will want for nothing. You will sell bazillions of copies, make bazillions of dollars, but even though it's popular, pretty much everyone thinks your book sucks.

Two, your book will not sell that well, but it will be remembered forever. You will win a major award and be widely regarded as a notable writer, but you will receive very little financial benefit and will have to continue to scramble to make ends meet.

What do you choose?

Art: Lais Corinthiaca by Hans Holbein the Younger






75 comments:

Anonymous said...

Depends on what day of the week it is. I've found myself wishing for both/either.

Fadzlishah Johanabas said...

Right now? Big bucks. Plus, massive sales means possible movie-in-the-making. MORE BIG BUCKS!

Ted Cross said...

I'd take the latter. I prefer a type of immortality that can come from a book being remembered long after I am gone. Money is nice, but it would eat at me to have so many people think my writing is no good.

Keith Willis said...

Hey, wait a minute... Isn't this about 50 Shades of the De Vinci Code?

Personally, I'd go for choice # 2. If I was in this for the money I'd be on a fool's errand.

abc said...

Money. I wouldn't mind acclaim, but I can do a lot more with money. Pay for my kid's college, travel, start that animal sanctuary, give back to my community, a nicer couch...

K.E. Skedgell said...

Money.

Magdalena Munro said...

The latter! I'm not a fan of excess wealth.

Isaiah Campbell said...

Before my book came out, I would have said the latter. I wanted the recognition that it was as good as I thought it was.
Now? I'll take the money. I can write more books with the time I can afford to spend devoted to the craft instead of other paying gigs.

Isaiah Campbell said...

Before my book came out, I would have said the latter. I wanted the recognition that it was as good as I thought it was.
Now? I'll take the money. I can write more books with the time I can afford to spend devoted to the craft instead of other paying gigs.

Aimée Jodoin said...

Definitely the award. But I'm an unpublished writer, so that could change.

Anonymous said...

I read the classics and I admire the writers for managing to create something so timeless. Something that resonates with so many, that spans across time and cultures. I just finished Romain Roland's Jean Christophe - I identified so much with the main characters, although I am neither a man, not a musician, nor talented, nor German, nor lived at the end of 19th century. How about that for timeless.
The latter of course.

Patricia Smith Wood said...

That's easy, Nathan. I'd go for the second option. I've never wanted to be a writer whose work "sucked" and I much prefer the award and the being long remembered for an outstanding book. Call me crazy, but once you're dead and gone, no one will remember the money (well, except maybe your heirs!)

CourtLeighLove said...

I want my cake and I want to eat it, too! But if I had to choose, I'd go with money. Like someone said above, having lots of money would give me the security and time to work on more books, and maybe one of those later books wouldn't suck.

Fun question!

CD Cole said...

Great question. I'd like both of course but if pressed, I would rather have my work respected. I have such a belief in my own ability to manifest that I feel that even if my book didn't turn out to be a runaway success, I'd find another way to support myself.

Bruce Bonafede said...

When I was young I would've gone for the award. Now I would take the money. If I were rich I'd at least have the time and freedom to try to write a better book. Being broke all your life means lots of hard work just to survive and that can greatly undermine your writing efforts.

bluerabbit said...

I've tried to sell out many times. Nobody buys and I feel like a worm. The prize probably won't come either, but I'd really like to contribute something lasting.

Toby Neal said...

I already have option A. I like to think people consider my work no worse than mediocre, however. This has made me want to write that one awardwinning book next.
:)
Toby Neal, author of Lei Crime Series

T L Thomas said...

Money - to buy me time and security while I write the great American novel!!

Dr. Judy G said...

Love the post. Love the question. Love the candid responses. What people think of me and/or my writing has never been a determining factor in my life. I'm used to people not getting me. So, if the bonus is freedom that comes with big bucks, then my response would definitely be options #1. HUGS <3

katypye.com said...

Good question. I'm grateful my debut novel has earned four awards along with a bit of cash. Would love it to get buckets of attention and make money, but am a realist about the book market these days. Kudos for good writing and story are going to last me longer and feel better than big bucks for sucky prose.

Chris Bailey said...

My first thought was to take the money, because who wouldn't want to have all the deliverables? But I wouldn't be able to ignore the criticism, and I would die trying to prove my worth in a world that would probably say, "She only got a contract for the next book because the first one made so much money. It's a little better, but..." Plus, the undying optimist inside says surely if my book is that good, it'll make more money than you propose!

Brian switzer said...

The award. There are many, many ways to put dollars in a bank account- I do pretty well right now and have yet to finish my first novel. But the opportunity to leave a true legacy that will be remembered long after I'm gone? That's a gopher that rarely raises its head up out of its hole.

Norma Beishir said...

Show me the money!

Janiss Garza said...

Could I have one of each? Then the former could support my ability to publish the latter. ;-)

Cinthia said...

That's easy: The award. There are already too many "sucky" books out there selling big-time copies. I guess it depends on why you write: Do you do it for money or because you have a story you need to share with the world? Ideally, though, it would be cool to be able to do both.

I've noticed that a lot well-written and compelling literary fiction flops as far as sales. Still, since that is what I read I'm keeping my fingers crossed that writers will continue to produce such works, not for the money so much as for the beauty of the language and the interchange of ideas and conflicting thoughts.

Natalie Wright said...

I've been thinking about this lately, how "everyone" can think a book "sucks" but it still sells a gazillion copies. So I guess anyone who's not "everyone" must think it doesn't suck, at least that it's not so suckish that they won't fork out their dough to buy it.
So I'm going to go with #1. I'd be happy to join the small but happy club of authors without a financial care in the world, reaping the benefit of appealing to a very wide audience of anyone who isn't "everyone," smiling with great satisfaction and giving zero ***ks about "everyone" who thinks my book sucks.

LadyRosalind said...

I'd prefer the latter. My husband, I'm sure, would just like for me to make bank.

Robin Ambrose said...

Money. I'll win an award with one of the scores of other books I'll have time to write once I don't have to worry about money anymore.

Plus, being hated can be fun, and I do always like a challenge.

Topher said...

I struggle to see how a book everyone claims is rubbish can make so much money. secretly people must think it is a stonking good read, even if it is not the height of literature. On that assumption I would choose the first option as I would much rather my book be popular than win literary acclaim. I never set out in life to be a writer and so have no illusions of my prowess with words. As many others here have said, having so much money that I could give us the day job to write full time would be a dream come true :)

T.J. said...

I'd love to say the award, but I know I'm greedy. So yeah, money.

Peter Dudley said...

I'd take the money. I doubt Shakespeare is enjoying his fame very much today.

Peter Dudley said...

... and you, Nathan? Which would you choose?

Nathan Bransford said...

Peter-

Probably money for the same reasons as you, though it really depends on the day.

Miriam Joy said...

If it's popular, there's somebody out there enjoying it. And tbh, even if my audience is entirely people that proper Literary people think have no taste (i.e. teenage girls, whom I adore and would happily write for forever), I'd rather think it was reaching some of the right people than none of them. Sure, it'd be nice if people thought it was good, but as a reader I'm much more likely to read a book that's popular because I'll hear of it -- I've never picked up a book solely because it won an award and rarely pay any attention to those things.

Karen A. Chase said...

My first book won 7 independent publishing awards. It has consistent sales, but I make very little on it because it's a 99¢ ebook. I'm okay with that this time. It's helped me build a writing portfolio that proves my writing is worthy of the publishing industry.

Next time around, I hope the dollars will follow. I don't need a big award, just lovely readers who say to me, "I didn't know about that part of history before I read your book. To thank you, I bought one for someone else."

GSMarlene said...

Money. Then I'll have time to write the well-written one!

Joanna said...

The money, definitely the money. Awards are ego boosters but cold hard cash buys choices. The freedom to choose what I want to do, what I want to write, where I want to live.

Steve Eells said...

You do it because you love to write, but some money will be welcome.

Anonymous said...

Money. This is a job. I'd love for it to be my only job. I'll dry my tears over the criticism on my big pile of heat in the winter and being able to afford clothes without holes in them cash.

Kaz Masters said...

Writers write don't they? SO it stands to reason that one could write more than one book in a lifetime. perhaps that one would suck in comparison and sell a motza? I write because I love it. Outcomes aren't important.

Mark Jones said...

Naturally we want both. We write because we love it and want others too as well, but I doubt I'm the only one wanting to make a full-time career of it. So, money if it must be a choice.

Tonya Moore said...

An award sounds nice but I'd take the money. Then maybe I could consider giving up up my job to write full-time and worry about earning an award later on.

I say that but my way of writing seems to indicate that I aspire to neither... odd.

Deborah Bruss said...

It depends on the book I get to write. If it helps save planet earth by waking people up, then I'd be happily poor. Otherwise, I'll take the money. I really don't care about immortality.

Ekta Garg said...

After getting some positive responses to my first book and my first negative review last week, I would definitely say the award. As so many others have said today, that knowledge that my work impacts people and makes them feel something is payment enough.

Justin McKean said...

I'm a big "why choose" kind of guy, so I'd want book one to win the award and book two to make the money.

But having to choose, I'd pick the money. I'll tell you why:

Once upon a time I'd approach my building looking at my apartment window to see if the lamp I left on is still shining. If it is, the electricity hasn't been cut off. Yet.

Once upon a time I'd go two or three days in a row, sometimes more, without eating anything at all because I didn't have the cash for food.

Once upon a time I lived in a shed in a friend's backyard for six months because I couldn't afford to stay anywhere else.

Awards don't pay for my daughter's college bill, you know?

I'll clap for someone else with my head held high. And I'll mean it. But I don't need that for me. I'll take the direct deposit, thanks.

Amalie Berlin said...

I want readers. I'd love awards, sure, but readers is the actual goal. I want lots of readers. Having great reviews from your few readers really stinks. Doesn't matter how good a book is if no one reads it!

So I'd take the money. At least then I could know that lots of people spent money with the intention of reading the book :)

And, you know, better lives for family and loved ones. There is no exchange rate for accolades. You can't get security, health insurance, and a vacation somewhere near water because someone thinks your book rocked. But you can totally take care of loved ones and support your community with $$.

Money please. (And readers, zomg)

Disperser said...

I choose to write one of each books.

dream521 said...

At 73, I'm managing on what I have and thinking more about what I'll leave behind, so I'd take the second option. In a way, though, it doesn't matter. For 1476me, the real reward comes from seeing what I write each day. It's so often a surprise--"I didn't know I thought that!"

wendy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wendy said...

Like everyone else, I find money fairly hard to come by so I'd go in that direction if I really had to. However these genies are notoriously tricky, so I'd be tempted to trick the trickster by pushing him towards my real preference. I've always wanted to write that one - or more - powerful story that could really delight, inspire, enchant, uplift and transform lives. I'd swop money, fame, accolades for that one thing.

gargimehra said...

Can’t I just be JK Rowling and take both?

Lexa Cain said...

Either would be an improvement over the didly-squat I've gotten so far from being published.

I'd rather have money. Especially since I can't think of a book award I have any respect for (except Hugo, but I don't write SF).

Kelly Stone Gamble said...

I would take option A, which would allow me the free time to write the book that would get me option B.

Steve Eells said...

In my youth, I dreamed of being a rich and famous author, but I now prefer to concentrate on writing well. But don't get me wrong: it would be great to be rich and famous!

Unknown said...

This question was the heart of a book (and later a movie) called RICH AND FAMOUS: two friends who became writers. One became famous for the literary quality of her fiction, but didn't make a lot of money and lived a life of erotic trash; the other wrote erotic trash, but made a lot of money and lived a life of sophisticated intellectual fulfillment.

It has to do with personal taste, and what personal values you would have to burn to achieve the riches. You know the line: "I've been both and believe me, rich is better."

birdinabowler said...

I was about to say money, because I don't care what others think of my writing. It satisfies my soul and if others aren't on board with it, oh well.
But then I thought of 50 shades of gray and was like "I'm not willing to be THAT bad!"

So I guess it depends on whether my readers think I'm a bad writer, or if I actually am.

I'd take the award over being a bad writer any day, but I'd take the money if the only consequence was a lot of bad reviews and I could actually write despite what people said, and I could go on to write good books (under a different name).

Emily Moore said...

Award! I was never writing for the money or the glam. I just wanted to be published and make a difference to someone. An award would be icing on the cake.

Also, I couldn't stop writing even if I was set for life financially. It's an outlet, an experience that gives me the same boost of self as chocolate and exercise. Storytelling is in my blood and will be until I take my last breath.

Bret Wellman said...

The former! I first started writing because I wanted a way out of the bad situation I was in. Awards and recognition would be pretty cool, but it still would suck to have to go to a crappy day job and not have any other options.
If I had all the money in the world I would be able to expand on my writing and be at the helm as I took it into other fields. I would make video games for a start.

Unknown said...

I am not a good writer now, but I intend to get better with practice. Whether I will actually improve is a crap shoot. Therefore, I would take the money and continue to practice, and maybe roll a heater someday.

Her Grace, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Honestly, I'll take the money. I've spent too much time in poverty. I never want to go back.

I can make a greater impact on the world with money than I can with an award. I can fund scholarships and microloans and more.

I'd be okay with a "popular" opinion that my work sucked, because deep down, that simply isn't true. If I'm selling a kajillion copies of my book, that speaks louder to the overall quality than the accolades of foxes crying "sour grapes".

Every single book in the world sucks if you compare it to the wrong scale.

embracelifebeinspired.com said...

+1 for money - as others have said, it would afford me more time to write, and make the next one better!

Eric Chandler said...

Getting rich is a lightning strike anyway. I'd rather be considered a good writer.

Phoenix Grey said...

I would choose the second option. Having people think my writing is worth something is way more important than money ever will be.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

First off, I wouldn't use the power of a genie to take away someone's free will. It's totally uncool. Second, I don't think contests are based on talent any more. I've read (parts of) the latest winner and runners up for a particular YA award contest and all they care about is if you put enough drama and/or smut in your book. Or certain minorities which shall remain nameless. (I'm a minority that is always overlooked--not that I care--and I wouldn't want to win that way anyway.) The writing was mediocre in each case. So, if my book fit into that category I'd be very sad.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'd tell the genie to jump in a lake and I'd go about my business trying to get to the top on my own steam.

Terin Miller said...

Got to this late because I have a "day job," as I have since before I started writing fiction.

So: my answer--major award. Even if it is only in the form of an Italian "Fragile" scultped lamp of a woman's leg.

Sure, I'd love to ditch the day job for gazillions. But am getting to the stage where someone else will reap the gazillions anyway--like a publisher, a producer, my heirs, anyone but me.

So, award. Thanks. I'd rather (personally) make a mark on writing as an art (I know. I did go there) than want for nothing.

Either way, someone else is likely to get gazillions rather than me.

I'd kinda prefer to have my friends and colleagues and even competitors acknowledge my efforts while I'm alive, than Jay-Z or someone reap the rewards of my work when I'm dead.

And I've got the (lack of) sales to prove it!

;-).

Best,
T

Belinda Mellor said...

I could do with the money, but I'd have to say no, not if it meant everyone thought my book sucked. At the moment, sales for my current book are low, but feedback is great and I feel okay about that. More acclaim would have to equal a few more sales at least! So, I'll take the award, thank you! Now, where do i go to collect it?

Calorie Bombshell said...

I'd take the money then hire the world's best creative writing minds to help me create an artistic masterpiece.

Steve Eells said...

I have faith that I have some talent as a writer, so the big bucks are soon to follow. If the return is meager, I continue on and trust that things will be better next time.

Jessica Wilson said...

I think the writers like Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain did not write for the riches. They wrote for the love of storytelling. I would rather just write and it be loved everywhere. The riches will come later.

Duanne said...

Money. I have bills to pay.

Pimion said...

I choose award. Money is important but if I get the chance to make my work eternally unforgettable, I'll risk.

JeffC said...

Depends why you're writing. If you want to make a career out of it, then unless you're astonishingly lucky you're going to have to compromise and and up writing tuff you may not be too proud of. Most jobs are tedious, but as long as you don't feel its morally bankrupting you then you stick at it because bills need to be paid. If writing is your chosen career, then you should expect the same rules to apply.

If, on the other hand, you want to write because you want to love what you do, then ignore the riches, and just write the best you can. But you'll probably be writing in your spare time.

As I don't expect to ever be able to give up my day job, I'd therefore opt for option 2.

Taneeka Bourgeois-daSilva said...

It really depends on how much money was at stake. That being said, if it were a small prize vs. a prestigious award, I would go with the award.

Noel said...

I hesitated for a minute, because I want my books to be successful, but when I write, I'm hoping that people will be entertained by them, get lost in them, enjoy them, and love them. And to do that, don't they need as wide an audience as possible? I need money and will always desperately need money, but that's not the thing that was worrying me. I don't want people to hate my books. But is that worse than no one knowing of my books at all?

And then I realized the question didn't make sense. You can't say "Everyone hates 50 Shades of Gray/Twilight/Other successful commercial fiction." If they did, why are so many copies being sold? Books just don't become runaway successes that reach huge audiences if EVERYONE hates them. People buy books because they love them.

So give me the first option. I don't mind if there's a hater crowd. If a lot of people are buying my books because they're enjoying them a lot, then who cares what some pretentious award-followers think?

Victoria U. Arlost said...

I am not a big fan of fancy interviews, not do I wish to be a social media demi-god. Book signings would be okay...Option #2 for sure. I just want to write and paint and hope my kids will someday understand what it means to live life and survive the consequences. Funny thing is I wish for them Option #1 so I dont have to wory about being dead and gone.

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