Selling art and selling books feels like the same world. You, as an artist or writer, are a small drop in the huge ocean. Thousands, or maybe millions, of artists and writers around the world are creating and selling their stuff; often very good stuff. Dominating the whole process are these large, nee huge, web sites who sell art and books—best and biggest example; Amazon. In the art world there are FineArtAmerica and ArtPal along with many more. They are very functional with huge data bases of art ready for the consumer to browse and chose great looking art and products for their personal use at relatively small prices. The artist gets a small (very small?) piece of that sale.
My ebooks are exclusive to Amazon for several good reasons; some economic and some convenience. The largest cost for marketing my Amazon books is paying Amazon to promote them in this sea of competing books. I don’t know the number of indie authors Amazon has as an exclusive, but it has to be hundreds of thousands. Their product ads are sold to this somewhat captive audience. It’s a brilliant business strategy. Now, of course, those authors chose to be in this situation so it is not Amazon’s fault that it works better for them than the authors; that’s just how it is. I’m not particularly happy with this system but don’t know how it should be changed. Of course the obvious solution is fewer authors—but if they started excluding certain authors –I might be gone. So, that’s not a good solution.
When I first started writing, maybe ten years ago or so; I was deeply absorbed by the writing experience. It was hard work (which I think surprises non-writers), but I enjoyed the whole troubling process. Even the editing and debates over cover design. Everything felt important and creative. Having those first books show up on Amazon and start generating sales and reviews was thrilling. I fretted over every negative review and redoubled my efforts to write a perfect book.
Now I spend more time marketing/promoting than I do writing. It doesn’t feel productive.
The art has many of the same characteristics as writing. Creating art is energizing. I can become absorbed in the process. Sometimes I will labor on artwork for hours and hours; or sometimes it is more inspiration than perspiration. I once did a sketch in a matter of minutes as a present for my brother’s birthday. We were headed out for the party and realized we had not purchased a gift. I did a quick charcoal sketch and thought it was one of the best pieces I had ever done. My brother loved it—of course, he was my brother.
Marketing art is worse than books. While the web sites have many tools, they are not the equivalent of Amazon and books. My art is purchased for decorating. Colors, designs, hues, blends, shapes all have some aspect in the decision process but in odd ways the art is all the same. A book is very distinct, good or bad—it is usually unique. Art starts to all blend together in shapes and colors. Does this match my sofa? How would this look in the hallway? Those are valid decisions but very subjective.
My art is bold, graphical and colorful. One critic, who actually liked my stuff, described it as “primitive.” He was describing a certain art style not suggesting I was ape like (or at least, I don’t think so). Books are personal but art is very, very personal. A good PI mystery can be enjoyable even if your preference is sci-fi. Art seems to fit into narrower and narrower categories. “I only like pictures of flowers or birds!”
One of the great things about all of the internet stuff and digital this and that is the availability of amazing art and great books at ridiculous prices. You could probably spend a lifetime reading nothing but free books (or maybe up your limit to $2.99) and never run out of options. And there is incredible art for very low prices that can be delivered right to your door—ready to hang. My art is available on towels, handbags, face masks, pillows, shower curtains(?), and on and on. Unique art on anything and everything.
All of this access is good; but I wonder if there is too much of something does it start to lose value. A thousand free e-books on Amazon today may lessen the value of those books, or even all books. The best-selling book last week was the tell-all gossip book about Trump by his niece. I’m sure someone thought that was an important book (maybe the niece, since it sold a million copies in one day at full price). That book had value because it was unique or sensational; but a free mystery book has little value—so why even bother downloading if its worthless, much less take the time to read it.
The plus side to all of this is a monstrous marketplace for all sorts of creative endeavors that has never existed before. As a consumer of art or books or most anything creative the supply has never been this vast, this accessible or this cheap.
For the artist and writer, the opportunities have never been this wide open. Pre-internet book publishing was controlled by a very few publishers who had more gate-keepers than editors. The snobbery of publishing was legendary; don’t know someone important, fuck-off. The art world was controlled by academics and a few odd-ball loonies. Not a member of this elite class; then you know –F-off. All of those barriers have collapsed. Today you have to compete with the hordes of other authors and artists, but you are competing. The doors are wide open.
It is still a very small number who reach their financial dreams being creative, but the number of people who can now legitimately dream of that kind of success is almost unlimited. Dreams and hope have great value. We are lucky we live in this time.