The Struggle of the Artist – Marketing

You’ve written a book. Super! You’ve edited it, you’ve put it through the wringer a few times, ironed out the bumps, made a front cover, and it’s looking shmick. You head over to your favourite publisher – Smashwords, KDP, Lulu, or perhaps you’re going the route of Calibre and doing it all yourself – and your fingers are trembling, your heart is racing.

Here it is, the big moment. The point where you give the world your work. You triple check everything, chew the last of your nail from your punished fingers and push the submit button.

And wait.

The Anticlimax

It’s all published. Some publishers take a few hours or a day to get it online, others are instant. Great. But it’s up, it’s up. You can’t sleep that night and feverishly check back throughout the next day. One download.

One. Measly. Download.

The subsequent days aren’t much better. From the reports you get, there’s little or no interest at all. Why? Is your book not good enough? Did you need to do even more editing? Was the front cover lame?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Arguably the latter. Why?

The Reality

How many books are out there, right now, in a library? Now, how many more are out there online? Now, how many books are being created every day?

The answers are, respectively, lots, even more and heaps. Your amazing book is a flash in a very bubbly pan. It’s almost luck that anyone got to download it. Sure, there are ‘New’ lists that people watch but, if they are asleep at the time you push your book out, there’s that opportunity gone. Even if you happen to hit the timing perfectly, that’s only a tiny portion of the people

If you have an agent, or get published through a large house, advertising and marketing is part of the (substantial) fee. They have people paid to reach customers and entice them to take a look-see at your book, and they’re good at what they do.

If you’re an independent then you are on your own. OK, so you can tell your family and friends, that’s good, it’s a start, but it cannot end there. Why? Because unless you’ve written for your family (or painted, or sung, come on now) then they aren’t the people who you want to see your work. Uncle Bob might be into your garage music, but sure as heck Aunty Mavis ain’t.

What you want is to thrust your goods into the ears and under the eyes of those who might actually dig what you’re dishing. OK, easy job, just go stick some fliers in some letterboxes or staple them to the telephone poles.

Nah.

Making noise

The fundamental problem is this: There’s you. There’s guy who would actually like to see what you’ve got. And between you are a thousands of other you’s in exactly the same boat, seeking to reach a hundred thousands of the other guys in the other boat. It is now your job, and it is a job, to get what you’ve done out there.

Over the course of a month or two, there will be people who trawl through the lists, bots that pick up on new releases in genres and tweet them to subscribers, reviewers who are looking for the next big thing. Relying on these things to get your book under people’s noses is folly. What you need to do is blow that horn, beat that drum and make some noise already!

The internet is your friend in this instance. It serves as a platform on which to serve your music and books and film, excellent, and it also serves as an enormous soapbox reaching, well, the entire world. Let me say that again: The internet soapbox has the potential to reach every country in the world. That’s a lot of people.

“But,” you say, “You said that there are a thousand people just like me doing the same thing, and many of those people have professionals to help them out!”

True, true, but let me put it this way: If you bury your head in the sand, you severely (dramatically, extremely, vastly, pick your own adverb) reduce your chances of been seen. If you stand up on the soap box, even though you might be rubbing shoulders with a bunch of your peers, at least you’re in the game.

Get active, go join a forum or three, give advice and chats, start a blog, post updates about what’s cracking in your world.

99% of people won’t give a coin about your antics. That leaves (Pauses to do the math) 1% who do. And its that 1% you want to reach. 99% of people don’t dig war novels. 1% do. 99% of people don’t like vampire romance. 1% do (Actually, that figure, unfortunately, may be higher). The point is, don’t give up because you can’t fathom the sheer numbers. Even if there’s one shmuck out there who gets you, awesome, you need to let him / her find you.

You have to be able to reach who you’re after in a manner that will encourage them to stop and take a look at you.

Word of mouth is good if your audience is of the type that likes to recommend things. Forums and social media work if you can pick the right niche, and get a rapport with the people who frequent them. Don’t stop with the internet, though. You know those fliers? Not a bad idea if your target demographic is at a uni campus. Not a great idea if they are farm hands.

The reality for any artist is that, in order to be seen, they need to raise their voice. It doesn’t have to be an earth shattering crescendo, or a big explosion, or a stunt. Rather, a consistent, well articulated, “I’m here” is a great place to start.

Over the next few posts, I’ll be sharing some of the marketing techniques and pitfalls I’ve come across.Mini Jeztyr Logo

The Struggle of the Artist – Perception

It is perfectly natural for a human to pre-judge a situation. Good intentions aside, we do, indeed, judge a book by its cover. We do read the blurb and think, “What? No earth-destroying ninja robots? No deal!” We look at what’s trending and ignore what’s not.

It is an essential skill: With too much choice, too much information overloading us, how can we possibly sift through the flotsam? Search Engines and forums will bubble up the ‘most popular’. Marketers and publicists will thrust their clients to the top of the list. Money talks.

We need to quickly filter out the bad if we are to pick the good. Like choosing fruit, would you prefer a lovely, shining apple from the supermarket or a dull, hail-damaged one straight from the tree?

Enter the Indie

I’ll be blunt. Indies don’t have a lot of resources: Time, money, friends, advertising, celebrity, influence, you name it, it’s in short supply.

Want to know something interesting? Indies do have other qualities, special qualities, and they have it in bucketloads: Passion. Patience. Pride. Desire. Drive. Determination.

And, despite prejudices to the contrary, Talent.

That’s not to say that every independent work is a masterpiece. Nor does it imply that there isn’t a yard full of tosh to wade through. What it does mean is that just because it hasn’t gone through the sanitation process, been stripped of anything too extreme or risque or provoking, been puffed up with whatever’s trending, been watered down to suit the most popular palate, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth a crack.

That’s right. Pick up that windfall apple and look at it closely. Wrapped inside that dull, hail damaged, ill-shaped fruit is some of the tastiest flesh you’ll ever eat. It wants to be eaten. If there are bruises or knocks, cut around it and eat the rest!

WindfallApple

Therein lies the issue: The artist lives to create, not to sell. Their focus is not on the perception of the work, rather on the work itself.

This is where we see the drive and determination coming into play. If Indies were all about turning a buck or becoming raging successes, we’d drop this gig and be out the door before the keyboard hit the ground. Yet here we are, plodding on, pushing through.

No press releases, no appearances on talk-shows, no endorsements by big name celebrities, no team of marketing experts. Yet the independent artists march on, confident that somewhere in the big, wide world are people who will discover and appreciate their efforts.

Indies persist despite the lack of recognition.

Continuous Improvement

The problem with Perception is that it is largely out of the hands of the artist. It doesn’t matter how great the product is if the audience never gets a chance to sample it. The audience won’t wish to sample it if it does not look appealing.

Sure, there are reviews, publications, marketing and advertising, tools to grab someone’s attention, break through the barrier and say, “Hey, you might like this.” Of course, the bigger the budget, the better the campaign, and the small, pathetic plea of the indie is drowned out by the cacophony of the big boys.

It’s all part of the struggle.

Through resistance a muscle grows. So, too, through adversity the artist will thrive, savouring the small wins, learning from the defeats. Unpleasant as it is, it makes us stronger and, in many ways, both tangible and intangible, makes the artwork that much better.

It has to, simply because the artist cannot compete with the slick artworks and celebrity endorsements, and so must work on either quality or quantity. Give that time is such a scarce commodity, you can bet your bottom dollar that a your fellow artist is feverishly fine tuning their skills to give you the best work they can.

How can you help? Feedback. Feedback lets the artist know you’ve seen, or felt, or listened to their work. This, by itself, is one of the greatest motivators. Whether your criticism is good, or bad, or constructive, or jovial, or even if you have no criticism – and let’s face it, sometimes there’s just nothing to say – letting them know that their work made its way in front of you is enough to keep the creative passion burning.

You can also help by changing your perception and the perception of those around you. Independent artists will always have the stigma of being ‘unprofessional’ or ‘lesser-quality’ or, heaven forbid, ‘less-enjoyable’ than mainstream. The extent of this stigma, though, is up to you, the audience.

Be brave. Be adventurous. Move off the beaten track and try something different. Then you can tell others about that squishy, juicy, strange-yet-oddly-satisfying fruit you just found lying under a tree.Mini Jeztyr Logo