Saturday, August 7, 2010

I should've been the one to paint the Sistine Chapel

I've decided to get today's article out here early--I've had a lot on my mind and was excited to discuss it.

But this sure has been a strange week.

I've spent a lot of time getting familiar with this e-publishing craze and realising just how green about it I am--and green is not my colour.  I have friends who are mid-list authors who once were the darlings of the hardcover and paperback novel world, but who are now realising the value of self-publication, and they're making a lot of money in addition.

Now.  I'm intelligent enough to know that once you start something such as self-publishing, what you're doing, in essence, is planting seeds that common sense tells you will take time to root and grow into monetary fruition.  I've been writing for over ten years, but it's taken me this long to get up the courage, and self-confidence in my writing to try and get it marketed.  It takes getting known by other authors, getting recognition from those who read the other authors and happened to stumble upon you in the process.  It takes web-sites, blogs, contributing articles and lots of potato chips and Starbucks.  I'm slowly realising that there is a finesse to it.

But I want to make money now!  I've had my titles up on Kindle for all of a full week.  And have seen not one sale from it.  (Hey--I promised to share my joys of good news and unexpected blurbs, along with my hideously disfiguring disappointments.)  I'll be honest--this is one of those hideously disfiguring disappointments for me.  I've been the kind of person who has always succeeded at anything I've tried, so since it's taken me some time and hard work (My muscles are killing me from all this computer work and writing.), I guess I expected a return on my investment a little sooner than now.

Now. I know what you're gonna say, and you're right. I shouldn't be so impatient. But let's analyse this for a moment. Is there a better feeling in the entire world than seeing your name in print? Yes, and it's called selling your work. When someone takes their hard-earned money and decides to invest it in something only you had to say, well, it's a feeling that I imagine is like no other. I guess it's akin to an unwritten trust; it sets up a symbiosis between the reader/buyer and the author/seller that only another artist would know and understand. As a fine artist, I had that exact feeling for my first time when I was 17 years old, and was asked by a class-mate of mine to paint her portrait. I painted it from a photo of her, and I think it took me all of a week. But when I was finished and showed it to her for the first time, her reaction was something that made me feel significant--like the talent that I had mattered somehow.

But when she paid me the eight whole dollars I asked in return, just to cover the cost of my canvas and oils, well, you'd've thought I had won a beauty pageant, and if you've ever seen me, then you'd understand what a leap that would be. But follow along.

Mary didn't have to pay me anything for the painting, because she was a fellow classmate. But she wanted to, especially after she saw it. Apparently, this girl saw something in my previous artwork that spoke to her very soul. Or, maybe I was just convenient and she didn't have to drive far to find me. I'd like to think it was because at that moment in time, she didn't see little old me from the dairy farm with no money--she saw Carla René, the brilliant, undiscovered painter who should've been the one to paint the Sistine Chapel instead of that deadbeat, Michelangelo.

And that was a feeling that I hope to experience soon with my writing.

It's also bruising my delicate ego.  Oh, c'mon!  You didn't think I was perfect did you?  Well, no, you probably did.  I know I give that impression because of my inherent perfectionness, but trust me, it's a brave, brave front.

But back to my ego.  If you're a fellow writer reading this, then you cannot tell me in all honesty that the thought hadn't crossed your mind during those wee hours of the dark morning while pounding out your latest tome, that once it reached public consumption, the world would be a different place.  (I'm doing it right now!)  I know you--sitting there, licking your fingers from the chocolate that your wife doesn't know you have--fingers sore and bloody from all the key-pounding, and in between paragraphs, taking just a short respite to unleash this powerful masterpiece onto the mass market.  In fact, you don't see how the world could actually think it could get by without your great American leaflet.  Here you are, covincing yourself that once it hits eBooks and print, then people will soon forget who Michael Crichton and that idiot Kakfa were, and will be doing cool stuff for you like giving you the key to the city and naming unknown streets after you.  Yep!  Soon you'll have it made and won't be able to shop for groceries without getting mugged for an autograph.

Hey.  We're all adults here, so let's stop pretending we are that critically-acclaimed idiot Kafka and let's do something unique:  let's pretend we are simply us for a change.  I think it's a natural progression to go from timid, unsure writers to ego-ridden daydreamers.  But it's also something John Vorhaus warned us about.  Writing your novel with an eye toward getting Tom Cruise (Ewww.) cast in the lead role might be fun while you're doing it--if you're into Cruise--but it will be doing a disservice to your book once it's finished.  In fact, that's one of the things Vorhaus says will kill a career--dreaming of fame before you've done the work.  But, that's another conversation best saved for when I'm drunk.

I've learned that blog tours are especially helpful in getting your name out there to other authors, so I intend to host a few of my friends if they're willing, and hopefully, they will reciprocate.  So, in preparation, I've been reading a lot of blogs, and learning a lot of information along the way, and each time I learn something completely new that I never know before, it makes me excited to think that everything I'm doing now, is producing seed that I will soon reap in the benefits of Kindle sales, and when that happens, you'll hear me shouting from the rooftops, because it's a feeling I want everyone to know. 

And as artists, I believe we all deserve to know that feeling at least once in our short careers.

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