Wednesday, February 22, 2012

By What Measure Success for Self-Publishers?

by Stella Atrium

The first book of my fantasy series titled SUFFERSTONE received a couple 5-star reader reviews on GoodReads (reported on Amazon).  Since I blog about female characters in science fiction, I was gratified that one reader (thanks, Frank Hicks) identified with the lead male character Brian Miller.

So, I had brief and troubling feelings of success. I immediately wondered what was next, so vain.

HellerJoseph Heller said in an interview with Playboy (many years back) that he delivered Catch-22 to the publishers in 1961 and received a $2,000 advance (today’s equivalent is $20,000), then went back to adjunct teaching with few expectations.

Catch-22 went viral by word-of-mouth and was made into a movie.  Over the decades, Heller was a cult personality and hippies wore khaki jackets with Yossarian emblazoned on the breast pocket. The term catch-22 became a concept in the American mythos for frustration with a system stacked against the regular guy.

I would call that success.

So… there’s a lag time for the creative stage, the publishing stage, the famous stage, and the American classic stage. The writer must measure what stage she’s currently experiencing and how long is the wait. Basquiat

Andy Warhol once told Jean-Michel Basquiat that the audience for his street art wasn’t born yet.

Basquiat famously said, “I don't listen to what art critics say. I don't know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.” (Brainy Quotes) Of course, once he received some money for his work, he killed himself with drugs.  The starving artist stance has some benefits.

But, back to the writer. The creative stage counts.  Many writers once they start with promotions have the urge to push aside today’s work and return to the solitary gestures of creation.  Delicious.

I suppose the best approach is to tolerate each spike within each stage with patience, and manage expectations.

Goya's womenArt critic for Time magazine Robert Hughes in 2002 wrote a classic review titled "Goya’s Women" about an exhibition of paintings by Goya. As you know, as a young man, Francisco Goya was a portrait painter for the Spanish court in the 1780s. Later he was an impressionist who captured the horrors of war in his country.  Goya lived into his eighties and continued to paint and draw until his death in1828.

Robert Hughes pushes aside Goya’s long history with the leaders of Europe and focuses on the many images of women that Goya painted over the decades, and the artistic quality in those images.  The ART remains after the shouting subsides.

That’s success.

See Robert Hughes famous TIME article here.



Uncle Grumpy Bulldog said...

A lot of artists don't get much success until after they die, which sucks for them. I mean they go to their graves thinking they're an artistic failure and then years later everyone loves them. Not really fair, is it?

Stella Atrium said...

Of course, the classic example is Emily Dickinson. She would have wilted under the pressure of fame, though, and maybe stopped writing!

Thanks for your note.

Sher A. Hart said...

I came here from twitter and glad I did, although I'm commenting more from reading about your book on your homepage. I write from a boy's perspective partly because I had four boys and wanted to give them something to read to keep them from playing video games. Too late now. My youngest is almost 19, too old to read a middle grade book. So maybe next time I'll write a female MC. It looks like you're taking the long view on success. Wise. Keep writing and publishing and your works will become your testament.

Stella Atrium said...

I'm not against boys... as some comments have implied (not yours). I just want to follow a girl hero who I can embrace as real and self-reliant and ultimately triumphant using her wits and not aping the guys.

I had four brothers, so I know how you feel with a house full of men.

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

Stella, You offer some good food for thought.
I believe success, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder!

Stella Atrium said...

Gail. thanks for your note. I was trying to take the long view because so many fellow writers are impatient and want quantified measuring tools so they can feel the effort is worthwhile. Sometimes the reward comes much later.

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