Thursday, October 12, 2006

1. Why Credibility?

Years ago, I was at a tattoo convention selling framed prints of the artwork I’d made in Photoshop. One of the tattoo artists at the convention expressed an interest in one of my pieces. Naïve young man that I was, I tried to trade him two of my pieces for a tattoo.

“Son,” he said to me. “Three things. First, I only want the one piece. Second, the tattoo you want is worth more than the two pieces you just offered me. Third, you should always have a business card to give to people like me who express an interest in your work.”

There have been any number of object lessons in my life, but I specifically remember that one because it could have been a lot worse. The man was a professional and he was just trying to help. He could have easily laughed at me and, for all I know, he laughs when he tells that story to his friends who hang out in his shop.

The point is that while my art might have been good, I was not credible in my presentation of it. Since then, I have gone on to self-publish a novel with PublishAmerica. There are those who say that my decision was a bad one and I don’t entirely disagree.

But while I may admit the choice of publisher was not the best, I do not regret my decision, nor am I ashamed of it, which is important. Self-deprecation is fine, as is the learning experience, but to be actively ashamed of the work you produce? What’s the point? There’s no benefit in that.

Unfortunately, I have seen any number of young writers making all manner of elementary mistakes when taking their first, tentative steps into the busy realm of commerce. As far as I’m concerned, the real challenge is not to be successful, but rather to avoid the embarrassment of looking like a complete idiot.

My aim with this series of essays is to provide you, the hopeful young writer, with a thumbnail guide to being credible. Not successful, not respectable, nor even good. I cannot promise you popularity, fame, fortune or profit. I can only point you in the right direction so that (most) people won’t laugh in your face when you talk to them about what you’ve made.

Consider this to be a disclaimer: you are responsible for your own reputation. If you are unwilling to accept that responsibility and actually think that blaming me (or anyone else) for your failure to achieve [insert goal here] could potentially be a good idea, please stop reading now.

Still here? Good.

(Not everybody is going to agree with me on every point I make, which is fair – I never said I was right. In fact, you should take every piece of information and advice that you can find with a grain of salt and always draw your own conclusions. Remember that everyone has a bias and not everyone is always willing to tell you the whole truth.)