NASCAR Sponsors and Writing Patrons

Artists (writers) like me tend to not be great producers. By that I mean that we’re great at making things beautiful, but we’re really not that great at convincing people to buy them. – Allison Vestervelt

When I was in college, a friend and I joked that we wanted to find patrons, people with a lot of money who would just pay us to write and read books.  We were joking, but also, we were very serious.  We knew – even then in our English-majory arrogance – that art doesn’t pay well and that we were going to need help to be able to make our art. 

I’m still looking for my patron, or as Allison Vestervelt puts it, my producer, the person who is going to convince the world that my writing is absolutely worth buying. I’m okay with wanting to find that person.  I am not okay with becoming my own sales force.

Really, what I want to be is a NASCAR driver, the Carl Edwards of writing, someone whose only job is to drive that car really well, turn left with skill, and try not to wreck.  That driver’s sponsors cover the expensives, and s/he does an interview and poses for a picture once in a while. But mostly the driver’s job is to race well.  That’s what I want, and honestly, I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

While I have no problem at all talking about my work – be it my books or my editing or my teaching – while I am confident that what I do is high quality and valuable, to be able to do that work well, I cannot spend all my time trying to convince people to buy it.  My art suffers when I do that.

We seem to have gotten these things mixed up as artists. We think we have to build a platform, and often in the process of building it, we neglect the very art we want to set on it.  We think we have to spend our time building blog readership or accruing Twitter followers or networking so that we can use those connections to sell our work to more people.  In the meantime, our work is still out there in the ether, waiting for us to stop checking our Google Analytics and give our time to the actual art. 

So, I’m going to stop with all of that.  Do I want (and even need) people to take my classes or hire me as an editor; do I want to help more writers get words down through coaching? Yes, of course, because I love that work. But beyond putting the information out there (and maybe throwing a link or two into a blog post,) I’m not going to spend a lot of time marketing. I just can’t.  That search for higher blog stats and increased Facebook likes can gobble up all my time, and of late, that’s just what I’ve let it do.  I need to be about creating art . . . and I need to trust that my patrons will come – with shares and recommendations, with referrals to friends, with new manuscripts for me to edit.  Not because I’m lazy and not because I don’t believe in my work, but because sales, marketing those aren’t my jobs. Writing is.

So Derek Halpern and Michael Hyatt, let those guys teach people how to sell.  They do a great job.  Maybe some of the people they teach will share their learning and gifts to help sell what I do – I’d be grateful for the gift.

But me, I’m going to read blogs full of beautiful words and books that push my understanding of language and craft and that draw me deep into story because my job – my part of this absolutely incredible body that is the human race – is to write and help other people write better.  That’s all.

I have to believe that if I do the work, everything else will fall into place. Maybe even that patron. I’m not above putting a logo sticker on my laptop.

What is your job? Are you meant to write or to support writers? Are you meant use your gifts to promote people doing great things and, thus, do something great yourself, or do you need to put your head down and write that book or craft that table, letting other people be your sales force?


Note – please know that I realize that part of the writer’s life in our culture is promotion. I’m not saying I won’t blog (obviously) or share things on Facebook or go on book tours when my book sells. I will, but I’m not going to lose days and days of good writing time to do those things. I need to write, so that’s where my focus will be. 

  • Joanne Yeck

    Andi, you are spot on.

    I don’t know when this “platform” concept started, but it has turned into some kind of crazy time suck for many writers. At the same time, if we want our work read, we all must use the tools at hand to find and build an audience. Unless, of course, we have the funds to pay a string of marketers and promoters.

    I would like to recommend slim book that I found to be helpful guide, “What To Do Before Your Next Book Launch,” by Meyers and Rose. There are lots of hot links, so the e-book is even more useful.

    But I say write. Build an audience by sharing your content. Stay in the conversation. But write. That’s what we are here to do!

  • Katie Axelson

    Sometimes I get to be a patron… not with money but in words, marketing other artists, letting them create while I find real producers. It’s a bit less awkward when I’m doing it for someone else but I’m still an artist at heart.

  • Aaron

    I can market. I can design. I can promote. I can plan strategy’s for social engagement. I can help build a platform.

    But just because I can doesn’t mean I should.

    I am a writer. That’s not a marketing statement. For me, it is identity. I need to write. I want to write. I want to write well. The other things that I “should” do to be successful… just because I am capable (or can even be good at them) doesn’t mean that I should.

    The ebb and flow of my blog content is proof of that.

    I need to focus on my words and trust that I may find a patron. Even if I don’t, If I divide my time to do all these things, I personally become less than a writer. That is something I’m not willing to do any more.

  • Jesse Moore

    I agree with you, Andi. It is really difficult not to waste hours on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for the excellent reminder of what’s important and what’s not in the writing field.

  • Hez

    My favorite part of this is the face that you said “when my book sells” in your note. Love that confidence!

  • Hez

    oops – fact, not face!

  • Laura McHale Holland

    What an excellent reminder this post is. I feel like I have so little time outside of my day-job editing for a trade publication that I’m pulled in too many directions, and it’s difficult to keep my priorities straight. As an indie author, I believe it is my job to promote as well as create my books if I want people to read them, but creating works that speak my truth and inspire others to speak theirs really is what’s most important. I hope to remind myself of that each day when I endeavor to set my priorities.