Social Media for Authors (Expanded Literature)

Authors today, whether self-published or blessed with a traditional book contract, must do at least some marketing on their own (or hire someone to do it for them). If they want a book to achieve even moderate success, they should be prepared to dip a few toes or more in the muck of commerce, beyond the pristine realm of conferences and readings.

Nonfiction writers have traditionally been more comfortable with marketing, so for them the trend toward heightened self-promotion may just represent more of the same. Fiction writers, though, especially those inhabiting the rarified kingdom of literary fiction, are another breed—one inclined to view marketing as vulgar and mercenary. To many in this tribe, self-promotion is a contaminant that poses a threat to their art, even literature itself. (See anything Jonathan Franzen has ever said on the topic for an example of this attitude.) While in principle this may be true, in practice it is potentially fatal—to the lives of their books.

This poses a dilemma: if self-promotion is a sellout/distraction, yet rejecting it precludes a wider readership or a readership period (and a writer without readers is barely alive), what is the true artist to do?

Parallel Content Delivery/Ongoing Marketing Vehicles

One approach is to fashion a strategy that conflates art and commerce, by creating content/marketing vehicles that both supplement and promote the book. This strategy is expanded literature (EL). EL can incorporate the full range of social media, including Twitter, a blog, photography (via Flickr, Facebook, etc.), YouTube—anything.

EL annotates and expands the book; and functions, in part, as a repository for the wealth of texture/background—including history, reportage, topical parallels, etc.—that cannot all fit between the covers. EL helps to make the book come alive. Also, EL gives it constant visibility, thus making the book (and its wider subject) perpetually fresh.

With an EL strategy that is smart and well-maintained (this is key), the full potential of these platforms—especially the “social” dimension—will be realized through the convergence of content, promotion, and audience interaction.

Expanded literature (EL): content/marketing vehicles that supplement & promote the book

A New Paradigm: The Convergence of Literature & Social Media (Plus Merchandising)

EL represents a new paradigm—the convergence of literature and social media. Though the book is the central element and stands on its own, the concept lends itself to a multifaceted presence. It allows/inspires ample opportunities for new platforms, new content sources, and additional streams of revenue.

Even merchandising can be incorporated, in a seamless, cost-free way, via one of the produce-on-demand sites that make customizing a multitude of items (clothing, accessories, home and office products, etc.) surprisingly simple.

A three-headed entity . . . mutant spawn of literature & technology, art & commerce

It is a truism that authors today must “get their hands dirty” with marketing like never before. The economic factors and (techno)logic behind this reality are indisputable, and quite well documented. (See every single blog and Twitter feed emanating from the legions of publishing professionals.)

Expanded literature can make this truism real, in a way that allows authors to promote their work without sacrificing integrity or vitality (though Franzen might still disapprove), and maybe gain a lot more readers in the process.

If you’re an author, agent, or other publishing professional and would like to learn more about how expanded literature/strategic communications can help you or someone you work with, contact me at ajeisenstat[at]gmail[dot]com, or visit my portfolio and LinkedIn profile.


How I Work with Artists

Most visual artists can talk freely and fluidly about their work: technique and materials, underlying concepts, influences, etc. But when asked to put these ideas into writing, they often find themselves at a loss for words; or more often, overwhelmed by too many words—gushing forth from the wellspring of information/experience that collects naturally through their immersion in the creative process.
The artist is intimate with every single aspect of his/her work, which can make it difficult to focus on its most significant elements—especially when attempting to explain their art in black and white. This should come as no surprise: visual artists are generally not writers, and writing per se, which relies on a different mental palette—another side of the brain, no less—may be relatively alien to them.
An Outside Perspective is Essential
Every artist can benefit from an outside perspective on his/her work—carefully considered and directed toward a specific end. Clarity, brevity, and focus are qualities an objective voice can bring to basic marketing communications, such as an artist statement.
Separating the promotional voice from the artistic vision makes a lot of sense—like a frame that separates a painting from the outside world; facilitating the conditions that allow the art to “speak for itself.”
My Methodology: Here’s How I Work
Artist statements are my specialty—tailored to each individual artist and his/her work. Here is how I create an artist statement (~ 500 words):
  • I thoroughly examine the artist’s work, notes, ideas, etc.—with the aid of a general questionnaire I send beforehand;
  • I revise the questionnaire based on our combined notes, creating a customized questionnaire for our . . .
  • Phone interview (one hour max). Invariably we uncover truths about their art they had never imagined (everyone seems to love this part of the process);
  • I write the statement, and edit it based on the artist’s feedback.

For more posts on art promotion, and for links to samples of my work, go to the Writing for Artists tab.


Outstanding Art Requires Marketing that Stands Out

The following post is from an e-mail message (lightly edited) that I sent to a recent client who had asked me the following: “Do you know of any ‘preferred’ ways to approach a gallery? My plan is to finalize the Website, then create a brochure/postcard about my work and send it out to selected galleries to drive them to the site for more info. Does this sound like a good plan for exposure?"

I would not claim to be an expert in “art world” promotion tactics; there are subtleties and intricacies in said world about which I’m just not that knowledgeable. (I know enough to know that I don’t know much.) Fixing your site and doing a postcard are key, but how exactly to approach galleries I can’t say for sure. Consider the following rules of thumb, though, which might apply to ANY realm to which you/I/anyone might be seeking access.

Do your research; find a handful of galleries that you believe would be receptive to your work—based on previous work shown, stated philosophy (if any), word of mouth, and whatever information you can glean. Then target those galleries through some combination of stealth, accepted practice, and, if possible, audacity (though you probably don’t want to do anything too wacky or brash). Tailor your approach to each gallery, even if only slightly; make sure that each one you contact knows you’re aware of what it shows (i.e., the art they like), and DO NOT even hint that it (the gallery) is part of some mass mailing.

A generic, “broadcast” approach will never be a substitute for diligent research and networking/personal contact. I realize that this in itself is fairly generic advice, but it’s still true. It’s EASY to send out a mass of promotional fodder and think you’ve made a good faith effort to promote yourself (come what may); it’s HARD to really find out where your work might have the best chance.

There are no silver bullets; there are no one-size-fits-all answers or approaches. Before you do anything, though: make sure that your art and your materials (Website/postcard/etc.) are the best they can be; ALWAYS try to make whatever you do—art/promotion/anything associated with your creative life—stand out. First take care of what you have the most control over (ESPECIALLY your art), and the rest might be easier than you imagine.

For more posts on art promotion, and for links to samples of my work, go to the Writing for Artists tab


Zen Marketing: Passive Dimensions of Creating Positive Impressions

Do something amazing, requiring a ridiculous amount of time and devotion. Then make no effort to promote it. Later, do the same thing again. It’s an exercise in discipline, craft, and generosity; and an investment—however elusive or indirect—in future returns.

Cultivate a reflexive hesitation to grandstand, employing your reserves of humility, personal experience, and understanding that “pride goeth before the fall.” (This is not the same thing as  reluctance to promote yourself, but rather a way to infuse your promotion with subtlety and grace.)

Never show your ego to the client; your own self-worth and confidence should be taken for granted. Hone your ability to inflate your accomplishments to oversize proportions, but practice the technique of holding back and deploy hype surgically. Be like the quiet karate master—capable of overkill and supremely confident, thus exuding strength and avoiding conflict altogether. 

Creating a buzz is essentially a metaphysical idea. (Has anyone ever seen or actually felt this “buzz?”) Yet the process comprises distinct, concrete steps.  Make all of these steps meaningful and organic—that is, integrated with previous and pending steps—so that they reflect both the object of the buzz and your life’s work as a whole. 

Everything you do—even random, seemingly meaningless gestures and actions—influences your future, in ways both obvious and unexpected. Pursue each opportunity or exchange mindful that it may lead to more significant ones. 

To learn more about writing and strategic communications that can amplify your distinction, contact me at ajeisenstat[at]gmail[dot]com, or visit my portfolio and LinkedIn profile.


To the Artist in Search of a Marketing Strategy (Part 1)

A Fundamental Truth: personal feelings can never truly be shared or adequately communicated—no one knows how/what you felt when you were working on a piece. If you try to tell them, rhapsodizing about your passion, the transcendence that enveloped you in the throes of creation, they’ll simply interpret those feelings through the prism of their own experience. The creator’s feelings are one thing, the audience’s feelings another—the twain shall never meet. The best you can hope for—and it’s definitely something—is to provide a space for others to intensify/explore their own thoughts and feelings.

Be allusive, use telegraphic language; suggest rather than explain or expound—it’s more alluring. And while you’re at it, banish forever the words “journey” and “therapy.” These are clichés, and worse, indicators of self-absorption. Using too many words like that, or just a few in the wrong place, may prompt the viewer to see your art as clichéd and self-absorbed—even if it’s truly amazing. (That’s why bad promotion is a scourge: it distorts the audience’s perception.)

The details of your life/struggle are not inherently interesting. Really, who cares? What is your “journey” compared to those of Picasso, Da Vinci et al.? Not much. However, the relationship of your work to the history of art is something else—that’s big. Your work is part of the same vast dialogue/continuum as the titans of art (more or less, per its originality/vigor/etc. and recognition).

Mute the personal, accentuate the universal (“I am but a vehicle . . .”). Survival is dreary, art is significant. Communicate the latter truth to the audience through your promotion, so that they may appreciate your work in a larger context.

Promotion is a frame through which artwork is seen. It is a guideline, a means of orienting the viewer. It should be completely unobtrusive; never showy or superfluous.

Click label below (Marketing Strategy for Artists) for Parts 1-3. Click Arts promotion for all posts on this topic.

To learn more about writing and strategic communications that can amplify your voice, contact me at ajeisenstat[at]gmail[dot]com, or visit my portfolio and LinkedIn profile.


Good Writing Is Good Marketing

Good writing is good marketing. Good writing is not interchangeable with bad or adequate writing. There’s a real difference, not only in the writing per se, but in its effect.

Some people think that the product or service they sell really speaks for itself. They look at copywriting, social media, and other communications as something they need just to fill a space or satisfy some marketing convention (like producing a brochure because everyone else has one). When seeking a writer, their sole criterion is price.

This attitude ensures that they’ll have a harder time standing out from their competitors. Assuming they have the absolute best product in the field, if they cannot communicate this fact convincingly, their superiority may not translate into higher sales/business success.

It’s also a mistake to think that effective SEO writing is equivalent to good writing. Improved search ranking and site traffic is just an opening; you also need to close. Good SEO writing that cannot make a persuasive case for your product or service is ultimately not good writing. It’s a well paved road that leads to a derelict shack.

What about “content” and social media marketing? The writing in these areas cannot come across as overt marketing. In blogs, Twitter, and other vehicles, you have to actually add value (not just appear to), by providing services/information that complement what you sell.

As marketing gets more subtle, more sophisticated, more UBIQUITOUS, consumers or “targets” get more sophisticated, too. People are more wary than ever of being marketing to. That’s why the content you provide, even if it has an ulterior motive, must contain some kernel of meaningfulness.

Good writing is more than just words on a page or screen. Good writing is a vehicle for ideas, which takes it beyond the space it fills and creates another dimension. This is no abstraction, especially in marketing, where words must drive action and produce concrete results. A typical copywriter will likely produce typical results, while a writer with genuine passion can make his excitement for a subject contagious . . . In order to make your products/services speak for themselves, you need a writer who can give voice to them.

To learn more about writing and strategic communications that can amplify your voice, contact me at ajeisenstat[at]gmail[dot]com, or visit my portfolio and LinkedIn profile.


To the Artist in Search of a Marketing Strategy (Part 2)

Artists may be fundamentally unsuited to write their own promotional materials. They're simply too close to the work and know too much about it. Excess knowledge, and with it the inability to distill the work’s essence and fit it into a marketing vehicle, may be the biggest downside to the whole “lack of objectivity” issue.

Artists who write their own marketing materials—even those who write well—often abandon the best qualities of their work, like brevity, rigor, and alluring ambiguity. They gush about the many influences and inspirations that figure into their work. They expound and explain when really they should tease and allude.

If you agree with the following premise, then it means the assertion above is on target: If I know little or nothing about how a piece of art was made, who made it or why, then I can make that artwork mean anything I want it to mean.

When the artist allows people to define her art themselves, the work can function or signify in ways that she never imagined, and thus expand beyond its origins/intent.

Faulkner said "Kill your darlings." That is, jettison those attachments that clutter your work. Fixations can be huge impediments in art. That goes doubly in marketing . . . When it comes to promoting art (if not everything), less is more.

Click label below (Marketing Strategy for Artists) for Parts 1-3. Click Arts promotion for all posts on this topic.

To learn more about writing and strategic communications that can amplify your voice, contact me at ajeisenstat[at]gmail[dot]com, or visit my portfolio and LinkedIn profile.