After running Creativindie for over five years, I’m finally building up my autoresponder sequence… this is one of the emails. I’m starting to think towards my next non-fiction book, Paid to Create, and might use some of the same material there.
A lot of writers and artists have trouble finishing the work. They get stuck in the production phase. They want it to be perfect. But eventually, the get something done and they’re ready to unleash it out into the world.
They’re excited. Ecstatic.
And then… crickets.
Nobody cares about the thing they’ve made.
It could be a problem with packaging. It could be a problem of poor salesmanship (we’ll talk about those in the next email).
But those factors only come into play when you’re putting your book or art in front of the right people.
If you’re just posting things on your website (which doesn’t get any traffic) or your Facebook page (where only your friends and family see it), you can’t be sure that you’re actually doing anything wrong, because you’re showing it to the wrong market. You need to find your peeps first.
I’m a big fan of online promotion, because it’s better for targeting. Offline, you could go to a convention or something, but it’s rarely your perfect market. You might go to an “art fair” or a “book fair” – but it would be full of random people who like all kinds of things. You want to find people who like stuff that’s very similar to what you are doing.
Here are some ways to do that.
#1 Make awesome shit
Quality stands out. Make something amazing and interesting, novel and different. But remember, it has to matter to people. So take an issue or a stand – something other people care about. Jump ahead of trends by predicting them. If skulls and unicorns are popular, find ways to use them better than any one else. If vampires and werewolves sell, spin a story that’s on the fringe of what readers have come to expect (unless that’s not your genre at all. Write the genre you want to write, but overdeliver on genre conventions).
#2 Help people with platforms
Find the influencers in your community. Follow them. Like and comment on their content. Help them share it. When they have questions or need help, be the first to volunteer. If you see something they could improve on, let them know and offer to help. You don’t need to ask them to share your stuff… if you help them out enough for them to notice you, they’ll probably share. (If you’ve helped them a lot and built a relationship, when you do have something big, ask them to share it and they probably will).
#3 Find ways to solve problems
Not just for the influencers. Talk about the problems and issues in your field. If you’re a writer, talk about challenges in your genre. Interview other authors. Start a series. Become the voice of the problem. Try to find answers and solutions. Find a cause that readers will champion. Make it something important and meaningful. One popular meme I’ve seen around compares a $2.99 ebook that took a year to make with a $3.99 coffee that took 5 minutes to make. Simple graphic – but that author hit a nerve and the image has been shared thousands of times. Free marketing for her! Don’t just make it about YOU and your book. Find a way to resonate.
#4 Find out where your audience is and join them
Where does your audience hang out? Facebook groups? Twitter? Instagram? What hashtags do they use? What events do they look forward to? Figure out the rules of the platform, follow leaders in your field or genre, and like and comment on their posts. Be engaged. Yes it takes time. But not as much as you’d expect.
#5 Giveaways and contests
Giveaways are amazing, but you need a big prize and it needs to appeal to your target audience. It could be free books, free art or prints, or other fun stuff. There are ways to run a simple giveaway without any special software on Facebook/Instagram (everybody has to comment, then use a random name selector to pick a winner) – but there’s also great software like KingSumo or UpViral that are powerful for building email lists quickly.
#6 Free stuff
Besides giveaways or articles, you can make resources, infographics, or anything else that’s cool and/or useful. You can give it away for free, or require an email sign up, or use a “Tweet to pay” plugin so they have to share before accessing (I recommend using all three – start with plain old free to get lots of shares and links. After the traffic is steady you can offer something else as a bonus, to increase email signups or more shares.
#7 The practical vs the awesome
If you’re going to start a creative business, you need to make things: the incredible, mind-blowing stuff that gets shared (but is too impractical to actually be used) and the workhorses – the vanilla icecream – that earns revenue.
If you’re writing books, find a popular genre, learn the conventions, and practice until you can create a book that people love. But also write some messed up, crazy shit that gets people’s attention (Price & Prejudice with Zombies, for example).
If you design clothes, make something crazy amazing that people love to share on Facebook or Pinterest, but would never actually wear. Then make some more low-key stuff that is cool without being unwearable.
I could write a book just on advertising, but the main reason it’s so great is that you can target specifically. With Facebook ads, I can target people who liked a certain book, genre, food and city using “narrowed interests.” Instead of shotgunning your message out to a million people who kind of like one interest, show it first to 10,000 people who love exactly what you’re doing (and if they don’t, you’re doing it wrong – or you’re targeting the wrong audience.)
#9 Team Spirit
Teams are powerful. Stop thinking about just selling your own stuff or building your own platform. Think of how you can create groups or opportunities for other artists or authors to contribute. Anthologies, group shows. Be the organizer, and you’ll have a team of people excited to help you share your project, plus the combined reach of everybody’s platforms. The trick is to be specific, and not just do an “art show” or “poetry anthology.” Pick a specific theme, and a specific type or artist – someone similar to what you do – so that the audience who comes will really appreciate all the work, and your work. This is the problem with most craft shows, they’re vague and attract a general audience, who aren’t likely to buy anything. Curate your projects, then pitch them to the right people. It’s a great way of building relationships with other people working on your genre/medium.
#10 An Epic Quest
You need to find a purpose. It can’t just be “I love to write” or “I love to paint.” People don’t care about that. You need to give them something to care about. What do you hope to achieve? Who do you want to help? What’s a symbolic quest that you’re working towards, that people will be excited about sharing and supporting? Pick a life’s work. One of mine is buying a castle to use as a creative space and writer’s retreat. It’s a big, long term goal, that gives my platform meaning. Whether or not I’m able to pull it off, it tells people something about me.
BONUS: say nice things about people.
This is an easy thing to do, especially with a blog or website. Find 10 artists or authors you like of a certain medium or genre. Say nice things about them. Review their work. Be flattering. Instead of a ho hum, “not bad” review, give them an amazing review or comment so flattering they just have to add to the top of their website and on all their marketing materials. Congrats, you’ve just earned peak visibility on someone else’s platform. And it was so easy, and all you did was support someone else!
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.