The #1 self-promotion RULE for the indie authors and artists (Finding your market)

The #1 self-promotion RULE for the indie authors and artists (Finding your market)

waiting-in-lineAre you a creative person trying to get people to pay more attention to your work? Do you hate promoting yourself, and arent’ sure how to begin marketing? The #1 rule here on Creativindie is: make something people want. The reason this rule is so important, is that most authors and artists blithely ignore it.

“Isn’t making what people want selling out? Isn’t art supposed to spring directly from your inspiration, be powered by the muse, be recognize for its inherent greatness?”

These are the myths that are keeping you poor, frustrated and unrecognized.

Lee Silber’s 2001 book “Self Promotion for the Creative Person: Get the word out about who you are and what you do” begins with the following rule to marketing:

#1. There must be a market.

Lee says:

It is naive to believe “If they 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). It can be a small market. As long as there are people who want what you are marketing, then you have a market.

Yes, this is blasphemy to most authors and artists – but that’s why the grand majority of artists and authors will fail. The myth of creativity working outside of consumer demand gave rise to the reality of the starving artist.

Of course, there are ways to find a market for your book, by tapping into topics, themes, geographical locations, cultural references… but you’re still putting the cart before the horse.

(***America’s next best great novel may need a tremendous amount of marketing and pushing before the general public accepts it, which is not likely to happen, so even a masterful, amazing book is likely to fail unless without hard promotion. I’m not saying don’t write an amazing book; just that it will take much more work, investment, and time to catch on, and there are easier ways to make money writing***).

The very simple and easy way to slash your marketing costs and efforts, is to do a little research first and make sure there are SOME people who may be interested in reading your book. Luckily, since nearly all authors and artists don’t even think about marketing until they’ve finished their project, figuring this out can still help you market your completed book or art, by discovering precise outlets brimming with target customers.

Who are your core customers?

Silber offers the following quiz, and this is marketing gold from a business perspective. If you only plan to market your book, or art, this may be overkill. But part of the process of Creativindie is to look for bigger opportunities, where your particular skillset can provide value that people need. So you’ve finished one thing – great. Nothing’s stopping you from making side-projects that are more tailored to a specific demand – something that fits a hot trend, is desperately needed, is funny or controversial.

Even something that isn’t “ART” but merely function, like custom office art or writing an article for a magazine. These side-opportunities can be powerful factors in marketing your main project, but you need to get creative (and by that I mean, you need to focus on providing something people want to buy).

  1. What makes me better? Different? Special? (and also, what makes your art or writing different and special)?
  2. Who is my target audience? Are they men or women?
  3. What general age are they?
  4. Where do they live? Hang out?
  5. What turns them on? Off?
  6. What do they do in their free time?
  7. Describe their tastes.
  8. Where are they located?
  9. How often do they need what I have to offer?
  10. What is an extension of existing sales?
  11. What type of websites do they go to?
  12. How do they like to pay for things?
  13. My best clients are?
  14. The best way to get their attention is?
  15. Where would they go to look for me?
  16. What other products and services would they be interested in?
  17. How are they like me?
  18. What are they passionate about?
  19. Why do they buy from me?
  20. What cares about what I do?

For more on the balance between “real art” and “using your skills to make money”, check out #8 of Hugh MacLeod’s “Ignore Everybody and 39 other keys to creativity”: THE SEX & CASH THEORY. Basically, the thing we want to do, the cool, awesome stuff, is the sex. But we also need to take on some more commercial stuff, to get the cash, which we don’t love as much, but it lets us have the time and freedom to choose to do the sexy stuff sometimes.


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