It’s a well-established thing that for any individual artist, starting from scratch is one mountain of a job that unless your lucky stars are shining and you get a viral explosion, it’s pretty much slow moving, time consuming and often yields a lack of results. I apologise if I mainly focus on writers, but that’s what I am so it’s pretty difficult not to.
I keep coming back to this, but the primary problem of indie – in anything, whether it be gaming, books, music and so on – is volume. The internet allows anyone from anywhere to contribute their work. That makes it especially hard to get noticed, and a massive challenge to get your work out there. It absolutely requires sheer determination and drive to keep reaching out to people and trying to get feedback on your novel. It seriously takes perseverance.
I think in the past few weeks I must have sent over thirty emails to various blogs, websites and individuals to connect and get the word out there on my first book, The Sorrow, which was published earlier this month. I still haven’t even spoken to most of my family or friends about it, because it’s so time-consuming to market it on top of everything else and trying to write more.
But then I met someone who has a blog called The Geeky Scribe, and was truly humbled by the excitement this person had for my novel and me sending it over to review. I subsequently received my first ever review of my book, which sent my head spinning. Truly, it was a dream come true for me to see someone else enjoy my novel, especially to that degree. While I don’t expect all reviews to be as positive, it made me happy beyond words to see what was written about the book and talk about it with someone who had no initial reason to take interest or do my work any favours.
That first feedback was an astounding motivator. Did it make me sell a hundred books? No. Have I become an overnight sensation? Not quite! But I have fantastic encouragement, renewed motivation and a person out there who has liked what I’ve done and has given me the kind of validation and feedback that any artist needs, on some level.
More recently I encountered a blog, Novel Review Cafe, run by a fellow South African. It’s an attractive blog that does indie book promotions among other awesome things, and I got in touch with the blog owner (a very, very friendly person) and chatted about my book and various topics in a fun and informal manner. The point of this is that I found another person who genuinely takes an interest and wants to help people like me – young artists with big dreams.
What I mean by the above information is that the weapon you need as an artist is not just drive.
You need to be humble in your approach to others with your work. Sure, creating something is an extraordinary thing, but at the end of the day you still need others to appreciate it, constructively criticise it, promote it or just take a look at it. There are people out there who genuinely want to help you, and you will find them if you reach out, make the effort, take your time and approach them in a tactful and respectful manner, making sure to follow their guidelines for submission and contact. It doesn’t take a lot out of you, but it means a lot to others.
Will this process be slow? Probably. Will you see your sales explode? Probably not. Will everyone you reach out to or meet be nice to you and sincerely want to help you? Nope, and you shouldn’t expect that. Will it be easy? Nope, nothing good ever is or ever will be.
But my main point to take away here is to never get disheartened by a lack of results as an artist. Perhaps I’ve even reassuring myself here when I say this, but it’s the truth. You should always have a positive attitude. Getting down or employing a self-defeatist attitude only has a negative impact on your work and your motivation, and does not help you. If someone doesn’t like your work, or rejects the opportunity to look over it, or you’re finding it hard to get exposure – just don’t let it eat you up. Keep trying. Keep reaching out. Eventually, sooner or later, you will find someone who believes in you and your work – even if it’s just a friend.
I know many of us don’t listen to the great success stories, but the reason they are told endlessly is because the core principles are so valuable. The people who make it have constantly faced rejection, they’ve been given the coldest of shoulders or dealt the worst of hands, they’ve gone through all the same things we did as young or inexperienced artists. But where they pushed through is with attitude. They had the motivation and patience to go with it as well.
Don’t get disheartened. Don’t get de-motivated. Don’t stop believing. Don’t stop trying your best. You never know when your luck could change. On some level, you will have to be deluded and naive to stay motivated. I know I am. And I am happy for it. In the end I believe it comes down to just one thing.
Make good art, as Neil Gaiman once said.
And be sure to enjoy every minute of doing it.