Does Publishing Support the Writer-Artist?
On Monday’s post we talked about the importance of craft in the new paradigm, yet there seems to be some assumptions floating around that I feel are flawed, and we need to talk about those today. We are artists, and the ONLY one who can develop and mature an artist is…the artist. We are responsible. We always have been. Just because Amazon is not going to appreciate our art beyond the sales numbers doesn’t mean anything other than Amazon remains what it has always been—a means of getting a product to a consumer, the art to a potential patron.
Yet, I will say the same thing about NY publishing.
They can wax rhapsodic about how they care about developing writers and how they care about writing and art, and I believe they do…but only to a certain point. The second any art becomes a commodity, then no one really cares only about the art. It becomes more about how many units can be sold, and will it be enough to gain back our investment before they cut off the power?
There are bills to pay.
But we will get to that, too, in a moment. But first we need to make sure we all have nice open minds and to do this we need to dispel some myths.
The only people who publish on Amazon are writing junk and weren’t good enough to get a traditional NY deal.
In the comments section on Monday many of you expressed that you were working on your skills, honing your art and holding out for a NY deal. That is awesome and up to the individual artist, but be careful. A lot of terrific and innovative writing has come out of the indie movement.
Sometimes writing won’t get picked up by New York for any number of reasons that have nothing at all to do with the skill level of the writer. Feel free to check out Kait Nolan who was the only indie author nominated for the prestigious DABWAHA award (and you can go vote for her, too).
Myth #2 NY Publishing supports art.
True, Amazon doesn’t have any gatekeepers, thus no way to keep out the truly motivated. But, this does not therefore mean that, by default, NY is a great patron of art.
Some art challenges. It upsets and disrupts the status quo. It transforms us and changes us. Not all art is commercial art.
For instance, I could publish a book of nothing but commas, and on Amazon, no one can stop me. No one would stop me. My book of commas might not be a great use of my free time, but who are you to judge my art? Maybe my book of commas is a challenge to the post-industrial society to take more breaks.
Why are you laughing?
Maybe I yearn to make our culture really think about how they have forgotten to pause in their everyday lives. Perhaps I long to expose all those tiny breaks to appreciate life that you missed because you had e-mails to check or a Facebook page to update. Every comma in my 1,000 page e-book represents a moment you will never get back.
I have them all here. Your lost moments. I captured them like little damsel flies in amber.
I collected your lost moments into one place, a tribute to all the breaks no one wanted. We are a pauseless society always on fast-forward, plunging into the Red Bull-soaked abyss of suffering.
Wow, I really ran with that.
Please look for upcoming book “,”…never in stores, well, for obvious reasons. It is part of a series–“?” “!” and “.” will be released some time after they let me out of the looney bin.
Some Art Cannot Begin as a Commercial Product
I know I am going to get e-mails about this one, but again. Breathe and give me a moment. Some art is meant to please and be aesthetic. It is designed to appeal. But is that the only art? No. Some art is designed to shake things up, to challenge. This kind of art, the kind that disrupts, confronts and even offends is often only appreciated as a commercial item retrospectively.
Trust me. Most people didn’t “get” Dahli at the time, and now his work graces many a T-shirt. The industrial publishing machine is in business to sell goods people want, but if something is a certain type of art, then no one knows they need it…yet. This art will only be appreciated by the society the art changes.
For instance, in Picasso’s time, art had been steeped in realism for centuries. Then Picasso stepped in and shook things up by doing things…differently. He painted a woman with her eye closer to her forehead or a person made of geometric shapes. It forced society to transform, to open its ideas of what it considered beautiful of what it considered to be art.
Of course, now, a century later, even a small schoolchild has seen cubism if only on her mother’s mouse pad near the computer. Modern art was once shocking and of no determined commercial value…but then as society changed, the value did as well. This art, once only appreciated on the fringes of society, over time became more and more commercial.
Writers are Artists
Yes, there are wanna-be-amateur hacks who believe they are being rejected because no one can see their brilliance, yet I would be bold enough to say that there are some genuine artists being rejected by New York, too.
Who is to say that modern digital age society wouldn’t like to read a 130,000 word book written in the verbose style of A Tale of Two Cities? Anyone who shops at Wal Mart truly understands how it can be the best of times and the worst of times. That manuscript that is being rejected for all of its heaviness and lack of commercial appeal might just spark that style of writing back to life.
It could. Why not?
Maybe potential readers are feeling nostalgic. Maybe we were too immature to appreciate The Grapes of Wrath in 11th grade, but now, a book like that is just what we need. Maybe works that read like Jane Eyre would appeal to modern audiences if the stories were modern. Perhaps the unique juxtaposition of a modern world and archaic language would be brilliant.
Worked for the movies! I saw Romeo and Juliet. Lionardo Dicaprio’s performance was stellar.
You might chuckle, but maybe I am right. Yet, the thing is, New York will reject most books that really challenge conventional tastes, so how will we ever know?
Agents will reject these works not because they might not love them, but because they can’t sell them. New York will say these works won’t appeal to reader tastes, and they would be right. New York is in the business of satisfying appetites, not necessarily creating new ones or reviving old ones.
I am in no way saying that New York Publishing doesn’t appreciate art, it just doesn’t always support it. It can’t afford to.
Publishing is Not Necessarily about the Art
Yes, publishing supports some great works of literary genius…ones it believes it can sell. Publishers have overhead and payroll and frankly, they cannot afford to be philanthropists. It isn’t as if they are supported by donations and foundations. Museums have the luxury of being innovative and provocative.
Let’s take Dadaism as an example.
Dadaism was an artistic movement birthed in response to the outbreak of WWI. It was to protest the reason and logic of a bourgeois society. Dadaists believed the misguided values of the time had plunged the world into war. Dada was the antithesis of everything art stood for at the time. Dada had no concern for aesthetics, and their works were intended to offend. Through their rejection of traditional culture and aesthetics, the Dadaists sought to destroy traditional culture and aesthetics.
What this means is that people of the time, regular people buying stuff, probably would not have cared for anything Dada in nature. It was a fringe appetite. If we have a urinal installed in our home, it is a place to use the bathroom. Install it in a display at the Museum of Modern Art and it is an Marcel Duchamp exhibit.
So New York can say they support art, but the fact is they would probably love to, but they can’t. They likely could if they would embrace digital publishing. Maybe my book of commas would be a hit. If NY followed my suggestions, they could take more chances on art. Maybe they could mold tastes instead of trying to predict them and react to them.
Hmm. Food for thought.
Social Media Art–Embrace WANAism
Why my social media teachings are different is that I am not here to make “responsible little marketers” who can sell books as if they were no different than vacuums or light bulbs.
I created WANA (We Are Not Alone) to tear down the establishment that wants writers to run out and automate messages promoting book giveaways on 8 different platforms. WANAism rejects the current system and declares that writers are not car insurance and books are not tacos. My medium is social media, and I create art every day. So do my followers…WANAites. WANAism cannot be measured with metrics, because, while WANA is digital in delivery, it is human at its core.
WANA is here to liberate your inner artist, to show you the truth of the new paradigm, and that is you are free. Writers have a new medium. Social media isn’t a chore, it is a new canvas! I am not a marketing expert; I teach art classes for WordPress ;).
Art is the Divine Part of Our Humanness
What makes us human is this longing to create. No matter what race, creed, religion or place in time, we humans are united by our universal desire to create art, and we will use anything available—stone, canvas, skin, words, paper or Facebook. Doesn’t matter.
Those who follow WANAism understand that technology doesn’t steal our artist spirit, it gives it another medium, much like the invention of cameras and film gave rise to movies…a new way to tell stories. Make social media your art and your attitude will change. It will no longer be a chore to be endured. It will transform into a place to share your artist passion with those who can….appreciate it.
Social media offers a place to give away your art. Not your product…your art. Art is part of who we are so each interaction, each tweet, every blog represents a sample of us, our art, our personal Dada movement.
Amazon Opens the Door for Art
So if I really wanted to make an argument for who did a better job of supporting art, I would have to vote for Amazon. By opening the doors and not using any outside market standard of “acceptable, publishable material” Amazon has liberated the artist to put his art on display. If the world throws digital tomatoes at it, c’est la vie.
Either the world wasn’t ready or the artist wasn’t. Time will prove which was the case.
The daring. The truly original. The writer-artist who creates that very thing that no one knew they needed until they saw it…this writer will be rewarded. He will sell books and his following will grow because his art will affect people. They will feel it and will want to share this experience and pay good money for it because this is always what art does.
This digital paradigm lets indie and self-publishing test the “art” to see if there is an audience for this innovation and create the market (then NY can step in with a deal when the risk makes fiscal sense).
The New Paradigm Liberates the Author-Artist
Until now, the act of publishing a book was so terrifically cost-prohibitive that is truly limited art in our medium. If we created something so original it would revolutionize the world, we had to hope and pray we landed a gatekeeper with vision who was willing to risk her reputation and career. A lot of money was on the line if the art was not embraced in a way that made it commercially viable. Now? Digital makes art possible.
All of us art putting out art…just not all of us will make the commercial cut.
Art vs. Tastes
Let’s even set this notion of art aside and maybe just talk a moment about reader tastes. Tastes can be molded, shaped and changed. In the new digital paradigm we are seeing a resurgence of essentially pulp fiction. Fantasy, sci-fi, erotica, Westerns, novellas, poetry books and all kinds of works are now finding a home now that we have loosed the chains of capital risk.
We no longer need anyone but the artist to invest, and the readers either come…or they don’t.
Maybe we are a Picasso that later will be embraced by millions and generate wide-spread commercial interest, but we could just as easily be a giant sculpture crafted from used diapers that a handful will think is brilliant and provocative…but no one will want to take home and display in their living room.
Thing is, in this Brave New World we all get our own exhibit.
Thoughts? Reactions? Are you elated? Horrified? Do you think writers should shape and create reader tastes or publishers? I want to hear from you! And yes, I am putting my art out there every week, hoping that even if you don’t agree, you will walk away somehow changed ;). Off to go do revisions on “,” and I will let you know when you can pre-order copies :D.
I LOVE hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.
This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness
Protecting Our Writing Time by Elizabeth Craig
I’ll Get to It…Eventually by Alan Orloff
How Does a Publishing Auction Work? by Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner
What is More Fairly Priced at 99 Cents? Nonfiction or a Novel? by Edward Nawotka over at Publishing Persectives
What is an Author Platform? by Jane Friedman
The Controversy Over Controversy by Amber West
What’s Better than a Fight? over at More Blogging Cowbell