By Brian Barr
“Your comics are good, man. You should just write more mainstream stuff, you know? Stuff that sells big on the market. Follow the subjects a mass audience reads, and just write that!”
Seriously. This is the gist of what a fellow comic book writer told me once, a year or so ago. A writer who liked my work but didn’t understand someone writing what they wanted to write, and not what they calculated as the hottest cash cow selling at the moment. How could I not follow a formula, a trend that would guarantee me instant success?
I don’t see the point. I write because I genuinely love to write. The stories I craft, the characters I create, and even the subject matter I deal with all strike a chord with me as a human being. Never have I looked at the bestseller list or a weekly book guide and thought, “Hmm. Goth aliens are in. Score. Gopher apocalypse novels sell big. Imma write me one of them there monster rodent novels! Guaranteed spot on daytime TV.”
Why transform my biggest passion into a soulless imitation of current fads?
We all have our talents. Okay, so let’s say that anyone in the general audience reading this blog is a business figure more than an artist. I get it. You’re like a Bill Hicks standup skit on marketers (my favorite one he ever did, YouTube it). You look at the margins, then strike for the gold. Every project, you’re narrowing down your demographic to whatever is in the top three slots of commercial literary lists.
I’m a literary artist first, an author that truly wants to express myself and have fun doing it. I’m primarily a creator, not a marketer. I strive to be an individual in my craft, not a follower in my ‘manipulation of products.” When people buy my work, I want it to be because they genuinely like my work, not because I found a quick way to take their money. I appreciate their purchases because they truly support what I’m about.
Every talent can be appreciated. We can appreciate a businessman, and we can appreciate an artist. One is even better when they’re a healthy balance of the two, and there are many great artists out there that know how to sell themselves.
The writer who gave me the advice on how to sell out bigger than Reel Big Fish did mean well. He was giving me the jewels for instant success.
I refuse them, because I’m not a sellout.
When people read my work, I want them to know they are getting my heart on a page. These are my words, my interests, my imagination, all without compromise. The Empress comic book project I co-create with Chuck Amadori and Marcelo Salaza’s Pencil Blue Studios mean something to me. The same applies to my novel Carolina Daemonic, the anthologies my short stories are featured in, everything to come. My influences are there, from Tad Williams to Anthony Burgess, Fyodor Dostoyevsky to Clive Barker, only because I’m inspired by these great authors, not soullessly trying to jump in their niches for big bucks.
I have the genres I’m drawn to more than anything, mainly speculative genres. Fantasy, science-fiction, horror, you name it. Never did I look to these genres as a lightning bolt route to the top. These are genres I genuinely like writing!
So, thank you, Mr. Writer for the great instant marketing advice, but it is not great creator advice. I’m going to keep doing what makes me happy, and sharing it with the world, just like my favorite creators do. There is still a market for a genuine love of creativity and self-expression out there.
Don’t believe the hype.