To the creative soul awash in inspiration, artfulness, and flights of fancy, there is nothing more antithetical to the Muse than blowing one’s own damn horn. “Shameless self-promotion,” as a friend of mine puts it, which comes replete with discomfort and the awkwardness of braggadocio. But still… it seems we must.
Back in the day – or if you have the sort of career in which these characters appear – publicists, marketing and promotion specialists, managers, agents, handlers, etc., did the heavy lifting when it came to the strutting of stuff. The artist was protected from this crass commercial cacophony by virtue of having a team, a cadre, a crowd of enthusiasts who knew just what to say, when and to whom, to get that artist a front cover, a high-profile radio interview, the best book tour, all the right appearances at all the right places. Now? That cadre? That team? It’s you.
Well, it’s you if you are one of the growing number of independent artists who revel in the passion of creativity but wearied of shuffling behind velvet ropes held tight by the gatekeepers. Or, in simpler terms: damn, it’s hard these days to get an agent, publisher, manager, publicist, any of those folks!!
So what’s an artist to do; an artist who trusts their own voice and is willing to walk their own road even if those gate won’t open? Well, those artists are doing it for themselves. Just like the sisters.
Musicians made the leap first. When big labels tumbled into the swirling eddy of the digital revolution and no one understood how to proceed when all previously held paradigms blew into bits, musicians, bands, and singer/songwriters figured out how to transcend; how to get into those Pro-Tools studios and get the job done with a level of excellence that used to drain bank accounts but could now be covered by Mom, Dad and your freelance fees. And when they had their records recorded, mixed and mastered exactly as they wanted, without interference from bean-counters and suits with no idea of artistry, they got busy promoting the living hell out of those records, creating viable, accessible, impossible-to-pigeonhole careers as independent musicians. Which meant lots of teeth-gritting but ultimately necessary – and often quite effective – self-promotion. Entire careers have been built on that.
Now it’s the writers’ turn. The writing/publishing industry is/has been going through a similar upheaval and the pain is starting to show. While the Big Six publishing houses (some say it’s now the Big Five) have struggled against the turbulence of changing tastes, trends, and delivery systems for the written word, companies like Amazon have rewritten the book, so to speak, on how books are sold, writers are advanced, and readers are supplied. Money in traditional publishing has become unpredictable and unsustainable, which has led to gatekeepers selecting only a few who are predicted to fit the mold, meet the formulas, and overcome the changing tides. Which left out the other talented folk who, heretofore, would have been amongst the chosen. Have you seen the new Noah movie yet? Picture the bulk of writers as those left behind on terra firma as Russell Crowe battened down the hatches and floated off with his handpicked horde.
So those of us left outside have taken a cue from the indie musicians. Courtesy of Amazon and other sites, independent writers have been given the power to move forward despite closed door. The demand remains for excellent, extraordinary, really good work; for brilliant stories, goose-bumping prose, and unforgettable characters. But, lo and behold, it appears a great many writers who were not let in the gates can and do provide that standard of literature. How lovely that the industry has evolved to the point that these outliers now have a portal, a support system, a facility with which to publish their own work! It’s quite brilliant. But…
Back to self-promotion. Because even though Amazon and affiliates do quite a good job at the various and creative ways in which they promote their authors – clearly a win/win situation – there’s no getting around the fact that independent writers MUST blow their own horns. Which means a great many things, not least of which is asking readers who’ve read their books to leave their – hopefully – positive reviews on their Amazon page… or wherever else such things matter, like Goodreads or Shelfari or other book sites. Reviews are not requested for the sake of ego; they’re requested for the sake of algorithms that rank a book by many things, including the number of reviews those books elicit.
So when a writer asks you to leave a review, understand that they are being a good, independent artist, taking very seriously their commitment to do right by their work, their art; their business. And if you can, if you are so inclined, if you are interested in supporting that artist, and, in a bigger sense, the independent publishing industry, you will be happy to leave one.
And that artist will be very, very grateful.
Woman Kneeling in Prayer by Émile Plassan @ Wikimedia Commons
Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.