Elle Griffin of The Novelleist, sent out a newsletter last Sunday arguing that “high snobbery reigns among circles of critics who expect a certain pretention from their virtuoso violinists, their fine art painters, and their literary writers.” The post was titled, “The one where self-published books are not ‘real art’.” (Yes, Elle likes to title her newsletters like they’re episodes of Friends. And I love it!)
Anyone who’s been involved in the indie book industry—whether you’re someone who self-publishes your own books, reads books written by indie writers, or otherwise involved in the indie world—is not at all surprised by this statement regarding snobbery as it pertains to writing fiction. And if you indie-publish romantic fiction, multiply that sentiment by a thousand. There are some critics and book readers out there in the world who think if you do not have the backing of a prestigious publisher or your book isn’t worthy of well-known and sought-after book awards, your book is not worthy of the paper it’s printed on.
If I told such a crowd that not only do I publish my books myself, I sometimes don’t even put my words on actual paper and choose to only publish via ebook, I’d probably be ridiculed. To which I say… Whatever!
What I don’t understand is this: Why do these people even care how others publish books (or play music, or create visual art)?
Elle illustrated her point by introducing her newsletter readers to Lindsey Stirling. If you’ve never heard of Lindsey or listened to her music/watched her videos, Lindsey is an artist who creates entertaining music videos and dances while she plays the violin. According to Billboard, she earned more than $6 million on YouTube in 2015, and she sells out to 20,000-person stadiums when she goes on tour.
Her latest video (below) has already amassed more than 1.3 million views.
“True” violinists like to insult Lindsey’s music, and “true” dancers claim she’s not a very good dancer. And when she was invited to perform with Andrea Bocelli and London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra she was completely snubbed. Again… why?
Then there was The New York Times article where snobby journalists turned up their nose, comparing her to “Mozart for Babies” and asking themselves “who’s listening? Is this study music for nerdy teenage girls?” I found the article to be downright offensive. Because again, why do they care? If Lindsey Stirling has found an audience, who is the New York Times—or anyone—to say that her art isn’t art?
Are we really to believe that if something, by most definitions, looks like art, but is popular, it’s not really art?
Then there are the people who try to justify her popularity. They say things like she’s a “gateway
drug player,” like in this comment by a Reddit user:
I’ve found her a good gateway
drugplayer. There’s enough popular/simplicity in her music that it feels achievable to a newcomer. Our music culture needs more people like her, to break down the ever widening gap between the general public and old school musicians.
What this person is trying to say is that people like Lindsey inspire loads of other people to play the violin, or to simply be creative.
And just in case you think this phenomenon is unique to the classical musical world, don’t get too comfortable.
We have instances like this in the book industry as well. I’m sure everyone remembers that time when Stephen King said “Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.” I try to make it a point not to insult other writers. They might not write fiction that I enjoy reading, but what good did it do for Mr. King to insult Stephenie Meyer’s very popular Twilight series? Stephenie Meyer inspired a lot of people to try writing themselves? Is that bad? Does the fact that Stephen King didn’t like Stephenie Meyer’s writing make her books any less of art? Did that somehow make her less relevant?
Or is Stephenie Meyer’s writing too popular to be real art, much like the entertainment art of Lindsey Stirling?
(The answer is no!)
Artists like Lindsey Stirling and Stephenie Meyer are good for humanity. You don’t have to enjoy their art or form of entertainment in order for it to be deemed art.
Shakespeare plays aren’t my favorite. That doesn’t mean I don’t have an appreciation for the art form.
Anytime an art form or an artist inspires another person to create and to find the best part of themselves, that’s a good thing.
And when an artist criticizes another artist because their art is popular, it says more about the one being critical than the one creating the popular work.