Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cotton Candy or Spinach… Here’s hoping I can avoid both pitfalls

This week’s Business Question of the Week was sent in by Mike who hails from my hometown of Philadelphia, PA:

I'm nearly finished writing my first novel, First Floor on Fire, which is fiction but strongly inspired by my experience teaching in a tough public high school in Philadelphia. My book is an attempt at being both strongly intellectual, viscerally emotional and thematically complex. Most books make readers choose between cotton candy or spinach, and here's hoping I can avoid both pitfalls.

Omar Tyree Answers:

Mike, you can basically decide to write whatever book you want in whatever style you choose to write it in, but your success rate will ultimately depend on the book's acceptance from an audience. And if the audience wants cotton candy, they will toss your spinach out the window and disappoint you. However, writing spinach is still in the eyes of the reader. You may think you're being complicated, but who is to say that your complication will automatically be understood?

Artistically speaking, when viewing The Equation of life, many artistic individuals may begin to view their specific genius as universal, where it may not be. And I know this situation personally. I have always had a higher goal for my work that many readers have not shared. So you end up creating Art for a particular Purpose, and with a genuine method of your own madness. However, that does not mean that everyone will get it. This happens with poets all of the time. They believe that their individual poems are the greatest thing since sliced bread, but the audience is sometimes unmoved by it, landing you back at the drawing board of wanting to make a connection.

There is a reason why artistic professionals sometimes make a conscious decision to "dumb down" their material. They want to make sure that they reach a wider audience, and you cannot always assume that every customer is on the same literate level to understand your material. Nevertheless, if it is your goal to market to a higher group of intellectuals with your particular craft, then that is your prerogative to do so. But you must understand that you will need to accept how the audience responds either way.

That is the reality of a "free market." We all have the opportunity to choose what we want. Every artistic person must understand that they are not the only "genius" in the marketplace with a particular creation. And whether you call another person's Art "cotton candy" or "spinach," they are ALL creations that will compete in an open marketplace, and that will all serve a Purpose for a buying society whether we like it, agree with it or not.

So indeed, write the book that you want to write. But at the end of the day, you will need to make certain sacrifices to publish successfully for an audience who is ultimately outside of your personal computer. You feel me? When other people can relate and just "get it" it is indeed a great feeling. But sometimes, we can actually outdo ourselves by trying to do too much. So we must all make personal assessments regarding what we are willing to live with once we place our creative items out on the marketplace for sale. Because at that point, the creation is no longer yours. It's now theirs. That's what becoming "published" is all about.

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