If you’ve ever considered becoming someone who makes their living by selling art, in all it’s many shapes and sizes, than you’ve undoubtedly heard that you need a platform. This is doubly true if you wish to be an writer. It’s hopelessly true if you want to be a published author.
It’s also, in my opinion, a load of crap (mostly).
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and this is my blog, so here’s mine. I think that focusing all your energy or finding your audience and building your brand is bullshit. You are a person, not a multi-million dollar company. As someone who spends my cold hard cash on books before food and who buys art prints before clothes (within reason, I am neither starving, nor naked) there are really only two reasons why I part with my money. (Possibly three.)
- Because the work is fucking awesome.
- Because the person is fucking awesome, therefore I want to support them in their endeavors to put more awesomeness into the world.
An example of the first point would be Iraville. She’s a German artist I found on Youtube and while her personality is best described as sweet and mild in her videos, her art rocks. Her watercolor illustrations are beautiful and complex and everyone of her videos teaches me something about painting. I recently purchased some of her art and now it serves as inspiration above my desk.
An example of the second point would be Hank and John Green. The Vlogbrothers are known for a lot of different projects but I’m particularly fond of their Youtube series.
Everyday they introduce me to something awesome and exciting. I immediately crack a smile at their enthusiasm and antics, whether they are interviewing Obama, or participating in panels at Leakycon (a Harry Potter convention where I met them in 2012. Side note: Leakycon has been renamed Geekycon to be more inclusive of other fandoms and the wider geek culture as a whole).
I am willing to part with my cash because these people and their work inspires me.
Their appeal to me has nothing to do with their marketing, websites, or how much they pay to make themselves look good. It’s content and personality based.
I write books and short stories and I’ve spent decades in emotional turmoil on whether I should do the “smart/responsible” thing and use my college degree as something other than a fond memory that I’m paying through the ass for. I didn’t go to school to write, though I wanted to and followed someone else’s dreams for me instead of my own, and now at 26, I’ve spent the last six years considered how to abandon the life plan I was supposed to follow and actually be smart and responsible and stop making myself miserable just because it would make cowardly people comfortable.
I am a writer.
I am not published. I don’t have an agent and I’m not entirely convinced that I want one. What I do know is that every time I look at a writer’s webpage and they push ad filled newsletters and use flashy graphics to make their impression rather than let their work stand on it’s own, I gag, roll my eyes and promptly leave their site. I’m sick of seeing writing blogs filled with advice like “Make sure you have 10,000$ to spend on promoting your novel before you self publish,” or “You need a following of at least 5,000 before you even consider publishing your novel.”
To be fair, advice like this is not what branding should be about. A great article about what brand should mean can be found here. Unfortunately there are an obnoxious amount of branding articles that conform to the above mentioned ideas. They value you based on your money instead of your art. Yes, it is easier for people to see your work with the help of advertising and good presentation BUT having a spectacular website and the money to thrust your work in front of every potential victim does not inherently mean you have anything worth saying.
I’ve been struggling with this pc notion of appealing to the masses and gathering followers for the sake of numbers for far too long and I’m sick of it. I write YA and adult fantasy and magical realism. I’m not happy with the way my website looks and I will gladly confess that I don’t have the money to have someone make it look spectacular. I won’t be shelling out thousands for head shots, covers, or a gaggle of editors if I do decide to self publish because I work part time at a gas station so that I have the time and energy to write whenever I can. I’m okay with this. What I’m not okay with is reading article after article about how I’m doing it all wrong and my work will never be seen by anyone because I don’t have the money for the window dressing. I write books, so shouldn’t my priority be the books?
There’s a hell of a lot more to be said on all the topics I’ve touched on today, but this is a post that I’ve been thinking about for a while and I needed to get it out of my head such as it is. I personally think that all art is not universal whether it’s a book or a painting or a rhythm on a flaming tambourine and that is a-okay. We are individuals and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t want to appeal to the masses. I want to matter to as many people who are willing to listen but I won’t change my ideals or opinions to suit anyone. I won’t pretend to be someone I’m not just to appeal to more people.
Since I’m throwing branding and self bloated bullshit under the bus, I might as well add that while I appreciate that everyone is entitled to their opinions, I’m not interested in a flame war. I’m sure that there are writers out there who have huge followings and who have prospered from great branding but their audience is not me. The authors who seem to prosper best by having a genre focused website are romance authors and mystery/crime/suspense authors. I never read those kind of books. I’m a bit of a book snob and I don’t touch mass market formula ridden nonsense if I can help it and I find it incredibly difficult to sort out good romance or suspense from the crap so I don’t. My favorite authors have pretty bland websites/blogs and the simplicity makes it easier to search for things and enjoy their content. You may have heard of them. Neil Gaiman, Victoria Schwab (who I’d like to add uses free WordPress for her blog), Patrick Rothfuss, and John Green.
All of this ranting brings me to my last reason for handing over money to creators… reviews. I watch too much booktubers, check reviews on Goodreads religiously, and follow a bunch of book blogs. These are my 1, 2, 3, for how I decide what books I’m going to buy and/or add to my TBR.
So there you go. If you’ve been a regular here in the past, you may find that my future posts to be a little more varied, or rough around the edges. My favorite experiences with authentic creators who may not share everything with the world, but what they do share is real.