The key to success is to transform the art to offer a new product. Do that, combine it with innovative promotion, and growth will follow. By “better” I don’t mean by the standards of a writing instructor, but better for the general reader, the potential market.
(What makes the current literary culture beatable is that they think about their art within an airy bubble removed from the greater society. Their standards are arbitrary, if not abstract, becoming more skewed—and skewing the art—by the day. And so you get a Great White Literary Hope like Blake Butler praising difficult writing. In another field this would be nonsense. Think if the auto industry operated like that. “Our new model is difficult to drive and repair—and it looks awful!” It’d be to our great shame if we don’t beat these clowns.)
I’m old enough to remember the impact of the first “Star Wars.” George Lucas made the old new. The movie had an old-fashioned feel to it—it looked like a “movie”—yet was strikingly new. What he’d done is adjust the formula of which elements of the movie art to more emphasize, and which to pull back. This can be easily done with literature. It’s amazingly simple. The result is a new product. Sometimes one only needs the imagination and will to do the obvious.
Writers who create the new capture the future.