I know sometimes it can seem contradicting and some of it is contradicting because different people give and take different advice, but I’ll try to expand on some of it:
Don’t Write to Sell
When we talk about not writing to sell, we mean don’t sit around when you’re creating a story and think, “What will get me the most money?” If Urban Fantasy involving shape shifters becomes the next big thing, don’t go, “Oh! That’s selling a lot right now so to get money, I should write that!”
Don’t write with the dream of fame and fortune in mind. Money should not be the only motive for writing. Great writers write great books because they love to write.
Writers who do know what will sell (e.g., E.L. James (scroll to user hurricangst) or who only write to sell are just marketers who are in it for the money and not much else. Their stories aren’t going to stay with us like stories written with passion are.
Editors Will Rip Your Story Apart
They will. Because that’s their job and they’re passionate about it. Sure, they might get stuck with a project they don’t particularly like, but they still know how to make it better so that the story or content is better and so that it may sell more. They know the audiences and the markets better than we do. They know what has been done and what might be a turn off for certain audiences. You know how JK Rowling says her editor won’t let the characters swear? That’s because there is such a wide audience for those book and plenty of them are young children.
Editors (and sometimes agents) became editors and agents for a reason. They take on books because they truly believe in them and they know there are ways to make them even better. Trust me, they are just as passionate as writers. They have their own wishlists of what they want to see in books and they fall in love with characters, worlds, and stories just as we do. But they also have to believe that a project will sell if they’re going to take it.
This is important because to keep a publishing company going, you have to make money. You have to pay everyone and there are fees for production, marketing, and everything else. Signing new authors is a risk that they take all the time and if those books don’t sell well enough, then it’s a loss. Publishing is a business and writers have to remember that, but we also have to keep in mind that it’s a business mostly built on a passion for stories.