A very long while back, I wrote a post about why writers write. And there were a lot of personal reasons why writers write under the auspices of motivation. And, I said back then that a lot of these reasons to write are also reasons to publish. Every person’s motivation to publish is different. And how they publish, where they publish and what they publish can change their motivations. A person publishing fan fiction on fanfiction.net or AO3.org is going to have different motivations than the person self-publishing through a local book binder, and different again from a person self-publishing through a vanity press or Amazon and different again in some respects than a person publishing through one of the big six publishing houses.
So let’s start with the big two (instead of the big three) reasons: Money and Fame
First off, as my daddy says, profit is not a dirty word.
You can write all you want with the idea that you want to make money off of it, but unless you publish it and put a price tag on your work, you aren’t going to make any money off of said work. Instead, if you look at your time in the value of money. You’ve actually lost money by writing it and sticking it in a drawer. And if you’re writing for the love of writing and it is a hobby that one does after going to work and taking care of business in other areas. Then that’s perfectly fine. Otherwise, it is a perfectly acceptable reason to publish your writing for the express reason that you want to make money in order to pay the bills or buy a house or have some extra spending money.
Profit isn’t a bad thing. People profiting off their own intellectual property is actually a good thing and should be encouraged. All people need to eat and have a roof over their heads. And if they can do that through the hard mental work that is writing, then good for them.
Another reason to publish is some people want the fame or the notoriety of being a big name author. This can be in fandom circles or literature circles or whatever circle that they feel is important enough that they decided to put their work out there. They want to be known. This can give them something else, power. They have followers. They have influence over these followers and whatever is going on the space where they’ve published. Being a famous published writer through a publishing house could end up with interviews and netting a movie deal or a television show and thus more money for more things like houses and travel.
Being famous has its perks and its downsides. And sometimes writers end up famous for all the wrong reasons. Just, something to think about.
Some writers want to know what people think about their work. Do readers like it? Do they hate it? Is there room for improvement? Where is the story strong? Or weak? What did the readers take away from it? What did the readers find important? What do the readers want to see more of?
I’m not talking about the viscous shredding of work where the writer is called stupid and that they should die. Where the writer’s location is found out and revealed to everyone. Where they are sent death threats for doing something ‘wrong’ in the eyes of the readers.
I’m not talking about the three words of “I love it.” Or the two words of “write more.” I’m not talking kudos and likes. (Though kudos and likes are nice.) I’m not talking hit counts. (Hit counts aren’t always helpful either.)
I’m talking about genuine constructive criticism that deconstructs the story while offering advice for improvement (that doesn’t involve the word should) and tells the writer what they are doing well at the same time. This type of criticism is like panning for gold. You have to sift through a lot of sand, rocks and sludge to find a few flakes of something worthwhile and pretty. (Gold flakes are very pretty.)
Writers value this type of feedback. It helps them keep a pulse on their readers’ wants and needs. It helps them improve their writing.
Now some writers don’t care about feedback and what people think. They have different motivations to publish.
Some writers publish their stories as a way of sharing with people who either have similar interests or they want to tell a certain set of people something they think is important. There are different reasons why they share.
Like I said above, some share for the feedback. Others share because they liked this, they wanted to see this and they feel that there are others out there that want to see and read the idea too. Sometimes, they even have the idealistic notion that they are going to help others in one way or another.
They share because there is an audience for their work. The writer reads a story and they like the general idea of what they are reading but they don’t like the details or the outcome. And being a writer, they keep the general idea but tweak the details to make it their own so they enjoy the idea more. And then they think that someone else might like it. Then they publish it for others to see.
Or, maybe there is a discussion about an idea that people would like to see. The writer is either writing it or have already written it. They publish it (or advertise they have published it) so they can go “Hey, I’ve done this! If you like the idea, you may like what I’ve written.”
They share because they feel there is a group out there of people like them that will enjoy their story. After that, well, it depends on the writer.
To be honest, some don’t care what the other people think about their writing, their writing skill and whether or not they need to improve for one reason or another. They’ve written what they’ve written. They’ve put it out there to share with the public. That is all that matters to them. They are on to the next thing. They don’t care about what the public thinks of what they’ve written. They’ve done their part. They’ve shared their thoughts and views.
A lot of people do not get this motivation. They truly think that if a person has put a story out there for public consumption it has to mean that they want to know what the public has to say about it. The idea that the writer doesn’t care at all is foreign and sometimes downright offensive to the people who think this. Sometimes the misunderstanding comes from the fact that the person doing the commenting is not the intended audience for what was written. (But some people go out of the way to try and find something that offends them so they have something to be outraged about.)
Everyone may be a critic, but it doesn’t mean that those who created the work wants to hear what the critic has to say about it.
Motivation: To say they’ve published something.
I don’t know if you’ve ever met any of these people. They stand around at parties and talk about how they’re writing a book. They talk about said book ad nauseam instead of skipping the party and actually writing the book. It takes them a while, but eventually they do finish their book and decide to publish it. Just to say that they have. The fact that they have no audience for their book and aren’t willing to do any marketing or advertising for their book doesn’t matter to them. They’ve written a book, published it and they think you should read it. For no other reason than they wrote the thing and think it is a great book.
And really, the more power to them. They actually wrote a book. So they want to have something in their hands to prove that they’ve done so. That’s great, it really is. It’s what they do afterwards that isn’t so great.
Motivation: To Not Be Forgotten
There is a thought that if you create something be it a book or a painting that when you pass on, while you may be forgotten, that you still live on through your writing or art. That people may not remember you specifically, but your spirit will be remembered through the tangible things you’ve left behind.
Think about Shakespeare. We don’t really know a lot about Shakespeare. There are arguments about whether or not he really existed. How could one man create all that writing? Was there more than one? We aren’t even sure when he was born or when he died. His plays, his poems (Of which he would be more proud of than his plays) are the tangible information of what we know about him. His gift with words whether he was writing art for the sake of art, or creating plays for the common people and nobility to put food on the table. That is what lives on.
What do we really know of Leonardo Da Vinci? Not much. But we know his paintings. We know his notebooks. We can still admire his imagination.
Creating something that will live beyond us. Something that later people can point to and go “that person was here.” That is a breathtaking and awe inspiring thing. It is a way of memorializing ourselves in our own lifetimes and hopefully beyond our lifetimes. It is a way to control what we are known for.
Motivations to publish are a complex thing. They can get mixed up and blended together. Maybe they publish for other reasons than those above. No matter what the reason or how one publishes, there is an accomplishment to it. There is a feeling of empowerment that something you’ve done is out there and you won’t be forgotten.
Just like there are no wrong reasons to write. There are no wrong motivations to publish. And by publishing, we join our ideas to the collective thoughts of humanity and possibly feeding someone else’s ideas, helping them dream big and small dreams and that can be a beautiful thing.