Marketing of Some Kind is a Necessary Annoyance

As an indie creator of anything, marketing yourself is necessary. You can’t just make your book or your art print or release a single, throw it up on some site, and cross your fingers that you somehow go viral and start raking in piles of money. Even if it is an absolutely stellar project, you cannot expect immediate success, or even that the one project will be successful by itself. Yes, you’ve accomplished a lot all ready, just in completing, polishing, and releasing the creative piece, but you aren’t allowed to rest yet.

The marketing process is one that annoys me, primarily because it is yet another pull on my time. I’d rather be creating than trying to get my past creations out to more people. Also, I am someone that does want my work to speak for itself. I’m uncomfortable talking myself up, a tad suspicious of compliments that come my way (although I feel bad if they aren’t forthcoming when I’ve busted my butt – go figure), and would much rather pass off this work to a third party. But I’m an indie artist and writer and freelancer so I don’t exactly have the budget for hiring a publicist. My guess is that most of you don’t either. And in the wilds of our global online community, it becomes less necessary maybe.

So, here are the current (and immediate-ish) future plans I’m in the process of implementing both online and in my local area. Perhaps you will find some of these useful for yourself.

My freelance work under my actual name:

  • I am continuing with the social media work I’ve been doing. This actually nets me quite a bit of extra business, as friends and associates recommend people to me.
  • I’ve begun a Tumblr blog that is about another passion entirely but I talk about my freelance work in conjunction with that passion. This is a soft marketing experiment that I’m giving about six months to see if it works in getting me some more projects. However, Tumblr seems to be a wasteland of late, and I’m considering starting yet another wordpress blog and posting both places, but I don’t know if I want that kind of time dump. I mean, if the pictures I’m posting are already formatted and I’m just copying and pasting text, it’s maybe only another ten minutes each post, but still, that is time I could spend creating. Things to consider.
  • Thanks to a friend, I’ve got the names of two local companies to contact to do one-off jobs for, and I need to craft the perfect introduction letter. It’s a side of my business I haven’t done since 2009, so I want to make absolutely sure that everything is as perfect as I can make it.
  • I’m considering marketing myself offline, again in a soft marketing kind of way, toying with the idea of joining one of the local business women’s groups. Again, though, this would be a pull on my time that I don’t know if I can commit (for events, volunteering, etc) with my busy schedule and hands-on parenting. But if I do, it would immediately get me involved in my local community, I could potentially be helping people, and there would be much “Oh, you do this?” in conversations. I’m not much of a “belong to a big group” person, but maybe it’d be good for me.

Writing

  • I need to promote my books here more. I’m so bad about that. I won’t be posting every single week, but expect a more frequent reminder.
  • I have a small list of reviewers to contact about The Little Book of Insurrection or the Poetry of my Discontent. It needs to be done, and I haven’t done it.
  • I need to check out local writing and poetry groups, maybe get brave enough to attend an open mic reading. I’ve made a connection with an older woman who belongs to a local political theater group and she thinks I’d be a good fit, but again, I can’t commit to that kind of time. But I hope to at least attend a performance and network with similar-minded and passionate local people.
  • The biggest trend I’ve noticed in talking with my writer friends and witnessing online is that writers need to have a list of books out. There is a snowball effect that happens, and even if it’s a case of quantity over quality, that doesn’t matter so much. Which is sad. But, that being said, I need to carve out more time to write, so I can be releasing at least one book a year. Even at that rate, it’s still going to be a very long time (if ever) that I make any kind of significant income. And I’m okay with that. Writing cannot be my full-time creative endeavor, no matter how much I love it. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be doing it when I can.

Art

  • I need to find an alternative to Etsy for selling prints (and signed copies of books). Etsy has become so over-saturated since they’ve begun allowing factory-made items on their site with a looser definition of what defines an “indie” or “cottage” industry, and it’s just not what it was when it first began. So there’s that.
  • I have made an initial effort to get involved in the local arts community and need to grow that.
  • I need to check out local galleries and such to see if there are any openings to show my work and begin getting my name out there.

The thing I’ve found most important about marketing myself is staying flexible and constantly tweaking as I go. Also, I am almost always positive in my attitude, in a sincere way. I could maybe garner more attention by throwing temper tantrums or jumping on the latest hot debate and being a jerk, but I’d rather be pleasant and calm and save the rage and heat for situations where it’s actually necessary.

What are some of your favorite ways to market yourself? What do you find works best for you?

My Love/Hate Relationship with Social Media

In further building upon my post from earlier this week about the cult of “me”, I have been considering how I feel about the entire concept of social media and the various ways it helps and hinders people to function as individuals and in society, and how it feeds the egocentric mindset that we all seem swayed to exist in. I truly do have a love/hate relationship towards the Internet as a whole, and Facebook specifically since that is the site I use the most in my personal and career mode.

The Good about Social Media:

  • It allows people to stay connected with others, increasing their potential for building and maintaining friendships as well as business networking. Between the two of us, my husband and I have someone in almost every major city in the U.S. that we could crash with if we needed to, and if those people in turn pass through our area, we relish the opportunity to feed and house them.
  • I love having the chance to share in the triumphs of the people who I’ve worked with on various projects and friends who used to be more present in my life. I enjoy seeing that beautiful babies have been born (although frequently could stand with a few less pictures) and learning about career and life advancements. And when someone has to share a tragedy, it allows me to send long emails or letters or packages as appropriate to the depth of our relationship, or to even just send a bit of online comfort through the social media, although that at times seems so lacking and phony to me.
  • It gives people the opportunity to stay informed. I enjoy reading various articles that some of the people I’m friends with or follow post, especially when I’m neck deep in various projects and can barely remember my own name. I told one friend of mine recently that I relied on him to keep me informed at such times because he does post a lot of really thoughtful articles and accompanies them with insightful commentary. It also, if you look for it, allows you to broaden your horizons and connect with individuals with a different worldview than your own.
  • It can give you support when you most need it. I am part of a closed and private Peaceful Parenting group on Facebook that contains a smallish group of women from across the US, and we’re all at various stages of “crunchiness” but we all strive towards parenting in the best interest of our children, which can be a rough road to follow, especially when some are fighting against being raised in abusive environments or spouses that have anger issues or live in parts of the country where things like breastfeeding and babywearing are frowned upon. Having a safe place to discuss almost anything is invaluable (we do tend to stay away from religion and politics to a large extent, to keep the waters as calm as possible, but I have other friends I go to when I want that kind of discussion).
  • It can help build your momentum as an artist/entrepreneur – I posted a picture of a completed project last week, and someone I’m recently friends with from another project said “I didn’t know you do that!” and we’re in beginning talks to have me create something for her now, which is money in my pocket and one more person talking about my work.
  • Having social media around makes it so people aren’t creating in vacuums. For me, there is an aspect of my personality that would love to hide away, never be online. To be that artist and writer that dies at an old age, never having shared anything with the world. Having the social media so readily available forces me to be more open about my work, my creativity, and my process. Which is important. I need to be forced outside my comfort zones.
  • I like Facebook because it allows me to reach quite a few people with my whole “create ripples to cause waves in others” goal. I post quite frequently, mostly with the goal to make people smile or feel good or a little silly, often slipping in a link to an article to try to get people to think, occasionally becoming overly passionate when I just can’t keep my mouth shut, and I know for a fact it’s had an effect on some people. I’m sure it’s had an effect on others but they just didn’t tell me, and they may never, but I’m fine with that. I don’t need to necessarily know.

The Bad about Social Media:

  • It is designed to be addicting. Much like prepackaged foods, social networking sites are made to hook you and keep you on for as long as possible and keep you coming back. Which is disgusting. It becomes a time suck. Even myself, who I don’t consider being addicted because I can easily turn it off and walk away, and even though I read and process the information on the sites very quickly, find myself occasionally wondering where the last 20 minutes or so have gone.
  • In that time suck, it prevents people from engaging in reality with each other. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at the playground with my son and seen another parent on their phone for the ENTIRE TIME I was there, texting or screwing around on Facebook. And I try to be understanding, thinking to myself that maybe this is the only time the parent has to do this, etc., but seeing how starved their children usually are for attention and how readily they engage with me as I play with or talk to my son, I doubt this is the case. So we’re able to come up with witty responses online, but unable to meet each other’s eyes in public, let alone open up enough to directly connect.
  • It gives constant information to marketers. Companies are making money off of us, they are then crafting ads to get us to spend money and give them even more information to then sell about us. And we give in willingly.
  • It is creepy. We are all voyeurs, peeking into other people’s windows. Everything from seeing a picture of your friend tagged in someone who you aren’t friends with’s photo to the super creepy timestamp Facebook puts on it’s messaging system (really, I don’t want to know if someone’s seen my message and is taking their time getting back to me – way too stalker-y).
  • It creates a false sense of intimacy. And this is where I feel guilty, because I completely manipulate this aspect of social media to suit my needs and wants. I share intimate details of my daily life at times, fostering that sense of intimacy, but in reality, they are details that don’t really reveal much. Mostly, I do this to keep my family off my case for not seeing them more, I think, but it also has made it strange at times because some people feel closer to me than I do to them. I mean, I adore a lot of people. I enjoy supporting them on their way through life however I can. I see the potential in friends and strangers alike. But the number of people who consider themselves my intimates and the number of people that actually are my intimates is vastly different. And therein lies most of my guilt. I simultaneously draw people in but keep them spinning and dancing so they don’t realize that I’m not revealing my innermost self. Honest to a fault, but still private in the inner tumultuous workings of my brain and heart.

So… conclusions? Social media, like anything else, has the potential to be useful or destructive. It can help us grow or keep us stilted. It is yet another aspect of our daily lives that we have to make a conscious choice about, and that can be such a bummer.

I Have No Agenda

There are many “how-to” blogs and articles on writing, blogging, creating art, basically anything you can think of under the sun.  And I lump these under two types: the extremely helpful (ie. Photoshop tutorials, constructive advice for building your blog readers, books like “The Artist’s Way”) and the type that prey on your insecurities to “sell” something (I tend to view these as being similar to “get rich quick” or pyramid schemes).  The second type of article tends to greatly annoy me and turn me off.  The author usually comes across as arrogant, with a “my way is the only way” approach in an effort to sell something. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE proponent of self-promotion, but I am also a huge proponent of honesty, and honesty is not something that is always part of marketing a product or service.  And even if someone’s product is amazing, if they come across as sleazy or dishonest, I don’t have any interest in what they are peddling.

So I guess my agenda is honesty.  My goal is to sell you all on being creatively productive instead of being cowed by self-doubt.  To get everyone I touch actively thinking about their lives and the bigger world around them.  When I eventually release my writing, music, and art, if you feel inclined to buy or spread the word of my work, then I will be humbly grateful.  I will promote myself, but I will not resort to sleazy tactics.  If it means I can never quit my day job, then so be it.  My integrity is worth more to me than financial gains, now and forever.