By Karen Wills
“Works of art are the product of a complicated system of social interaction between artists, patrons, critics, and a public that is as broad as possible, all influencing each other in their assessments and behavior.” Doris Krystof
Krystof wrote this in her book about the life and work of the painter Modigliani. It may hold true for writers as well. Most of us don’t write in a vacuum. Patrons might appear in the form of scholarships, academic writing programs, or advances from publishers. Our critics may begin with family members, critique groups, agents and editors who listen to our pitches, publishers, and eventually a publishing house’s developmental and copy editors.
Most important is that broad-as-possible public. Once a book is released, as authors we’re to make our book, and ourselves, well known. Our efforts may come in the forms of advertising. I ran an ad in Montana: The Magazine of Western History since River with No Bridge is a historical novel set in Montana. I sent out a press release that resulted in an interview. I’ll be signing books at the Montana Book and Toy Company in Helena on September 16, and making a presentation at Helena’s Lewis and Clark Library the following day. I’ve placed the book with local booksellers. And I try to contact book clubs like my own. Book clubs tend to be democratic. They’re the broadest possible public because members often choose from varied genres. I love book clubs.
All that said, once a book is released into the world, it takes on a life of its own, like a grown child. Critics influence the public. The public influences modern day patrons, and an author begins the next book, mindful of results of the assessments and behaviors of all involved in the last novel’s reception. Of course, some of the greatest writers (think Emily Dickinson) and artists like Modigliani worked according to a brilliant inner vision, connecting to a divine mystery that didn’t bring them fame and wealth, but made their work immortal. And us, the broad public, the richer for it.
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