Do people read your work differently if they think you know what you’re doing?
Yes. Here’s my proof.
I entered the first 30 pages of Corporate Torsos Need Not Apply into a contest where the work was scored by a panel of agents.
There were two categories: apprentice and master.
I entered both. I wanted the most feedback possible back then, in those early days, only 20 years into this project.
What happened next was a surprise.
I scored noticeably higher in the master category, across the panel, than I did in the apprentice category.
Now, it wasn’t the same panel of judges, so you could chalk it up to personal preference.
But all the scores were higher, which led me to believe personal preference wasn’t at work. Most people feel differently about a work of art if you think the artist is a tried and true professional versus a beginner, right?
Except for that piece of art in the Hirshhorn that looks like a blank canvas. Everybody hates that. Still sold for $20 million though. I hope my book sells for that much. If it does, I’m gonna buy a coffee farm and grow the most amazing coffee this world has ever known, which is my true purpose in life.
I guess the other question here is, what was I? Was I an apprentice or a master? I’d not yet been published for money, had won some writing awards a long time ago, nothing for full-length novels. I had been already been working on that novel for decades, and consistently tried to learn how. But if you don’t have multiple novels, you’re not a master: that’s the prevailing view.
The point they make in the link above is that modern art can be more about the concept than it is about the skill. (…but come on, blank-looking canvas, $20 million?! Why? No!) Maybe if you read my book as a concept…?
I would say there isn’t room for that anymore, there’s no 2019 Naked Lunch.
No 2019 Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
No 2019 A Void.
No 2019 Infinite Jest.
Oh, but what about this 1,000 page book made of only a sentence?
The bottom line is that it’s better to be viewed as a master than an apprentice because you get away with more. But it’s better to actually be the apprentice, because you try more. Can you retain an apprentice mind and earn master money?
I would like to write a concept book, like that one about the house that’s getting bigger and the book gets bigger and it totally messes with you. But unlike concept art, I don’t know where concept books are at right now. Oh, who cares? I’m gonna do it anyway.
Okay, I convinced myself. Concept book it is. Like, a book with built-in smells? How about that? Maybe not. I’ll start crowdsourcing ideas.