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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Writing for Love... and Money

Making money is NOT an evil thing. Unless you're a Christian writer, agent, or publisher. Then, suddenly, the tables turn and you're supposed to do it simply for "the love of the game."

I've never quite understood that.

I taught at a church recently. Two services. My topic was "Loving God With Your Mind." As the day approached, I debated whether I should use that event as an opportunity to set up a book table and sell my first novel. One part of me -- the rational, business, professional part of me -- saw it as a no-brainer. It didn't matter how awkward it appeared, or if I even sold any books. The point was to start acting like a real writer and get my face out there. Well, the other part of me -- the artsy, idealistic, Bohemian part -- argued against setting up a table. You're NOT in this for the money, I told myself. After all, this was a church. And you know what Jesus did to the moneychangers in the temple. Besides, if I really felt called to write I should be writing for the love of it, not constantly looking for promo-ops.

The money-changer in me won out.

I've heard this charge leveled more than once: The Christian book and music industry is "all about money. " Exhibit A: The Left Behind series. Did the publishers of The Left Behind series intentionally stretch the series out (to 12 books!) simply to capitalize on the series' success, as some have suggested? If so, was that blatantly un-christian or a smart business practice?

I'm not sure the answer is as clear-cut as we'd like it to be.

Whenever this issue of Christian publishing and the role of the Christian artist comes up, the subject of “profit-making” is not far behind. Have the “moneychangers” really stepped in? Is the bottom-line for Christian publishing really “all about marketing and money”? Is the real reason so many authors are left high and dry simply because of greedy publishers who are looking for the most marketable product, er, person?

When I signed a two-book contract with Charisma House, my agent negotiated with the publisher for the best possible deal. Was this wrong? Should I have simply accepted what the publisher offered? On top of this, my agent wants a cut. In fact, I hired her with the agreement that she could have a cut! So who’s the “money-grubber” in this scenario? The publisher, who thinks (hopes?) my books can sell? Me, for negotiating the best possible deal? Or my agent, for requiring a percentage of my profit?

Or maybe the “Christian” thing to do is to do it all for free.

Jesus told the parable of the talents (Matt. 25: 14-30) about using our resources wisely, which in that case meant multiplication. Applying this to us writers, simply: God wants you to multiply your writing talent. Build upon it. Grow it. Leverage it. But for what purpose? Fame? Nah. Fortune? Okay, forget fortune. For a few bucks?  Why not? Christ rebuked the unfaithful steward for not making a return on his talent.
Question: Are you getting a "return" on your writing talent?

Of course that return need not be strictly monetary. Perhaps you're inspiring others, growing personally, etc. That's terrific. But does it need to stop there? Making money, as a writer or publisher, seems intrinsic to being a good steward. Sure, we can become greedy and materialistic. Yes, publishers can abandon Christian principles to the Almighty Dollar. Nevertheless, growing your writing talent means cashing in on it, literally and figuratively.

This is not evil. This is biblical.

The truth is, the average writer makes very little, if any, money off her craft. That's just the way it is. The business is competitive. But this is not justification for resorting to some "moral high ground."  Like you're the principled writer who didn't sell-out for fame and fortune.

Well, excuse me.

It makes me wonder if the writers who talk most about writing "for the love of writing," not for money, subconsciously believe they never will make money. On the surface they appear principled, but in reality their self-righteousness allows them to curse us sellouts while doing little to really multiply their talent.

Might as well write your novel and bury it.

So go ahead, call me a shill, a sellout. Either way, I AM writing for love.. and money.

Mike Duran writes supernatural thrillers. He is a monthly contributor to Novel Rocket, and is represented by the rockin' Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary. Mike's novels include The TellingThe Resurrection, and an ebook novella, Winterland.  You can visit his website at


  1. Thanks for your post, Mike. You make some great points. There's nothing wrong with having money. There is plenty wrong with money having us. Money in itself is neutral. It's our attitude toward money that matters before God.

    God wants His children to prosper financially. Here are a few Scripture verses that confirm this truth:

    " ... the worker deserves his wages" (Luke 10:7).

    "But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant . . . ." (Deut. 8:18).

    "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." (3 John 2).

    "The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, and He adds no trouble to it" (Proverbs 10:22).

    Unfortunately, many Christians have bought into the lie that is is spiritual to be poor. It takes money to spread the Gospel. It takes money to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves. It takes money to feed the hungry.

    So, bottomline, it's our heart attitude toward money that is moral or immoral. It is not the money itself.


    MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA

  2. I truly feel that we are given out talents to make us the best we can be. And I'm an author and I do write for both money and getting my stories read by people who are willing to pay for it. There is nothing wrong with that and I love your blog post on this topic. We as authors have many, many ways to give back. One of which is mentoring another writer. In that respect we are sharing our gift and in some cases our faith.

  3. It is not logical to "pay for the privilege of serving," as writers, musicians, ministers are often expected to do.
    Yes, it is a gift and given to be shared. But, a writer is also gifted with this ability as the vehicle to sustain himself / herself.

    1. Good point, Cherry! We don't think twice about an accountant or pastry chef receiving a wage for their work. But those in ministry or support ministry...that's another story.
      Tks Mike for this practical approach.

  4. The workman is worthy of his wages.

  5. Anonymous is so right. If I was a Christian CPA, am I supposed to give away all my time and work? I think because CHristians view their "call" as that, then it's ministry and they treat it as such. And that's fine, but even ministers get paid. :)

  6. Excellent thoughts on something I am sure many Christian writers struggle with. I understand that struggle but like you I think it is somewhat misguided. A mutual friend and contributor here at Novel Rocket, Athol Dickson,in a blog post here a few months ago about the reality that some his novels would not make much money. Because of that he is making a concerted effort to now write a series of novels in a genre new to him and his readers. Why? Because professional writers understand that art is only one aspect of the publishing picture.

    Christian plumbers don't apologize for giving us a bill for their work and Christian doctors charge their fellow church member patients for that last exam. They do so because that is how they make their living. The same is true for Christian writers and should not be apologized for.

  7. It's always interesting reading blog posts written by Christian writers. You guys provide a different perspective.

    You're right. Disregarding religion, it's a right we have to reap the rewards for the talents we use and love, because when we're using it for good things, we deserve to gain what we should gain.

    Besides, it's bad hurting yourself (and possibly anyone you're supporting) by not reaping rewards.

  8. That particular mantra, "love, not money", has rubbed me the wrong way since I began writing nearly a decade ago. As if making money is somehow ignoble. I still here this all the time.

  9. Great post, Mike, as always! I've had the same thoughts running through my head over the last year. My debut novel is with a publisher for editorial review, so who knows when it will actually be released? But I'm a Christian and the book is spiritual warfare fiction. I've thought a great deal about how the story can open people's eyes to the evil around us, and how powerful faith, hope and love really are. With the Scriptures we have invincible weapons in our hands!

    I hope to make a profit off my writing. Thankfully, I work full-time so I'm not dependent on book royalties in order to pay my mortgage. But some money would be great. I think you did the right thing by setting up a book table at the church you spoke at. If your writing can help change lives, introduce people to the gospel, or encourage someone in their faith, then by all means your book should be made available to them.

    I think as long as we're aware of this issue and the different arguments, we'll be in a much better position to navigate our hearts and our motivations to make profit vs. shine the light of Christ.

  10. I appreciate such honesty. I agree. God gives us talents and He blesses the work of our hands. There's nothing wrong with writing for love and money, as long as it's not for the love of money. That goes for Christians in any profession, though.

  11. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

    I hope to get rich off my writing one day. It's unlikely, but God only knows. Some do get rich. Why not me? If I got rich, I'd view it as a trial, though, and get rid of much of it as fast as I could. Riches are a temptation.

    I think all writers deserve to be paid for their work. The better the work, the more they should be paid. It's no different from any other work. But we all need to remember to use our money for good and not fall to the temptation of needing large savings accounts to feel secure.

    The difference between the writer and the plumber is that the writer is often writing gospel. And...should we sell the gospel or give it freely? Paul gave it away and he made tents to sell to support his ministry.

    And many Christian writers also have to keep their day jobs. I don't think it's, wrong, though to work full-time at writing or full-time in the ministry that includes writing. Paul said he had the right to be supported, he chose not to be because of his unique circumstances. He didn't want to open himself up to charges of playing favorites or to claims that he owed anyone, I think.

    So, in the end, dear Mike, you have my blessing to make as much money as you can with your writing. :) Use the money for good and thank God even when you don't make a lot of money, but make as much as you can.

    1. "...dear Mike, you have my blessing to make as much money as you can with your writing."

      Why thank you, Sally! Although, you reminded me of that joke about the guy who promised to tithe 10% of his winnings if God let him win the lottery. What a great deal for God, huh?

    2. Oh, I don't think God honors those deals at all. I am not telling God if he makes me rich I'll give it all away. I don't think we tithe because God needs our money. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

      I'm saying for our own sakes we need to give the money away. Because riches take such a stranglehold on us. No matter how much I make, I'll always want to make more. I'm greedy that way. So I need to give away my money, or it will own me.

  12. Writing is a job, and like any other vocation, the worker deserves to be paid. Preachers don't preach for free even though they're called to the pulpit. Missionaries raise support before heading out into the mission field. Why should writers be expected to give, give, give, but receive no monetary return on their investments? I believe it boils down to a person's convictions and God's leading.

  13. You and me both, Mike! Haven't tapped into the "money" part of it yet, but to get paid for doing what I love would be an awesome payment for all the time, effort and energy that goes into book-writing, revising and incessant platform-building.


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