When You Can’t Just Make Art for Art’s Sake

My last blog post, which talked about the merger between Penguin and Random House, reminded me of an important lesson that, as someone who enjoys the notion of “being creative,” I shouldn’t have forgotten.

On the internet, you can’t make art for art’s sake.

If you do, that’s more or less assuming that your art is so good and so compelling that it will radiate through the deep infinite space of online content like a burning sun of genius.

I was guilty of this notion for a while. I took pride that I didn’t “blog” in the traditional sense, I just generously gave away my masterpieces to the unknowable masses.

That’s the biggest misconception among writers, artists, and musicians who are trying to use to the internet as a platform for their pieces:

We forget how people use the internet.

I was very surprised when my post got Freshly Pressed (I had lost hope for such wonders long ago), but I shouldn’t have been.

My blog post about the Penguin and Random House merger got Freshly Pressed because it was a piece that had information about a timely topic.

Blog posts need to be helpful, unique, and relevant to your audience. Think about what your audience is looking at on the internet, then meet them there.

If you’re trying to promote a book, a song, or a piece of artwork, you can’t do it in a vacuum.

Don’t believe me?

Let’s take a look at what the Google Keyword Tool says are some of the top-searched terms for “short story contest” and “free short stories.”

Among the most popular monthly search terms for “free short stories” and “short story contest” we can see there are:

  • 241,700 Google searches for short story contests
  • 40,100 searches for free short stories
  • Supply for short stories exceeds demand by 83%

For comparison, “free songs” is searched for 20,400,000 times a month.

Monthly searches for “free ebooks” happen around 3,350,000 times.

But do you want to get blog traffic through free ebooks?

What this tells us

Making art for art’s sake won’t help promote your writing, because people don’t think of the internet as a credible source for short stories.

Instead, you need to find a topic that relates to your art and write about that.

Do you write sci-fi short stories about robots?

Write about robotics, automation, and the coming singularity.

Write romance novels set in France?

Write blog posts about the French countryside, French cuisine, and French culture.

The breakdown

  1. Promote your writing or your artwork by finding a topic that’s being discussed right now by your potential fans
  2. Craft that blog post to your short story or artwork’s theme
  3. Link to that piece from the post
  4. Get loyal blog readers who turn into loyal fans who will buy your Masterpiece

I did something like this when I wrote a blog post for a short story recently. I’ll probably keep doing this. It’s slow going, but it does get more traffic than a short story in a vacuum.

Better yet, I get to elaborate on the theme of the story itself.

We make art about the things we care about. That’s making art for art’s sake. When you’re promoting that art, you need to make art for your future fan’s sake.

When you’re big and famous, the two will finally merge. But until then, don’t just make art for art’s sake!

Looking for more? I’m working on a guide to Facebook & content marketing for writers looking to promote their books, due early 2013.

If you’re interested, sign up for The Creative Brief, my free monthly newsletter, and I’ll email it to you as soon as it’s ready!

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs

3 thoughts on “When You Can’t Just Make Art for Art’s Sake

  1. This makes sense. I’ve only been on WordPress.com for about a week, and I’ve found some incredible writers’ blogs with great stories and very little attention.

    So if a writer wanted to garner attention to their works, I guess it’s actually better to discuss the points/messages of a story, and just leave a link to the story in a different post?

    But in that case, if people came not for the story, but for the topic discussed, would they bother to read the story? While I definitely see an increase in blog traffic and at least views for the author’s works, I’m skeptical about how much actual feedback this would generate for an author seeking writer critique and reader commentary to get a gauge on his/her performance. I don’t suppose you could share your experiences in this regard? Did it work to the extent you hoped?

    Also, if blogging isn’t a good way to get feedback on creative works, do you recommend any other platforms?

    1. Hi Gibbles,
      My experience with writing a blog post to drive traffic to a story hasn’t been ideal, that’s for sure, but it’s also a very slow method of getting readers interested in your work.

      Judging from my metrics of post views of “When does the iPhone become an iMemory” (https://blaiselucey.com/2012/08/31/smartphone-effect-memory/) about 1 in 12 readers will go to the short story. Not great, but it’s still a few more readers than I otherwise would have had.

      It depends on the kind of traffic you want to your blog. If you’re looking for feedback on your pieces, then you’ll probably want to do some direct outreach to writer’s groups. Just Google “writer’s group” and check out your options.

      In this case, blogging is a great platform to display your work, because you can build up a viewable portfolio and then directly ask for suggestions.

      However, if you don’t reach out to people to take a look, there’s a good chance you won’t get any feedback. I know that side of things from personal experience… I originally had a blog of just short stories online for about two years and got no traffic or viewers.

      The only time I notice a spike from pure literary endeavor is by submitting short stories to e-zines, (like http://www.everydayfiction.com/the-elevator-by-blaise-lucey/ or http://www.thesquawkback.com/2012/02/cruise-short-story-by-blaise-lucey_05.html) that then linked back to my blog, so people commented. That’s another way to go.

      Either way, it’s a long haul that takes a lot of perseverance and patience.

      Good luck!

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