Tag Archives: authors

Are Writers Artists?

What comes to your head when you hear the word artist? For the majority of people, it’s usually Picasso attacking a canvas or Bob Dylan playing his guitar. Very rarely does someone imagine Mark Twain or Agatha Christie in front of a typewriter, regardless of the fact that they are the most prolific authors of all time.  So, why aren’t writers typically considered artists? Does one have to cater to the five senses in order to be one, or is it the emotion one stirs from their work that makes them what they are? Well, as usual, the answer isn’t simple, but requires exploration nonetheless.

Type “what is an artist?” into your web browser and see what comes up. I did, and the first definition I came across was, “An artist is a person who creates paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.” Wow, it doesn’t get any simpler than that. Other definitions include, “A person who is skilled at drawing or painting,” as well as, “a skilled performer.” So, according to Webster and his friends, a writer is definitely out of luck.

As I continued to search, I found blogs and comments that support the idea that writers just are not artists. Certain opinions genuinely believe that authors, as talented as they might be, don’t fit the mold of what an orthodox artist should be. From these people’s perspectives, artists receive their title because they have a medium that is either visually or audibly pleasing. Painters create works that can be put on display. Musicians and actors perform on stage.  But a writer can’t showcase their work so easily, which to these folks, separates writers from artists. Writers tend to need time, organization, and systematical knowledge in order to fabricate their work (although there are certain types of poetry and short stories that are exceptions). In addition, a writer’s creation process doesn’t tend to be as intense or swift as other types of art. There’s no splashing of acrylics along a white wall or singing until your voice goes hoarse.

Yet, as I began to explore more online opinions, it became apparent that while some individuals feel that writers aren’t technically part of the art community, the majority of people argue that writers are in fact major players. While famous authors have always been celebrated, it’s only within the last few decades or so that a new principle for identifying an artist has developed- A principle that is paving the way for authors and poets everywhere. It’s an idea that recognizes true art for what it really is at its foundation. In the words of Albert Einstein, “True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.”

Supporters of this well accepted viewpoint feel that writing is not only a part of the art world, but one of the most complex forms of expression that there is. A writer is painting with words instead of color. They evoke emotion with their stories and accounts. They create something out of nothing, taking ordinary events and weaving them into written words that induce a mood or feelings. While a fine portrait or song can arouse happiness, anger or grief, an exceptional column or book can change lives.

Another reason why writers are increasingly being recognized as artists is that the urge that drives them to express themselves is parallel to the urge that any other artists feels. The fervor that compels a writer to convey a story through language is the same enthusiasm that a violinist uses when drawing their bow or a sculptor uses when he or she shapes clay. Most importantly, this new outlooks doesn’t just apply to writers. According to the majority of blogs and articles I read, other contemporary forms such as photography, computer graphics, film making, and fashion are just as vital, and long overdue for recognition they deserve. So long as there is passion, creation, and expression, there is art, plain and simple.

So the next time someone asks, “Who is your favorite artist?” try to resist the urge to answer with Monet or Pavarotti. Instead, try naming someone a little less conventional.  While Chuck Palahniuk, Carlos Baena, and Robert Kirkman may not make the traditional list of artists, they live and breathe the same creativity of Andy Warhol and Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Just because specific individuals that sculpt statues, dance in ballets or sing in operas get all the credit, it doesn’t mean that they’re the only artists out there. It’s up to us to recognize artists everywhere, be they stand-up comedians, cameramen, or writers.

SUBMIT, BUT DON’T QUIT

“It’s an awful feeling to write something that you feel is really important…and to feel that you’re being published by people who really don’t get it and/or don’t really care.”

-Alice Walker

Recently, I’ve made mention of “the do’s and don’ts” when submitting a manuscript. Since then, I’ve had a few questions from readers about how the process works. It can be tough to try and make the right decisions when sending out your work because different publishers have different procedures. It doesn’t help that many publishers have become a bit more cutthroat then in years past due to excessive inquiries. Nevertheless, there is a basic course that nearly all of them abide by. The following are some suggestions that will help upcoming authors when pitching their manuscripts. This advice comes from research, published authors, and literature websites.

First and foremost, there’s no rule demanding exclusive submissions. Anyone telling you differently hasn’t tried to submit an article as of late. It’s tough and you need to reach out to anyone who might take it. Submit the piece to several publications. While it might be considered a bit impolite to submit the same piece to competitors, there’s nothing saying that you can’t.

 

Secondly, understand that review time is considerably different depending on who you’re submitting a manuscript or article to. Magazines move fast and thanks to the Internet, receive and respond to queries relatively quickly. Typically, you can expect a magazine to respond within eight weeks or sooner. If you don’t receive something by then, either move on or write them a polite e-mail to see if they are interested. Please don’t expect magazines to send a professional rejection letter. It is a courtesy, not a requirement.

As for book publishers, first and foremost, learn how to develop a pitch letter. It is the key component to selling your book. With fiction, learn how to write a fluid, immaculate synopsis. With nonfiction, try to have your proposal emulate a business request. Publishers tend not to read a manuscript unless they’re interested in your query. And like with magazines, don’t limit yourself to a single publisher and don’t wait for a reply.

Most importantly, just keep writing. Don’t get discouraged by rejections, lack of responses, or insecurities you might have about your pitch letter. This industry is getting faster and faster, with publishers looking for that next great piece of work without consideration or apologies. If they don’t like your work, they’ll move on. So should you.

 

Am I Selling Out or Fighting for My Work?

I read a lot of authors’ blogs and one of the hot buttons tends to be a debate over promoting your book. Some authors feel that they should concentrate solely on writing their book so that it’s at its best, while trusting their publishers to take care of the rest. Other authors feel that using social media, going on blog tours and attending conventions is the foundation of having a successful novel. Some blogs say that trying to be a salesperson dents a writer’s reputation while other post that self promotion is half the battle. Its two different schools of thought. So which is right?

Well, it wouldn’t be a heated debate unless both sides didn’t have excellent points. Traditional authors feel that a writer’s responsibility is to spend hundreds of hours of blood, sweat and tears trying to perfect a manuscript that they pitch to a publisher to sell. By accepting the book, a publisher is saying that they feel that they can market it to the correct audiences in order to make a profit. So why would you get the author, who knows nothing about selling, involved?  That’s like asking them to work on a car for you or fix your plumbing. Sure they’ll give it a shot, but writers tend to be lacking in marketing skills. They specialize in telling stories.

A publisher by definition is supposed to make information available to the public. That includes all of the stages of development including acquisition, editing, graphic design, production, printing and most importantly, marketing. You write, they excite. While a publisher might expect you to show up for a few promotional appointments, they shouldn’t rely on an author to turn a book into a success. That should be something that they deploy.

On the other hand, while it might be the responsibility of a publisher to help sell your book, why wouldn’t you try to help your own cause? While there’s conflicting numbers that don’t exactly prove or disprove if blogging truly helps sell books, I can tell you from personal experience that connecting with readers never hurts. I’ve seen multiple well written blogs that inspire me to continue following the author. And yes, while using Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, etc. might not drive sales, it’s a great way to understand what people enjoy while keeping your name out there.  Plus, it helps target specific audiences.

Publishers are great at selling a manuscript to the general public, but they tend not to concentrate on specialized groups. Blogs, social media and focused tours are a great way to aim at an audience you’d like to cater to. For example, if I’m writing a horror novel (cough, cough, “Consumed” is in on bookshelves October 2014, cough), I might want to promote my novel to gothic book clubs,  ghoulish citywide conventions and anywhere else that there’s horror readers. Promoting to people who tend to read your specific genre not only theoretically pushes sales, but it also assures better reviews. Readers of a certain style might be a bit pickier, but they also tend to appreciate elements within your writing far more than a person who just picked up any book at the airport to get them through their flight to Los Angeles.

So what does it all mean then? Should you promote or shouldn’t you? Well, although my word isn’t an official authority, I’d have to say that both schools of thought are on the right track. Yes, I’m calling it a draw. While it’s true that an author’s book should be their priority, and that being weighed down by book promotions can be a serious distraction, getting involved in endorsing your own manuscript is vital.

Managing time is tough. If you’re an early phase author who still has a day job, it’s probably even tougher. An author with a publisher has to make sure that they are spending a majority of their time working on their manuscript while allowing ample time to promote. The rule of thumb tends to be that the smaller the publisher, the more time you may want to invest in pushing your book. I’m not saying that you have to stretch yourself thin, but the occasional blog, Twitter comment or Goodreads update helps.

However, if you feel that you absolutely positively do not have enough time to both write and promote, it’s my suggestion that you abandon ship with the marketing segment. While you may be able to help, it’s ultimately the publisher’s responsibility to get the word out that your amazing book is coming soon. Your publisher can promote without you, but no one can write the book but you. Might I warn though that this is only for rare cases. In my opinion, most people, if they’re really honest with themselves, can find the time.

So the next time you’re worried about the success of your book, ask yourself, “Am I doing enough to help?” You’ve put a lot of effort into your novel. Encourage readers to buy it. It doesn’t mean that you have to treat it like a second or third job, it just means that you should put a small amount of time away every week to ensure that you’re giving the book the attention it deserves. Remember, you only get what you give.

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