So the first press release has gone out, and it’s too soon to tell if it will have an impact commensurate with my expense. Which is a pretty familiar position for me. It seems I’m always doing things on spec. I never know if my work or investments will be worthwhile (financially). I can do a certain amount of research and make educated guesses accordingly, but that’s about the extent of it.
Creatively, everything is “spec.” Unless you’re one of those strange breeds who creates stuff that is commissioned. I often think about what Bill Hicks says about artists who do advertisements. “Everything you say is suspect and every word that comes out of your mouth is now like a turd falling into my drink.” He died before he was offered the big bucks, but I tend to agree with the sentiment. What is the line where art becomes commercial, and does it cease to be art?
Most of what I’ve created has been done out of self-gratification. I am a big fan of my own work, which I think is required if you’re spending months or years with a creative project. So I create things that I like, or which amuse me. And in some cases, such as with Hyperbole, I have felt strongly enough about the work to think I have a shot selling it. I’m prone to mixing metaphors. So when I think about the adages, “it takes money to make money” and “time is money,” then maybe it just takes time to make money. That’s a half-truth I can get behind. And not much of a metaphor.
The point is that my creative works are never motivated by money, but I would like to see some money for them on the back end. I can’t spend a lot on marketing, and I’m not willing to create stuff that I don’t believe in just on the chance that it would sell. Whether that’s foolish bullshit or artistic integrity is a matter of perception, like so much else. As cynical as I am, there are certain principles I have to stick to in order to keep living in my skin. So no vampires or zombies or wizards or other variations on tried-and-true formulas. The real world–or a close approximation thereof–will always be ripe for dissecting. I can create my own heavy-handed metaphors without recycling werewolf tropes.
The question is not whether there are people who would or will like my work; there are. The question is whether I can make those people aware of my work and entice them to spend money on it before I run out of money trying.
I could get fired from my job, beaten near to death, and sent to prison, and I’d still be etching cartoons on the cell wall. The creativity will never stop. But the hope is that I can execute a strategy of connecting with readers and consumers before the shit hits the fan. If that sounds dramatic or pessimistic, that’s OK. To me, it’s a motivational mindset. If I pretend the end is near, I had better get on it and try harder.
The main challenge, outside of the almighty monetary unit, is to engage in a way that doesn’t reek of whoredom. I am an artist, not a salesman, and while I can’t control anyone else’s perception, I am doing my best to approach marketing as a creative person and not as a greedy sumbitch. Which maybe means I will never be successful in the sense of dollars. But at least I will be able to live with myself knowing that I’m trying to entertain people on Twitter and Facebook and even in press releases, and that there is more in my eyes than dollar signs.
If you are a creative type and you do your own marketing, what wisdom can you share?