Read an Excerpt
I Create, Therefore I Am?
(Why You Must Make Yourself More Marketable)
"Business is the act of extracting money from another man's pocket without resorting to violence." -- Max Amsterdam
It's called self-promotion for a reason: If you don't do it yourself, it usually doesn't get done! It's definitely a do-it-yourself proposition. It's an overwhelming proposition to make it big in the arts, and impossible if you don't take a proactive role in your promotion. This book will take the mystery out of marketing. It can't force you to embrace the concept, but it will teach you how to do it. It is the willingness (and ability) to market yourself and your art that increases your odds of making it. A lot of creative people have talent, but few have the know-how or desire to promote themselves. This isn't anything new. Throughout the years, creative people have grappled with the conflict of creating great work and then being expected, and forced, to sell it. "There should be a single Art Exchange in the world, to which the artist would simply send his works and be given in return as much as he needs. As it is, one has to be half merchant on top of everything else, and how badly one goes about it!" Guess who said that. Give up? Ludwig van Beethoven.
I am not saying you have to like it, you just have to do it. (It is easier when you can find methods of promotion that you can at least tolerate.) For better or worse, we live in the age of media. Promotion (self-promotion, or having others help) is a necessary evil for the creative person who just wants to gain a little exposure for their art, let alone achieve fame and fortune. Simply put, if nobody knows you exist, it doesn't matter how good your work is (unless this is a hobby for you, in which case I guess it doesn't matter as much).
The business world and the art world are (unfortunately) interlinked. Sometimes it feels more like a business than an art form. You can't ignore one or the other. You need to make money, and you should be getting paid for what you do. I don't know what your dream is, but for most of us it is to be able to earn a comfortable living while working on projects that we enjoy or are passionate about. Is that too much to ask for? I don't think so. Both of those goals (to make money and work on art that motivates us) are the direct result of successful self-promotion campaign. So suck it up, get over your squeamishness, and do it, because the reward is worth it.
I'm not saying it's easy. You send out your résumé, distribute your brochure, network like mad, write a stellar proposal, force yourself to make cold calls, and schlep your portfolio all over town, sometimes with little luck. It takes a lot of your time, time you'd rather be creating. It's not just in the beginning, either, it's like that all the time. It's a business and you are the product. That means you have to sell the product-constantly. So you have two jobs, innovation and marketing. The more you accept that and learn how to do it, the easier it becomes. As you will learn from this book, it doesn't necessarily have to take a lot of time or money to do it well.
I have also found that when you are the creator, it is hard to step back and come up with ways to market your creations. For some reason, all that wonderful creativity dries up and you end up blocked and frustrated when it comes time to create your own marketing materials. Another phenomenon I have encountered is that after working on creating something for months, the last thing you want to do is promote it. You are ready to move on to the next great idea. Fight the urge to abandon your "baby." Your creations need you to raise them until they are self-sufficient.
One thing I'm sure of is that you can't wait to be discovered, or for that time when others promote you. I know so many creative people who don't understand that creating something is less than half the battle and that the real work has just begun. I know, you are an "artist," but you must also become a salesperson, booking agent, performer, publicist, pitchster, promoter, publisher, presenter-in other words, you will wear many hats. (We have to juggle all that goes with being an artist with all the other responsibilities that go with running a business.) This takes an incredible amount of your energy and enthusiasm away from your real work. You can get help with the promotional side of your business, but in my opinion nobody can promote you as well as you can promote yourself. This book is designed to help you do it yourself. You can do it. You know you should do it. Let's agree, you will do it. Let me help.
If you aren't marketing yourself, you're falling behind someone else who is. You need to embrace the concept of self-promotion and actively engage in it or else you will always be on the fringe. You need visibility and credibility. You can accomplish both by writing articles, speaking in public, putting up a first-rate website, writing a book, or associating with a well-known person in your field. Do good work and it's a little easier, but they won't always find you. You have to market yourself. Every successful creative person does it; even the super-successful still promote themselves. This book is loaded with helpful ideas (from ads and attitude to word of mouth and websites) to make it easy for customers to find you, talk you up, and get you to the next level (wherever you are-beginner or best-seller).
We will cover all kinds of inexpensive, innovative, and effective ways to get the word out about who you are and what you do; how to reach a larger audience and build a loyal fan base as well as getting the media to recognize you for your efforts. It's about getting influential people to say yes to you more often, whether you're an actor, artist, carpenter, cartoonist, comic, dancer, designer, entrepreneur, filmmaker, landscape architect, musician, or involved in any other type of creative endeavor. You will learn how to compete (and win) against bigger competitors by tapping niches and doing the creative things the large players can't do. We will discuss how to improve your marketing materials, create an effective promotional plan, take action, and have fun along the way. This isn't brain surgery, and it doesn't have to be boring, either.
If you don't think promotion is important, here are some famous inventions but where inventors (sadly) remain unsung due to a lack of self-promotion. For instance, do you know who invented the answering machine? Edwin Peterson in 1945. How about the crossword puzzle? Arthur Wynne in 1913. Windshield wipers? Mary Anderson in 1903. Power steering? Francis Davis in 1926. The ATM? Luther Simjian in 1960. The Egg McMuffin? Herb Peterson in 1973.
Why Creative People Don't Do It
"If I go into Universal and even mention the word 'art,' security forces will come and take me away." -- Terry Gilliam
Don't you think I'd rather spend all of my time making art rather than marketing it? I would love to just write books all day, sitting by the pool sipping a cool drink, and never have to write another press release, design another brochure, or cold-call booksellers trying to line up another book signing. I know, get real. Books don't sell themselves. Today's creative person has to wear many hats, from publicist to promoter. The trick is to learn to love it. (With today's technology, I can still sit by the pool and promote. Aloha!) Technology aside, you still have to use your imagination to create simple, effective, and creative methods to market, and then you have to act on those ideas. I realize it isn't quite that simple. I mean, if you are blocked as an artist, you can imagine the big boulders your brain puts in your path when it comes time to devise an approach to promotion. I know, I know. Somehow some of us have managed to overcome and manage to market. So will you, if you can accept the idea that you should.
We have been conditioned to think that somehow hype and mainstream success are bad things. But you don't have to struggle to be a "real" artist. Being paid well for your art is not selling out. Enough already with the myth that to create great work you can't have widespread appeal. Do you really believe that? We must stop feeling guilty about our success as artists. What's so bad if a lot of people love what we do? Does that lessen the quality somehow? I don't think so. "If you're in jazz and more than ten people like you, you're labeled commercial," laments jazz great Herbie Mann. It can be so frustrating remaining in obscurity while you watch other less talented people make it. Many artists get cynical, bitter, jaded, and give up. (You can see them playing at a Holiday Inn lounge near you.) I like the attitude Metallica has to promotion. When pressed by an interviewer about whether they have sold out, they replied, "Yes, we sell out. Every seat in the house, every time we play." That rocks!
Instead of promoting yourself, you can hope people will magically discover you, and then you won't have to market at all. It's true, there are some self-promotional things that are easier and more palatable than others. If you don't like interaction with others, you can still do a website, newsletter, or postcard mailing. Maybe you don't like detail work but have no problem talking up what you do. Find what fits into your comfort zone and start there. After that you can begin to face your fears. As an example, I don't mind going in to booksellers to talk to the store managers about my books. I'll sign the books they have on hand and encourage them to order more. No big deal. But I went beyond my comfort zone recently and found it felt fantastic to both break the rules and be a guerrilla marketer. I made up a bookmark-style tab that sticks up and says, "Are you in your 'Right' mind? Take the quiz in chapter one to find out." I inserted them in each copy of my book. One day I had a wild idea: I decided to slip postcards with my book cover and ordering information in every other book in that section of the store. Yikes! The risk of possibly getting caught was worth the reward of selling more of my books.
Let's talk about the fear of rejection and failure. It will happen -- often. Get used to it. It's extremely hard to put something of yours out there and have people criticize it. It takes a really strong person to not take it personally. You must validate yourself, rather than rely on others. Stop worrying that they will "find you out" and that you are a fraud. (You deserve good things to happen to you.) There is also the fear of selling. Relax, it's not your father's selling. The hard sell went out with eight-track tapes. Now it's all about forming mutually beneficial long-term relationships. It's a soft sell with warm leads. You can do that. There is also the fear of selling out. Look at self-promotion as another outlet for your creativity, and when it works, it's very fulfilling. In many ways it's an art form. There is the fear that you may waste your money on marketing. Good. Be very cautious about how (and how much) you spend your marketing dollars, and look for free and inexpensive ways to do it. Which leads us to a fear of technology. Everything is easier and cheaper on the Internet, but maybe you've been afraid to try it. This is a real fear. You must make an effort to at least understand the possibilities available to you online.
Finally -- and I left this for last because it is big -- there is the fear of public speaking. We will talk about how to make this a part of your marketing and where you can go for help in polishing your presentation skills to the point that you will want to get out there and speak.
What It Takes to Be a Self-Promotion Superstar
"Advertising isn't a science. It's persuasion. And persuasion is an art."
-- William Bernbach
1. There must be a market. (Even if it's not a massive market.) It is naive to believe "If you build it they will come." You have to build something they want and will pay for (and then promote the hell out of it). You can't expect that if you create whatever mousetrap you feel like creating, people will beat a path to your door (and gladly pay your price for it). The fact is, you need to know if there is a market (even if it's a small one) for what you do. You have to get your mind around the idea that publishers, studios, labels, galleries, retailers, and even clients want to make money. They want creative people and marketable creations. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to compromise yourself or your art. If you can find an outlet, or people who will pay or appreciate what you do the way you want to do it, that's all being marketable means.
Just find some people (who are willing to buy) to sell to. This said, you have to understand that people's preferences can determine your promotability. If, for example, you write poetry, it will be harder to promote yourself and your work than it would be if you took those same words and wrote a hit song. Sorry, that is a fact of life in marketing. Many creative people have had a nice career living on the fringe. You don't necessarily have to turn into a lip-synching teen idol to make it in music-or any other creative endeavor. There are areas in the arts where, no matter how hard you try, there simply is little or no market, or there may have once been but that market is now extinct. Move on and come up with something newer and better. Reinvent yourself. Focus on reaching people, and reaching the right people. This book is for the creative person who wants to reach a hundred people or hundreds of thousands. As long as these people want what you are marketing, then that is a market.
From the Trade Paperback edition.