Artists Against the Machine—–Again!
Charles Dickins: Art made Money
“Art takes time,
Time is money,
and the ain’t funny….” Ray Davies, The Kinks
As one who has been in the arts all of my life, taking the time needed to make money to put into creative projects, whether art, theater, dance, music or writing, the attitude of many marketers involved in the Indie Publishing world sometimes throws me.
The Romance of Writing
I began writing and publishing poetry and short stories before there was an internet, let alone Kindle. When I decided to get serious about writing fiction, my goal was to write a great novel, find a publisher who would contract for more books, and have my books in bookshops for readers to discover. For such a thing to happen would be the culmination of a lifetime love affair with books and the storytelling arts.
That was all there was back then.
Those of us who have been writing stories over all these decades have this romance with books and bookstores that now seems old fashioned and, indeed, Romantic. As a Gothic novelist, I once wrote a short story with a quill pen by candlelight just to evoke the mood.
The Grim Reality
I found the task of writing query letters, synopsis/ outlines (they are never clear about what they actually mean by these terms) to be a drain. Writing what you love is a joy, writing out of duty is agony. Then the mailing out and waiting and wondering how to act when I have been waiting for too long—-mustn’t step on the editors toes—- then seeing my writer friends getting contacts and waiting another two years before their books hit the shelves…. the ability to eliminate all of these hassles made Indie publishing look like a dream come true.
And it is.
I see books by writers like myself all the time on Amazon’s book pages. These artists have found a fun, exciting way to get their stories out into the world. But many of us are daunted by the big bad wolf lurking in the trees: Marketing and marketers who have no idea what it takes to create a great novel that will be powerful enough to stay with people and make them want more.
Most marketing coaches are fantastic people who really want to help authors succeed, but their views can be one-sided:
Indie publishing is a business. (I say publishing is a business. Writing is an art.)
Why can’t authors do this or that, that and then this? (Many of us have day jobs. We can’t all be Johnny, Sean and Dave and at some point, neither will they.)
The barmy artistes don’t understand we are in this to make money. (We also want to make money but our focus is on art. Some of the greatest books ever written were not appreciated in their authors’ lifetimes. Others were. Hollywood knows that striving to please the public is a crapshoot. As an artist, you create what you have to create. If 50 Shades of Grey isn’t in you, you won’t be able to write it)
All the money is in fiction. (The same people who were building niche websites and making money with google adwords now want to become novelists because they have found some algorithm that shows that’s where the money is. Good luck writing good stories based on that. It has been done, of course. It’s called pulp fiction.)
Oh—Erotica and Romance are the big sellers! Let’s dominate that niche. (Of course this is impossible as Romance is a huge genre filled with authors who truely love these kinds of stories. And there’s a not very pleasant name for people who write dirty books for a living…)
Sunset Boulevard: A Story about a Writer Who Needs to Make Money
The Artist as Outsider—-Again!
This conversation is fine. We are painfully aware that a poor author is a less productive one. Why work so hard for nothing? But those of us for whom writing fiction has been a natural progression as artists, something we’ve been doing forever because we have stories burning in our minds, we are dismayed to find ourselves left out of the conversation unless it is to be referred to as some relic from the past.
I am sure my fellow artists want their books to earn money as much as anyone else out there. We have long nurtured dreams of making our living as authors. But, for people like us, the creative side, the writing, comes first. It is really time consuming. At the height of my honeymoon period, I was working on my first novel, Roses of the Moon, for six hours a day and doing research on the side as well as working a job. You don’t have much energy left after that.
Some authors can turn out novellas and stories at a very fast pace. More books means more sales means more money. For them that’s great, but if you want to write novels with historical backgrounds, and deep philosophical truths and complex characters, books that might still be read after your death, that takes time.
Not all of us want to churn stuff out just for the marketplace, just to make money. We’ve been sacrificing money to art all of our lives. Our focus is on creating lasting works of literature, even within a popular genre, and finding our way through the endless bombardment of the internet toward our readers.
Yes, Publishing is a Business. Storytelling is an Art. Marketing is a necessity that is, in some ways, an Art, but is allied to Business. There is no reason to remove artistry from the equation in order to write books that will sell.
Traditional publishers have doing that all along.
E.A. Poe: Never Made a Dime but We Still Read Him!