November 27, 2015

Tell People You Exist

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 23.23.24Market yourself. Market your art.

At a party recently I got chatting to someone, a friend of a friend. Someone I hadn’t seen for years — not a close friend, but someone from my home town. We politely updated each other on the mundane and boring stuff — what we are doing now-a-days, whereabouts we are living, how we are, if our partners are well etc. We then started talking about writing and art as we had a lot in common and soon we got onto the topic that a wine-fuelled bar often lands you on: our hopes and dreams.

Then, it quickly turned sour.

“Well, it’s been easy for you. No one reads my writing.”

First of all — it’s not easy for me. I always get people making the assumption that I flew in on a golden unicorn and landed myself with a blog, a book deal and unwavering confidence. Not true. It’s taken a LOT of writing and a LOT of time and I have lots to still work out. But anyway. That constant assumption is for another day and another blog post.

“Where is your writing? Where can I read it? ” I asked.

“Oh, it’s all sitting in my drawer at home.”

I thought it was a trick answer. Surely, surely this person is not complaining that his work hadn’t “succeeded” when it’s sat gathering dust in his bedside drawer?

“Who have you showed it to?” I asked.

“Oh — a few people.” He nervously sipped his drink.

My reaction was this: dude, no one knows you exist. You’re not getting out there.

My marketing brain going into overdrive: why he hadn’t yet shared any of his great ideas? I made a mental note of 10 quick ways we could share his idea for his book immediately. I mentally conjured up a highlighted spreadsheet, a database of contacts, Twitter lists, related events he could attend.

I could tell by his reaction that he wasn’t afraid of sharing his work, he was being snobby about social media. I get it — you’re an artist and social media can be tacky.

Here’s the thing: I can’t listen to people complain about people not discovering their work if they haven’t put it out there. It just doesn’t make sense. No one will ever stumble across you. That is not the world we live in. No one Googles you by accident and gives you a million pounds and a writing job.

There are no “gatekeepers” to sharing your work — especially in a world of social media sharing. You can share what you want, whenever you want. If your work is interesting enough, it will reach people. We have to take some responsibility for how much we bother marketing our art. We have to take some responsibility if people don’t respond very well to it either. If you keep on adamantly sharing your work — good and regular work — someone will notice. They just will. And it is the people who keep on sharing and believing in their own shit every day who realise the rewards.

“You can go straight to the market whenever you want. If you don’t get paid in cash for your art for a really long time, how much do you care? Are you prepared to do it for a really long time? Who are you going to blame? We all know musicians and writers and painters who blame the system for their obscurity. People who blame the system — they say I have three novels in this drawer and if only someone had published them. We just called your bluff — press one button, it’s published. You have to market yourself.” ~  Seth Godin

No Responses

  1. Rachel says:


    The words you write always make my day.

  2. Teri says:

    I just read this post + your post about how LIZ GILBERT invited you to lunch (!!!!!!!!!!!).
    I read “Big Magic” so slowly. Partially b/c I was savouring every word + b/c there were so many nuggets of wisdom that I had to pause every other sentence to take notes. I have a huge list of all the things I learned from that book, similar to your post listing what you learned from her book. When I saw your post, I was like “Well, I guess I might as well not write one” but thinking of that list “getting dusty” in my “bedside drawer” is just too sad a visual. So I guess I’ll get to work!

    I also had the EXTREME pleasure of speaking with one of my heroes, Nancy Vonk, via Skype last week. I definitely did NOT play it cool. I had her book, “Darling You Can’t Do Both and Other Noise to Ignore On Your Way Up” in hand, waving it about like I was a One Direction fan and she was Harry Styles. It’s an amazing feeling to get an opportunity like that.

    Thanks for sharing!

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