Its pretty appropriate that as I get ready for tonight's launch of Solitude I finally get a chance to sit down and write about marketing, as I'd promised a few days back. My allergies and sinuses have been keeping me virtually braindead since late last week, and there's no immediate hope on the horizon. Springtime in Indiana. Ahhhhhhhhh. Refreshing.
So here's the deal. I'm writing this writers because I'm a writer and this is my writing blog. However, I have friends all over the creative spectra, and have dabbled in other acts of imagination myself, and I can tell you that this problem is common to all:
You are an artist.
You want to express yourself.
There's a story that just needs to be told through your particular medium.
You are guided by the muses, not by the Almighty Dollar (or the less mighty Scrip).
So far so good. The problem (if such it is) enters on the negative half of the ledger --
I don't want to take orders for mass produced stuff.
I don't want to restrict myself to one style.
I don't want to produce this, just because this sells.
I don't want to producers for others; I want to produce for myself, truth, and the greater good.
But, okay, okay. I'll even grant you that that's fine. I don't really have problem if you say all of those things, especially if you mean them. As long as you don't add (verbally or behaviorally) any of these:
I want to make a living doing this!
I want to do this full time!
I want to finally break-in!
I want to start getting some recognition for all my work.
Marketing and approaching the craft of writing like a professional business are among the tools necessary to make those last four happen. If you shun those, you're making the others a whole lot more difficult. If you want to write for yourself, or if you want to write for the story itself (whatever that means!) then you need to accept your own or the story's thanks in return, and be happy with that. If you want agents, editors, publishers, and broader audiences to also receive and appreciate your work, you need to deliver it to them effectively -- and that's exactly what you're deciding not to do when you eschew the business side of writing or of any art.
Some examples --
* Building a platform helps give you a base audience and also keeps you in touch with your future readership so that you can be attune to their responses to your work.
* Branding yourself with a genre makes your body of work a more coherent to agents and to readers alike, as well as giving yourself a direction to focus your productive energies.
* Getting your stuff out there even when you're afraid that it's not quite perfect yet, because there's this seventeenth reader that you know gives great feedback on blahblahblah gets your materials in the hands of the people who publish, which sitting in workshops does not do.
* Learning the industry not only familiarizes you with people and helps build networks and connections, but it also helps you learn the lingo and the process, so you can speak and understand the language.
Et cetera. Can you succeed without doing these or some of the other important business practices? Sure, you can. Exceptional individuals do. Not to kick you in the teeth or anything, but most of us are not (by definition) exceptional. If you don't do these things, you are making it harder on yourself.
So it's up to you -- are you doing this for self-satisfaction or because the story spiritually compels you? If so, the campfire is just fine for storytellers. Are you doing this because it's what you want to do and who you want to be? Then you need to suck it up, and act like a pro.
Michael Jordan has been able to play baseball and golf, but he branded himself as a basketball player when the time came, and that's what he built his career on, how he started to make his connections, and build his platform and his network.
And now... Solitude starts. :)