Lichtenberg created the first major series of Star Trek stories, the Kraith series (named after a goblet used in Vulcan rituals), detailing Spock’s earlier life on Vulcan. – – from “Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy: Overviews” by Robin Anne Reid
This guest post is being posted opposite Jaqueline’s blog here:
I’m posting it to my blog in two parts, the next will be on Thursday. (Emphasis and italics are mine.)
Mashup of Art and Business (Part I)
I encountered Madison Woods via a comment on evmaroon’s blog where the topic of “pitching” to editors at conventions came up.
“Pitching” is a topic that is studied and worried over by writers, (beginning and not!) across all genres and especially across all media formats (i.e. television, radio, film, magazine, blogging, print and e-book, audiobook, anything you can think of).
The thing is, the artist’s business model (i.e. how to make a living doing the only thing you really do well) is under assault from the shifting of what I term the ”fiction delivery system.”
That is analogous to the “healthcare delivery system” that government keeps trying to ‘fix’ because the marvelous technology of health that science has created just is not reaching the very people who need it most, those who work hardest for the least reward.
Hey, that describes writers, artists, musicians, all throughout the ages!
Yes, art has always been the most underpaid of trades.
Yet look at the post on this blog for February 7, 2012 (Genre Tuesday with Dr. Harrison Solow).
You can see that the art of stories-in-text has a function in the general mental health and well-being of all humans. We marvel at the effect of fiction (what I call the “transported” effect, and Dr. Solow calls Liminality.
Fiction takes the end-user to “another place” — reorients the person, and maybe the soul, in ways not possible in ordinary life.
Those who have discovered this ability to “relocate” via text-fiction have voted with their money and told the world of business that they consider this experience so valuable they are willing to work (X # of hours) to have more of that experience.
So the world of business has perceived a market.
At first, this market was invisible or unimportant.
Only the literate could become part of that market, and they were the proverbial “1%” — the ultra rich who became “Patrons of the Arts” and “kept” a musician (like Mozart for example) or an artist (like DaVinci for example) in one of their palaces to produce a particular artistic product that “transported” them (and their most influential friends).
The artist had a “market” of ONE, the one who supported them, and his only obligation was to produce art that pleased that ONE (and his influential friends).
In his spare time, the artist could do anything he wanted, but he couldn’t sell it or provide it to anyone else because that would undermine the exclusivity of owning your own artist.
Soon, among this elite, owning THE RIGHT artist became the object of a competition. Musicians would write music, performers would perform that music, or play written by the correct playwright, for an invited audience of the patron’s social connections. The “success” of that party enhanced the patron’s political power via “connections” and social reputation. (you’ve all read enough Regency Romances and maybe Roman setting novels. But have you thought it through to today?)
So Patrons searched for “the right” artist to produce “the right” product to please a VERY SPECIFIC and well-defined (everyone knows everyone) audience of the ultra-elite.
THIS IS THE ORIGIN OF GENRE!!!
A “genre” is a guaranteed “good read” or “good listen” to a drawing-room quartet piece by Mozart. If it’s by Mozart, anyone invited will come, including Kings, power brokers, etc. Sight unseen, the unveiling of a new DaVinci statue will draw not thousands, but the most “important” people. Who owns DaVinci and that statue owns the world.
Think about it. Money is power, popularity is power, connections are leverage, art is coin of the realm. It’s all social networking!
That “transported” or “liminal” experience (more addictive than a roller coaster ride or a video game!) is coin of the realm.
But the same product doesn’t produce that same “transported” effect for everyone. What transports you is very personal, intimate to your psyche.
Hence my coinage, Intimate Adventure, the name of the genre I write.
Here is an explanation of what that is, and dozens of examples from dozens and dozens of writers.
The “Kept Artist” had to be able to psych-out his Patron, and more importantly, his patron’s most influential associates, and produce a piece of art that would lance-the-intimate-heart of at least a couple of the most respected or critical among that group.
Move ONE, (the King) and the others in the group will “fake it” — to toady up to the power-center in their society.
You’ve all seen the lackeys laughing at the Mob Boss’s jokes.
So if one high society Patron’s artist gets a response from a drawing-room audience, suddenly all the lesser lights are looking for artists to Patron who can produce that effect on their social-peers!
Think of The King’s English, and the history of how that happened. You think The King’s English is not a ‘genre’ — think again. Now consider the “fashion industry” and how people dress and why. You’ll never be able to “pitch” your writing at an agent, editor, publisher or producer unless you understand WHY people dress the way they do and speak in the “accents” they do (think “Valley Girl Speak.”) Now contrast/compare with the Harry Potter phenomenon.
So fast-forward from Patron Of The Arts to the printing press. Suddenly every peasant could read and get books — took a couple of centuries, but by the time the North American continent was being settled, reading was very common (because of the Bible) and politics became driven by newspapers, (The Federalist Papers) simply because people could read!
It became a religious duty to learn to read.
Think about that. Think hard and don’t forget that topic. It’s crucial to understanding genre and pitching.
The printing press impacted the artist’s business model, severed the connection between Artist and Patron and obliterated the concept GENRE.
Or did it?
With the advent of the concept “copyright” — the right to make copies, i.e. PRINT, came the concept of “intellectual property” — an intangible that could be sold if and only if it could be made tangible.
A kept artist performing in drawing rooms didn’t have to make his product tangible. In fact, it’s value lay in the lack of the ability to copy what he did!! His Patron’s invitations drew the power brokers of his world because the experience of that particular artistic product could not be had elsewhere.
The social shuddering, moaning, groaning and literal tearing of the fabric of our social contract today over the entire concept of COPYRIGHT is due to the impact of a change as profound as the advent of the Printing Press that has made the control of copying irrelevant.
But we haven’t replaced that control with anything else.
Gutenberg’s printing press in the mid-1400′s came along at a time when communications moved at nothing-per-hour! Here’s a timeframe on the printing press from ideafinder.com.
- 888 The Diamond Sutra, a Buddhist scripture, was the first dated example of block printing.
- 1041 Bi Sheng in China invented movable clay type
- 1423 Europeans use xylography (art of engraving on wood, block printing) to produce books.
- 1430 Gutenberg moved from his native town of Mainz to Strasburg
- 1436 Gutenberg begins work on his printing press.
- 1437 Gutenberg was sued for “breach of promise of marriage” by a young lady of Strasburg
- 1440 Gutenberg completed his wooden press which used movable metal type.
Printing was expensive in the 1700′s, but normal families could afford a “Family Bible” — often the only book in the house, so the place where the family tree was recorded. No other real records were kept except maybe some receipts from seed purchases and so on.
I’m sure you learned all this historical stuff in school — but did you ever really think about it other than to pass tests? You’ve read it in Historical Romance, but did you ever consider the story behind the story? The reasons WHY???
Today, the internet, cheap computers, (and libraries full of internet connected computers – libraries that loan ebooks via the internet!!!) and all the rest that we live with still hasn’t penetrated our society.
We are in the “late 1600′s” phase, which is amazing since it’s only been 30 or 40 years since the internet and the web became operative. Compare now to say 1776.
Then reconsider the life of Charles Dickens — as a writer of genre fiction.
The artist has always had to use the communications and social-networking of his time to choose and target an audience and convince someone with “power” (today it’s an Agent, Editor, Publisher’s Committee) that there would be a PROFIT (enhanced social standing; increased profit) from producing and promoting (inviting powerful guests to the drawing-room) the artist’s very specially formulated work, work which is designed to give that very special, very powerful individual the “transported effect.”
That, ultimately, is what Art does, and just about all it does.
Imbibing Art causes the brain to function in a different way than in ordinary daily living.
Back to “religion” — reading the Bible was the reason to learn to read, remember? Recent studies show how PRAYING actually changes the neurological connections in the brain (for better or worse is arguable; but it has an effect.)
Ask any practitioner — praying and meditation are liminal experiences.
Storytelling – the shaman telling stories around the campfire, the itinerant Bard telling stories in the local pub – has always been how we imbibe cultural values. Today it’s more blogs, NaNoWriMo, TV Series streaming from Amazon or Netflix.
When you are “transported” your brain is in a state where it can “learn” (i.e. create new neural pathways.) This makes you uniquely vulnerable to new ideas, new ways of seeing the world. The artist who creates that transported effect may (or may not) see herself as a person of power.
Wielder of Power
The wielder of power who does not know what power she wields (or does not possess to wield) comes off as an amateur — and when the tool being waved around by an amateur is, say, a blowtorch, those who want to employ a steelworker will flee.
So the writer preparing a “pitch” has to understand where they are in the pecking order of the rich and powerful — and precisely what power they wield over the rich and powerful. Once that position in the structure of things is firmly grasped, the writer (no matter their actual ability to craft a story) will come off as a professional who can be trusted.
The commercial product the writer has to sell is a product which “transports” some people (but not others — who might pretend if influential people are affected, and pretending itself will create new neural pathways). It’s the writer’s professional responsibility to know which people will be transported where, and whether those people are ready and willing to be transported.
The writer pitching at an Agent has to demonstrate that sensitivity to their own “position” in the ordinary world, and their command of the “transported effect” by “transporting” the Agent via the pitch. (i.e. SHOW DON’T TELL.)
The business model (bizmod for short) of the Agent is to connect a business that has identified and gathered the attention of a group of people who are “in the market for” a liminal experience of a particular type (i.e. genre) to a source of that liminal experience (i.e. an artist, a text-writer/storyteller.)
How can an agent know they have encountered someone who is a bottomless source of that specific liminal experience that others (i.e. editors) are in desperate need of?
A personal encounter (at a convention, a party, in an office, on the phone, commenting on a blog, presenting material on google+, etc etc) is a social networking encounter.
How did the Art Patrons of old know they’d found an Artist they could move into the cottage at the edge of their property and milk for a constant stream of plays, concertos, statues?
How did the Art Patron recognize something that would deliver a ‘transported’ effect to the very people they wanted to toady up to?
The Art Patron had paid very close (life or death) razor-sharp attention to that one person (the King) and had puzzled out the combination that would goose them into a laugh, wide-eyed awe, or some other treasured response.
That’s what Agents do — they pay attention to the Editors.
That’s what Editors do — they pay attention to the Committees.
The Committees pay attention to “Marketing Department” lackeys and execs alike.
Marketing reads computer printouts from Amazon, B&N etc.
Marketing reads trends, commands the committees, who demand from the Editors, who have lunch with the Agents, who troll the halls of cons looking for SOURCES.
A lot of Agents (I know a few) have been Editors in the thick of the fray.
The bizmod is essentially the same. Amidst the tumultuous, Perfect Storm (see that movie again!!!) of manuscripts assaulting them, they must find that one tiny bit of flotsam that will let them keep their job, pay their grocery bills, etc.
The Artist has a choice.
Create only the Art that lives in their souls? Or create that perfect bit of flotsam and swirl it at the feet of the desperately searching Agent?
Can you do both?
Certain very talented Mozarts can and do mashup Commerciality (toadying to a Patron) with the Soul-Art they were born to create.
I chose to attempt that mashup — to create stories that held special, particular, specific, meaning for me and then to turn around and market that material into a market that was really, truly, adamantly averse to the very exact thing I wanted them to love.
What did I want to write?
A genre that didn’t exist.
Commercial publishing wisdom insists (and computer data proves beyond all doubt) that when you mix one genre with another, you narrow the possible audience. The wider the audience, the bigger the profit, so commercial publishers with large overhead need huge audience.
Same is true of film. It costs a LOT to make even a low-budget film (million dollars is still low-budget). So to make it a worthwhile business, the investors have to have some confidence that they will get their money back plus at least 10% (which is paltry these days). Most films lose money. Many film investors, as with investors in plays, do it for the tax-loss write-off. Publishing used to work that way, but hasn’t since the 1970′s.
What I wanted to write was, at that time, considered “Mixed Genre” and doomed.
In specific, what I wanted to write was Science Fiction and Paranormal Romance (3-genre mix).
(Tune in Thursday this week for Part 2!)