Lately, I have been thinking a great deal about publication. I’m not talking about publishing my work; as time goes on, I’m actually becoming less interested in getting published, and more interested in becoming an excellent writer. Ah, but there’s the rub. Although we writers consider ourselves to be artists, we do so with a different ethos that some other artists.
Take, for instance, a painter. To oversimplify, there are two distinct ways to becoming “published” as a painter. You can sell individual, original works of art, or license reproductions (limited editions, giclees, prints, etc.). Similarly, there are two ways to become a wealthy painter. One is to have your work so acclaimed, and in demand, that your individual paintings are sold for a high price. The other, and not mutually exclusive method is to sell a ton of prints for prices that vary, but still are substantially different that what an individual master work would garner.
For a painter, the singular way to become successful, both artistically and financially, is to learn to paint well. The average painter would never expect to do mediocre work, then jump into the market to sell prints. The painter develops her skill, and over time, her market, leading, one hopes to sales.
We Indie publishers, however, seem to be skipping this step. We flood the market with mediocre works, more anxious to be seen than to be skilled. It is akin to new artists running of reams of limited editions of a painting that was never high quality to start with, in hopes that someone will buy it. And, when the market does not rush to our doors, we simply mark down the price.
We, as writers, cannot allow ourselves to succumb to the vanity of saying “I am published.” We must strive first for quality, for skill, for art. Then, hopefully, when our craft is honed, the public will come meet it.
I fear we have already wasted our opportunity however. Even as an indie author, I hesitate to buy more indie work, even at discounted prices. Instead, I find myself shopping the for lesser bargains of higher quality. We have not policed ourselves. Our galleries are full of schlock art. And now, our patrons have begun to turn their backs on our wares, in search of the old galleries where the masters sick, high in price, but low in disappointment.
I hope we can reverse the trend. I hope we can shout down the publishers of $0.99 electronic pulp fiction. I hold onto a glimmer of hope that writers will understand that publishing a million crappy short stories as if each were a quality book, does nothing but steepen the road for those trying to rise above mediocrity.
This tome is not meant to suggest my work is superior. It is, however, meant to assert that if I knew that it was not, it would never see the light of day. Writing is not a genetically produced trait. It is a job, when done well; and art when done brilliantly.
I pray we will all strive, finally, for art.