The Nature of Art

Michaelangelo signed only one piece, The Pieta. Because someone, in his presence, attributed it to another artist. Of course, he had a reputation for a volatile temper, but it wouldn’t be the last time an artist tried to get in one more word after his or her art was publicly displayed.

This post is mostly for writers, so normal people might want to tune out for a while.

Writers have a similar difficulty, it would seem, to Maestro Buonarroti. My debut novel was released in September 2009 and it got a review at Dear Author (I know! It was soooo cool). Unfortunately, Jane Litte didn’t have a strong reaction to it: she gave it a C+ rating, and actually misreported a minor fact about the plot in her review.

But that was her opinion, and it was how she remembered the minor plot point. If I didn’t explain things clearly enough such that she came away with the wrong impression, that’s my fault as an artist and a communicator. Once it was published, it became an artifact that had to stand or fall on its own merits. Perhaps someone should explain that to George Lucas. Just sayin’….

I don’t get to “correct” someone else’s opinion, any more than anyone is allowed to tell me I’m wrong for being completely uninterested in the Twilight series (I don’t care for vampires, werewolves, or passive female leads in general, so I’m just not in the target audience for the series no matter how good it might or might not be).

Once you release your novel into the wild, people will have reactions to it. They are human; they will form opinions. That’s a good thing. Some of them will like it and will have an impression similar to what you intended. And some of them will not like it. In fact, some of them will hate it with a capital Hate. They will not be quiet about hating it, either.

They are entitled to do this. You are entitled to take it and smile, ignore it and smile, or stick your fingers in your ears and go “Lalalalalalalalala.” Because you’re the writer who let your precious baby manuscript turn into a published book, and they took it as you sent it out. Objecting to their perfectly legitimate opinions makes you look like a fool or a diva, and not in a good way.

Here’s the dirty little secret of book reviews: Really bad reviews can be more effective at generating sales than really good reviews. If Sarah Wendell at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (another lovely person, whom I met in real life last Ocober) calls your book craptastic, her followers will buy it just to see if it’s really as bad as she thinks it is. They will pay you for the privilege of hating your work.

That bears repeating: A very negative review can get people to pay you (by buying your book) so they can hate your work. You can pout (silently) all the way to the bank.

And that’s all I have to say about that, so any non-writers still reading can start paying attention again. πŸ™‚

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