Selling out? I've seen a lot of posts crop up in social media about writers selling out and what supposedly constitutes being called a sellout. If we really want to cut the fat and get down to the bare bones of it, doing anything for money is selling out. Honestly. But from a more subjective view point we as egotistical, elitist, human beings have defined selling out as "anything we can accuse someone else of that makes us feel better about ourselves" To be more clear the actual definition is: Selling out is the compromising of integrity, morality, or principles in exchange for personal gain, such as money.
So the question is this: (and the answers are solely my opinion)
Is writing to a genre selling out? No. Just because the genre you write in is a so-called "proven money maker" doesn't make you a sell out for writing it.
Is writing a freelance article selling out when you dream of hitting it big with the next big action/sci-fi/thriller book? No. You are doing what you have to do to get by so that you can pay the bills while you work towards making that big dream happen.
If you are writing to a genre you don't enjoy but are doing it to make a buck, and only writing in that specific genre because you feel like it is "easy" and a genre that "sells itself" without the author having to put any effort in, does that make you a sell out? No… Does it make you a disingenuous douchebag? Yes, it sure does.
For me it hits the same cord as stealth marketing. If you don't know the term let me give you this little scenario from recent events
This week it made headlines that certain YouTubers were sent an email from Machinima saying that if they mentioned the XboxOne in a positive light they would be paid an extra $3 CPM (per 1,000 views). All the YouTube content creators had to do was post 30 seconds of video, mention the XboxOne in a positive light, and include a tag which they could track so that Machinima and/or Microsoft would know how much to pay for these positive reviews. But they were also, supposedly, told that they were not supposed to mention the promotion.
That is stealth marketing. When you put something out there and keep hidden the fact that you are only promoting something for a profit. It deceives the public and fans and in the end it builds mistrust.
The same is said for writing in a genre only because it is a "money maker", it's putting something out there under false pretenses and while I wouldn't call it selling out, I would call it a dick-move. Saying that one particular genre is "easy" is an insult to every hard working author in that genre. It's insulting to say "you can sell thousands of books in this genre without even marketing it, it's so easy." No, it really isn't "easy", nothing ever is.
As a fan and an avid reader of paranormal romance I would feel a sense of betrayal to find out that my favorite author didn't like the genre they wrote and that I had invested years of time reading and money buying into it. I would feel like I had been faithfully supporting them for years, and in that event I would feel a sense of loss. More importantly the loss I would feel would be the connection I felt towards the author and the characters if I were to find out that they had no love of the genre and it was just a paycheck.
A genre is more than just a book's classification. We find life long friendships based on these genres, we gravitate towards people who like the same books as us. We form fan pages, conventions, we buy merchandise, books, we freely promote our favorite authors with our shout outs, word of mouth, and absolute adoration of them. Meeting our favorite author is much like a groupie meeting their rockstar, they are our rock stars. And if we were fans of a rock band we'd be pretty hurt if we suddenly found out they hated the music and only played it because it made them boat loads of cash. We'd feel betrayed, and as readers we have every right to feel that way about our authors.
If we label one thing as selling out then were do we draw the line? When it comes right down to it we all sell out. If we have ever done anything that resulted in a profit, money-under-the-table, goods, services, food, etc then we have "sold out" and we all have to make money. We all have to survive and some of us have families to support.
Money does, indeed, make the world go 'round. I acknowledge that.
Writing a freelance article for a magazine doesn't make you a sellout. Taking a job as an editor while waiting for your dream to come true doesn't make you a sellout. Making a profit doesn't make you a sellout.
And yes, even making a profit while writing romance when you don't even like the genre, doesn't make you a sellout. It just makes you a giant douche. No body likes to be tricked, and with the close emotional connections that readers make to their favorite authors writing something disingenuous just to make a profit because your "non-genre specific", "unusual", or "different" novels didn't sell as well as you thought they should, is an insult to the very people who spend their hard earned money on the book you just wrote and to the other authors who pour their heart and souls into the very genre that you mock with your "this genre sells itself" mantra.
So I guess in the end there are two paths to choose from:
1) Be genuine. Write the stuff you love, the stuff you'd like to read yourself. And be rewarded with amazing and loyal fans. Even if they don't number in the thousands, be grateful for each and every one of them because they will enrich your life. And hey if you make a profit then congratz! That's just icing on the cake and no one can call you a sellout no matter what genre you write.
2) Or write something you aren't passionate about, insult an entire writing community by stating that the genre "sells itself" completely disregarding all other authors hard work in that genre, and that you have no knowledge about having to take other peoples work, deconstruct it so that you can find the working formula and make a profit. It still won't make you a sellout. But remember that when your fans feel that sting of betrayal when they find out that you don't write with heart (and they will eventually) then just know, you could have chosen the first path and not been labeled a great big bag of dicks by the internet.