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Anyone who likes to create—whether it be quilts, furniture, paintings, novels, or whatever—eventually faces a time when you need to sell products in order to have the resources to create more products. My grandmother died with huge coat boxes filled with carefully blocked crocheted tablecloths under her bed.
The problem is that an artist is often lacking the skills it takes to be a great salesperson—especially since the merchandise you’re selling represents an investment of your heart. In some sense, you’re trying to sell your soul. “Hey, this is the deepest, most vulnerable part of me, on sale now for only $29.95!”
First, you must be able to view your work as separate from yourself—a fragment of a past that is no more. Each day you’re different from the person you were the day before, so your art is a footprint—nothing more. You can feel nostalgic, but you’re in trouble if you connect your self-esteem with the product. People can love you and hate your creation, and vice versa.
The value of what you’ve accomplished isn’t necessarily directly related to the amount of work that went into it. Of course, you need to charge more for a quilt that took a year to complete, but a novel that took ten years to write isn’t always treasured more than one that took a few weeks. (The writing might have taken a long time because it wasn’t working well. :C )
The power of your private self remains embedded in your art, but I’ve noticed that famous novelists generally don’t name their most famous works as their favorites. Other people don’t have your taste, and no one else will ever see precisely which pieces of soul you wove into the fabric of the creation. Customers will hear only resonance from their own lives. Therein the value lies. Others simply want to be distracted without being challenged.
The second big problem for artists is that your brain may not be well suited to organization, multi-tasking, and finance—left brain skills. When I published my novel DEATH LOST DOMINION, I was fortunate to have plenty of advisors. “Be sure to have an active presence on Goodreads and Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Instagram and your own website and Amazon…” Suddenly, I was buried under an avalanche of to-dos that should have been done yesterday. I made and am making plenty of blunders. Naturally, if a major publisher or distributer comes panting after your work, someone else will handle the promotion details, but a writer can’t expect to be lavishly represented by major outlets unless you’ve just murdered your family with knitting needles, saved a passenger train filled with commuters with a breath mint and your cell phone, or you have a last name EVERYONE knows and loves or hates.
Finally, the old adage “You have to spend money to make money” can be all too true. Why do political candidates spend enough money on campaigns to send humans to Mars? Because with enough promotion, you can sell anything—and sometimes, anyone. Consumers are gullible. You can pay your way onto television ads, community events, t-shirts, and YouTube. You can pay professionals to polish your product and maintain your social media presence, your advertising, and your image.
The trick of selling your creativity is to hang onto a semblance of your honest self through it all. Don’t take yourself too seriously. (By the way, have you visited my author website??? – www.susanadairharris.com – I think I’m kidding…)
We really do need to see our creations as footprints, seen for a while, but eventually erased. It keeps things in perspective.