The Artist’s (Right of) Way

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I guess modern artists have always known—or certainly been told by others—that the game is rigged against them. For most of us, our chief desire is to reach an audience that appreciates our work and wishes for us to produce more of it. The path to acquiring and keeping that audience can be a difficult one indeed.

Artists require feedback to know whether they have achieved their goals, reached their audience in the ways that they had intended. This can often be as great a challenge as the creation of the work itself.

I hear from many artists that they are hesitant to submit their work for professional consideration because they fear rejection. I find this a perfectly understandable reaction, for who wants to learn that the creation they have labored on for weeks or months—or even years—has been judged unsuitable for publication?

Most publishers offer their rejection in the form of a vague, legally-acceptable form letter that provides the artist with little useful information as to reason (or reasons) that their work was deemed unsuitable for publication. Was it the writing quality? Narrative style? Uninteresting characters? The purchasing editor was having a bad day?

I understand the rationale that most publishers receive more unsolicited submissions than they can reasonably respond to in a more personal and detailed manner. This has been the accepted practice for decades, but does little service to the artist.

So it comes down to persistence, with the artist repeatedly submitting their work, sometimes with modification and sometimes not, until their work is either finally accept or the artist gives up on that particular piece of work—sometimes permanently.

So, if you can, and your artist friends ask for your opinion of their work, please make at least a small effort to do so. Even terse, brutally honest is better than none at all. More often than not, it just inspires us to try harder.