Art and Marketing

Conversely, however, the children of legality are shocked by the resolute refusal of the children of light to insist on this kind of claim and—still more disconcertingly—by their angry assertion of love’s right to self-sacrifice. Those, for example, who obligingly inform creative artists of methods by which (with a little corrupting of their creative powers) they could make more money, are often very excusably shocked by the fury with which they are sent about their business.
Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker

Art and the business of art. It may not be a hard leap for you to make if I propose to you that art is the language of love. Of course I do not mean merely sculpture and painting, or even writing. By “art” you may understand me to mean what others mean when, addressed about a certain activity in their lives, they reply, “Oh yes, I make an art of it.” But what do they mean by “art”? What is their innate creative power doing through their active will with that particular activity? You can assume they enjoy it, if they are not being sarcastic (and the sarcasm only highlights the positive by way of a negative). They so enjoy the activity, they so love it, that they put all their creative power into making an art of it. Art, the husbandry of creation, is the expression of love in the creator (be it God or man) through the act of ordering and in the finished act of having ordered.

This is pretty easy to swallow. You all know what it is like to be charged with the desire to create, to be in the pangs of jealous love for the story inside your head, to, through an agony only you can know and cannot quite express, draw it line by bloodied line out of your mind into a material form of existence. The very first picture we get of God is that of him creating: it follows naturally that man, made in the image of that God, should have it in his nature to create. He can’t not. He goes mad or becomes a drudge otherwise, something almost less than human, very less than God.

Once you put the pieces together in a line like this, this is easy to see—and it’s a really pretty picture. But we don’t live in Utopia: we live in a world of communism and capitalism, each on rickety stilts, neither of them giving a good answer to the world; we live in a world in which money is shuttled to and fro and people have to make a living. We live in a world where, very often, our art has to work for us. At first glance the artist, understandably, recoils in disgust. It is a degradation to lower the fire of his genius to the household hearth. His imagination is holier than that. The images and people in his head (though inspired by earth and the things of earth) cannot be sold for a price. You probably sympathize with this artist. In a way, I do too. There was a time when I sympathized powerfully and my reaction to the ideas of marketing, honest or otherwise, was as violent as the reaction in the excerpt I shared from Sayers’ The Mind of the Maker. But again we are missing an important detail—or two.

The first is easy to accept: we have to eat to live, and to eat we have to buy food, and to buy food we have to make money. This is a simple, unavoidable fact of life. The second detail is more complicated and should be appreciated by even those who are not in a position to have to make their art work for them. In the beginning God made everything as an artist makes a work of art. But unlike painters and sculptors (and a bit more like writers) God made his work of art capable itself of work. He stitched his own act of work into the fabric of our nature: he worked six days and rested on the seventh, and the inexorable word of his power bade us do likewise. His art works for him. His art is not a picture hung on a wall in heaven, immobile, inflexible: like a mighty story in the brain of a writer, wholly dependent on that brain yet, in its way, independent of all other life, God’s art lives and moves and has the task of accounting for its own orderliness. In short, even the greatest and first of all creators made his art work. Are we so high and mighty that we can’t do that ourselves?

Yes, that is what I thought once. And before you think I have sacrificed some of my integrity to the god of marketing, I assure you, I haven’t. I’m as cynical as the next person driving down the road, pointing out the fallacies in the ideas behind billboard advertisements. Most of them are overcooked and very fishy, and the meat flakes off easily when you pry at them with a fork. You don’t have to sell your soul to sell your book. Jesus himself made that stinging indictment, “the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.” (Go read that passage—Luke 16:1-12—because it’s really interesting!)

So what did I do? You’re looking at it! With very little experience in how to use the internet for your own ends (other than the dubious site Wikipedia), I launched The Penslayer in an attempt to carve a niche for myself in the writing world. This kind of thing takes time and learning, of course, but I did it. And look where I am, two years later: not a shabby place. I now have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, I’ve done book-signings and interviews and I’ve even been on television! When The Shadow Things came out in 2010 I went through an emergency growth-spurt which was, admittedly, a little painful, but I did it and I’ve learned that I can do a lot if I have to. I can hunt down avenues to market my book, I can ferret out ways to get the book out there, and I’m actually doing the book a favour. It is an unfulfilled work of art sitting on my shelf with no one to enjoy it. It needs the reading populace. That is what a book is meant for: to be read.

And I still have my soul. 

(For an additional perspective on how to market and be honest with your art, read Stephanie Morrill’s The Hunger Games and Marketing Your Novel.)

6 ripostes:

  1. Thank you for this post, Jenny. I needed it. :)

  2. This is a wonderful post and very informative, in its own right. I have often dreamed what it would be like when a book of mine gets published, if ever. And the whirlwind you described is a bit like I imagined it. I haven even thought about the marketing side, I am so uninformed with these things. But I'm growing like you said.
    Blessings ~ Rachel Hope

  3. "But unlike painters and sculptors (and a bit more like writers) God made his work of art capable itself of work." That depends on what kind of writer you are, and what kind of painter or sculptor you are. If you write poetry or fiction, then your writing is no more useful than a painting on a wall. If you paint china or draw illustrations for a medical textbook, or sculpt pottery, benches, or beautiful wrought iron gates, then your work is a great deal more useful than a lot of writing. Sorry, but as a painter, I had to respond to the slight bias toward writing I detected in that sentence. :D

    I agree with what you are saying though. It annoys me to no end how art that is also useful is considered 'lower art.' Illustrators aren't as highly regarded as such pathetic excuses for painters as we see in museums now because their work is useful and is dependent on a story. It's maddening.

  4. Grace - I am well aware that, as a writer, my bias in skill is bent toward writing, but I also know that man thinks and communicates with language, and that God's first revelation of himself is through the spoken word, later through the Incarnate Word, and so, quite regardless of what skills I or anyone else may have, I have long since observed that the communicative word is man's most supple and clearest tool in creating - not only that, but it gives him another sort of immortality: "he, though dead, yet speaks." That is half of what is meant by my statement "But unlike painters and sculptors (and a bit more like writers) God made his work of art capable itself of work." The other half is probably worth an entire post in itself. :)

  5. A very good reminder,and one I needed now as I am marketing at the moment

  6. I suppose it's true that writing is the majority of people's most "supple and clearest tool in creating." It's not that way for me though. Although I take great pleasure in reading poetry and prose, I find words too easily twisted, confused, and misunderstood. I am never satisfied by how words describe something I've seen. Thus, I consider the visual arts a much better way to create and communicate with the world (for me). And I, though dead, will still speak through my paintings long after I'm gone. God's word is nearly always accompanied by a visual example as well; Moses holding up the snake in the wilderness, the burning bush, Christ crucified on the cross, the empty tomb, a dove with an olive branch, etc. In fact, for the sake of being ornery, I could just as easily say that the visuals are accompanied by words. :D Also, I'll argue that God's first revelation of Himself was through the creation of the world and man to enjoy that world.

    As for whether mankind thinks with language, I'm not sure about that. There is much scholarly debate about it, and there are good arguments on both sides. I, for one, think in images primarily, which is why I find it so exasperating to try to write what I'm thinking. Even when I'm composing an argument in my head, I think in flashes of images and feelings, not words. Feral children who are raised by animals do not speak either. I tend to think words, like art, are an outward expression of the human spirit. What makes us different from animals is that we have a soul, which we express through creativity, and language and art are both tools to that end.

    Writing is probably the easiest mode of expression for most people. But I have yet to be convinced that it is the best. :D I hope you don't think I'm arguing with you, it's all meant in amiable contemplation of this subject. It's rare that I have the opportunity to discuss this topic with a rational person who has such similar views on God and creativity.