What It Means to Be An Artist in the Age of Hyper-Capitalism
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As is prone to happen, lately I have spent many hours lying awake at night, my mind racing through all subjects.
I try telling myself that I won't be solving all of my issues and all of the world's problems at 4 a.m., especially when I have to get up in two hours to get ready for work, but my brain is not always very reasonable, so I put on music and hopefully that works. I try relaxation techniques, and maybe that does have an effect, but it takes a lot of concentration, and I can't always settle my brain down for very long. Some nights, I hardly get any sleep.
One issue that my brain has been tossing around especially a lot lately has been my pursuit of publishing and selling books, and in particular how I feel like I have pushed myself towards emulating the multitude of hucksters that you see out there, particularly on Twitter, that push their wares on unsuspecting and mostly uninterested multitudes, all in an effort to sell books.
Do this, and this, and this, the marketing gurus command from their digital pedestals, and you will make some money. This is how so-and-so author makes a living off of his/her publishing, they claim, and so can you.
As readers of this blog have witnessed, I have tried on several different pieces of this advice from these online "experts," but like trying on pants at a thrift store, most of them did not fit for one reason or another.
While I have learned a great deal, and certainly what not to do and what doesn't work for me, I have not yet figured out what actually does work for me specifically. When I write, I like to push boundaries. I enjoy expressing my thoughts and feelings in ways that are uniquely me, and I don't want to compromise.
Maybe it is just irrational stubbornness on my part, and maybe I will never be successful due to it, but, yadda yadda I consider myself an artist, and as an artist, I have decided that I need to do what is best for my art, and that means trashing most of the marketing bullshit and committing myself to doing it entirely my own way, for better or worse (of my bank account).
While I don't plan on getting rid of my social media or this blog, I have considered it. I have even been so disenchanted with writing lately that I have even considered giving up on it entirely. For those of you who know me, or who have read this blog for a while and feel like you know me, then you know that is a pretty big deal, but rather than taking a flying leap off of the precipice, I am seeking my own path, and at the very least returning to writing fiction solely for my enjoyment of it.
I have a job, I have a cool writing gig, and those things are what I need to be focusing on right now. I am happy to share my writing with whoever wants to read it, but I am not going to go out of my way, or do anything that I feel compromises my integrity, as an artist, in order to sell books.
That cheapens it and takes the fun out of it for me, and I would rather enjoy it for the sake of doing it rather than trying to cater to someone else's ideas of how it should be done.
For those of you reading this who think I am making a mistake or whatever, you can just buzz off. It's people like you who are the reason why it is necessary for me to take this step.
Besides, on the grand scope of things, it doesn't really matter. There are more important things happening in this world and in my life right now. Self-publishing doesn't have to be done a certain way just because some people have done it that way and have sold a bunch of books because of it.
In fact, just because someone else has had success with a particular approach, it doesn't mean that way will work for everyone, and if you look at the number of books that most self-publishers actually sell while trying to do it that one way, then maybe you will see that what works for the people who are selling books isn't the best way for everyone. Not everyone has the same idea of success (queue "Freebird").
That's why I have to decided to make my eBooks free, or at least leave all of the ones that I currently have free, still free, and then some, possibly.
Of course, I will still have to charge for the print books if you want to buy them online or through a store, but I will also always give away as many as I can afford to buy at a time (to people I see in person). I feel like I would rather have people read read it and give it a chance than have unrealistic expectations about who will buy it or not.
It might seem a little silly to some, but that doesn't make it silly. Especially if my goal is to gain readers.
I can't guarantee I will always give all of my books away in this manner, but at least these ones. Probably also the updated version of my short story collection, and my flash fiction chapbook. They are short and sweet.
I don't know if people will want them, but it will be one less thing to worry about and one hour closer to a full night's sleep.