blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
Over the centuries, a “patron of the arts” referred to (usually) the very wealthy and/or influential who commissioned artists, supported young or budding artists until they could support themselves, advocated for art of all kinds, and served as a benefactor so artists had financial and creative space to…well…create.
Granted, from ancient times, some patrons of the arts used their patronage efforts for money laundering or self-aggrandizement. But that’s a story for another day.
Our focus today is on the concept of good-hearted appreciators who provide support so architects, musicians, painters, sculptors, and writers can spread their drafting table, instrument, palette, chisel, and laptop wings.
It was far more common practice years ago for publishing houses–among their many other responsibilities–to serve as patrons of emerging writers.
Bigger platform and bestselling authors were still a publishing house’s bread-and-butter. But they could afford to–and wrote into their business plans to–develop their “jam.” They invested in newer, unknown writers who couldn’t yet draw a crowd. Those authors were nurtured by the support they received on the way to becoming top or mid-level literary artists. It still happens. But not to the level it once did. Profit-and-loss statements shouted above the patron perspective.
Donate mentoring time to a writer a mile or two behind you on the journey.
Many a successful author can point to the priceless benefit of the counsel and encouragement of a writing mentor.
Offer childcare services or play date swaps for an author on deadline.
(Yes, sometimes that feels like a million dollar “fellowship” grant.)
Invest financially so a new writer can attend a quality writers conference or workshop.
In a recent conversational huddle at a large fiction conference, each person around the huddle of accomplished writers pointed back to a parent, grandparent, or friend who helped provide the way for their first conference experience.
Pay full price.
Who doesn’t love a bargain? Or the glorious word FREE? What’s the author’s take-home on a free book? Zero. How much does an author make on a book for which the reader decided to “wait until it’s on sale”? Very little. An author’s income is directly, significantly, and negatively affected by the sale that benefitted the reader. Yes, sales help get the word out about new authors. But it takes a lot of new readers to make up for the income loss if prospective readers put off a purchase until the literary artwork is cheaper or free.
Please do take advantage of discount prices to buy more books and discover new authors. And don’t feel guilty if your life circumstances truly do demand that you wait for the sale price. But once in a while, or routinely in your role as an unofficial patron of the arts, consider paying full price. It’s a magnanimous decision, a gift to the world of literary arts and to the lifeblood of the authors who create the books you love to read.
Celebrate books and authors.
The more you celebrate the work of other authors and their books, the less time they need to invest in marketing their own. The more time they have to write more books. And the more creative energy they conserve. Consider it a privilege to show your patron of the arts support by pointing others to good books.
Make books the default answer to your gift-giving questions.
Give books even between holidays, for no other reason than to show you care about offering quality reading material as a gift to the reader.
And if you are the praying type, become a prayer patron of the literary arts.
The results of your investments of time spent praying for the entire industry, and for both well-known and on-their-way authors, can’t be measured, but also can’t be denied.
What would you add to this list? How can you and I serve in our own ways as an unofficial patron of literary arts?