In case you didn’t know, there are two responses when an author asks if you want a copy of his book.
That’s it. Modify them to your voice (Sure/Nope, Yes please/No Thanks, Aw Yis/Hell Naw) and you’re set. There is no middle option. Do you want the book or not?
Why do I bring this up? Because a long time ago, when I asked if someone I knew wanted a copy of my book, she responded, “Sure. I mean I won’t read it, but yeah, I’ll buy it.”
I don’t even…
Would you do this to anyone else? Would you tell a chef, “Yes, I’ll buy your food, but I won’t eat it,” or a musician, “I’ll buy your album, but not listen to it,” or an actor, “I bought a ticket to your play, but I’m not going”?
How about outside the artistic realm? Would you tell your CPA friend, “I’ll buy your tax advice, but I won’t heed it,” or your lawn guy, “I’ll pay you to cut my grass, but then I’ll redo it after you leave,” or your mechanic, “I’ll pay for the oil change, but then I’ll dump it out”? Would you call that support?
Of course not. That’s not supportive, in fact it’s insulting. It’s the equivalent of putting a child’s drawing on the refrigerator. You’re taking something that the artist perceives as valuable and paying money not to value it.
For the bottom-line salesman, that’s fine; he doesn’t care what you do, he’s interested in money and money alone. But for the artist, the one who works his craft because he loves it, it can be a slap in the face.
Now, you had good intentions…
I get what this lady wanted to do: to support my art, and I appreciate that. But artists create something because they want to share it. Again, the saleman may not care, but the artist couldn’t sleep at night if everybody bought his new album, but nobody heard it.
If you don’t plan to enjoy an artist’s product, then any money you put towards purchasing it is only going to assuage your conscience. You’re not actually applying any value to the artist’s work. You’re buying them off, even if you don’t mean to.
Am I saying you should never pay an artist? Of course not! But if you buy something from an artist, experience it! Read the book, watch the play, eat the food, wear the scarf. Otherwise, they’ll see that book on your shelf, that empty seat you should have filled, their hard-made dinner in the trash, the scarf in the back of the closet, and wonder why you went to so much effort not to enjoy their work.
As I said at the top of this post, when an artist holds out his or her product (be it a book/print/ticket/album/appetizer/handmade blanket/whatever), and asks if you want one, the answer is either yes or no. If you don’t really want it, don’t take it.
“But Mike!” you say, “I want to support my artist friend/family member financially.” Then write a check.
That’s not sarcasm. Literally write them a check. If you want to give someone money, give them money. That’s perfectly okay. And if you want their artistic product, buy it. Just don’t take something you don’t want. Save it for someone who would like it.
No artist in their right mind expects you to like everything they create or perform. We all have stylistic differences. If one of my friends started a sushi restaurant, I’d say “No, thanks.” I hate sushi. We all have our styles and there’s no shame in not liking something (especially if your artist person sucks at their craft).
So if you want them to have money, give them money. Keep it simple and polite.
Yes, there are exceptions to every rule, but very few of them.
- You’re buying the “thing” for somebody else who would love it.
- You want it for display purposes, to show it off and help the artist via word of mouth.
- The artist cares more about sales than art (also known as the businessman).
Art is meant to be experienced. Unloved art is a waste and a shame. A book that is unread is a failure to the writer. A painting unseen is shame to the painter. Gourmet food uneaten is trash to the chef.
We know you love us and we appreciate you. But if all you want to do is support us monetarily, then just do that. We can’t make you like what we have, but please don’t rob someone else of the experience. Don’t rob the art of the chance for enjoyment.
And if you really, really want to support your artistic friend, get involved in some way. Ask to see their work, ask them questions about it, tell others how great they are, share their stuff on social media, attend events.
Experience it if you can, but if you can’t, then help someone else to love it instead.