Thursday, May 24, 2007

Business or Art?

Imagine that you are a brand new writer. Consider the following advice.

From JA Konrath:

The best advice I ever heard is from bestselling author David Morrell, who said: "Writing is a business. Treat it like one. As the business changes, you should too."

From David Morrell:

Writing is also an art. Rather than imitate or follow trends, we should write books that are uniquely our own. The goal is to be a first-rate version of ourselves rather than a second-rate version of another author.

In my head, these two piece of advice contradict one another. Either you are writing for the voice in your head, or you are writing for what sells. I know I tend to write what is in my head, but I have a friend who is definitely writing for the market, but making it her voice.

Neither of us is published. And there probably isn't a good way to measure who is right, even if we were published. But it does show how confusing it is to measure success.

And to find good advice to follow.

via The Writing Life


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Here's a way to perhaps make sense of the contradicting advice--I firmly believe the act of writing is an art. If you're writing for "the market" you'll probably always be behind the curve because the market's always changing and what appears in the stores today was bought 18 months ago. But, you also need to recognize that publishign is a business--so you want to do everything you can to market your book (a work of art!) once it's out in the world You want to publicize it, schmooze about it, etc. Writing is an art, publishing is a business--they each need the other.

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Page Smith said...

I've known A LOT of writers who refuse to think about "the market," and what I find is that they don't write with readers in mind. That's what "the market" is.

Agents and publishing houses didn't just create things like genres, or the modern novel framework, because it made life easier for them. That structure makes life easier for most readers to find the kind of novel that they want to read - and that will lead some of them to your book.

Art and commerce meet at the point where a novelist hands over a book to readers. It isn't just about the publishing houses.

And, as far as having your own voice: just TRY getting rid of your own voice. You'll find that you can't. Your own voice comes through no matter what you write. No one imitates successfully. Not for long.

Commerce is not the enemy. We should not be ashamed of wanting to be successful. Write what you want to. Keep learning, but don't forget what the majority of readers want.

Barney said...

I'd asked around 10 or 15 people for suggestions. Finally one lady friend asked the right question, 'Well, what do you love most?' That's how I started painting money. -- Andy Warhol

How is making money from one's art wrong? Why would anyone listen to such faux philosophy as neo-socialism? Were your hecklers wearing sack cloths or clothing made in Asia in some sweat shop. If one really wants to change the world, it will require more smarts and moxie than it takes to pick on a visual artist seeking to profit from his creative output.

Visual artists are the quintessential starving artists. One does not think of musicians, film makers, authors or playwrights when the term is applied. It's always some oil paint stained bohemian living on cigarettes and cheap wine. What a load of crap.

Visual artists are the only ones who are forced by legacy to continue to limit their ability to earn as much money as possible from the reproductions of their work. Somehow, it is noble and proper for visual artists to cap their income from digital prints, i.e, giclees.

How is that fair? Does Steven Spielberg limit the number of moviegoers to his films? Do the Rolling Stones stop selling CDs at a predetermined level? Does a Broadway play stop its run even though demand for tickets remains? Why then are visual artists who create reproductions of their work still clinging to an outmoded vestige of the past and limiting their income potential in the process?

I think visual artists who figure it out can take more control of their lives and careers now than at any previous time. And, they have more ability to do so than other artists who are far more reliant on a host of other people to get their work seen or heard.

Visual artists who want to make a go of it ought to be using the Internet, finding alternative spaces and using brick and mortar galleries all in concert to help them get their work to market. You can paint for prosperity and posterity. The two are not mutually exclusive,they are in fact inclusive.

Look around, there are so many examples of artists who have found a way to make their art pay and to be happy and prosperous in the process. Sounds better to me than not being able to buy paint, much less support a family or even oneself. If an artist does get rich and famous, he or she can always use the money to help the arts, help the poor and drive a Porsche just to piss off neo-socialist buffoons.

I blog at:

slpenney said...

Great discussion.

So, does an artist every run the risk of "selling out"?