Books, Publishing, and the Creative Life

rock n rollMy brother Bill is a part-time musician who began playing bass guitar when we were in high school back in the late 60s.  Music has been his hobby for years, and right now he’s on a quest to join a new band. It seems finding the perfect band is akin to seeking the Holy Grail. His stories about huge egos and eccentric behavior fueled by alcohol could easily fill a book. Yes, musicians are crazy.   

 An email from him this morning struck a chord: “A lot of these band people are such idiots.  They are so particular. I even saw an ad where they wanted guys in their band to have certain tattoos! Unbelievably unrealistic about finding the perfect people. There’s a guy on the south side who’s been running an ad for a bass player for about five months. I applied but didn’t quite fit his specifications.  His project is one that’ll never get out of the basement. But, you can’t tell them that. They can’t see it.”

Aha! I thought. He could be talking about writers.  So many writers come up with ideas that will never appeal to the public. When we, the publisher, try to tactfully say this, the authors are shocked. Some of them respond with insults, which is why we stopped writing detailed rejection notes.  I know we’re stepping on their dreams, and I know that hurts. Like musicians and artists, writers are dreamers.

Hey, it’s good to dream, but if we want to actually SELL those dreams, we must be practical as well.  I run into exactly the same issues with my painting. An artist friend of mine creates rustic painted saws that sell like crazy at a local state park.  She was lucky to find a niche that works for her. I’m still trying to balance what I like to paint versus what art lovers want to hang on their walls.  And sometimes art just needs to match the  #$#% furniture.

Getting back to music: Bill says, “It doesn’t matter to bar owners whether the music is any good. If a band can bring 50 customers into a bar, they’ll always be able to get gigs.”  That’s true for artists and writers as well.  Bring lots of people with checkbooks into an art gallery and they’ll let you have your own show.  Develop a loyal following of readers, and publishers will come looking for you.

It’s all about business, you see.

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