This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….” For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
NEWSLETTERS 101 #2: It’s Okay to Talk about Yourself!
Sharing may seem like bragging. But it isn’t, and here’s why…
(6 minute read)
In last week’s post, I shared some of the basics of creating an email newsletter about our art. In the articles ahead, we’ll explore them, and address our fears/doubts/am-I-doing-it-wrong moments.
One person shared their own fear: What if I sound like a narcissist?
This one was easy: If you’re worried about sounding like a narcissist, then you aren’t a narcissist. Because a true narcissists doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong! They truly believe they are better than everyone else in the world, and don’t understand why that bothers other people.
But I get that this might be a big concern for many of us, especially those who were subtly (or blatantly) encouraged not to be “too much” in our culture: Don’t brag. Don’t show off. Be quiet. Keep out of the spotlight. Be humble. Be all this, to the point of making ourselves so small, we can barely breathe.
I also believe this is why so many of us find doing our own art marketing so hard. We’ve incorporated those ancient beliefs that tooting our own horn is just not ‘nice’. We wish someone else would do it for us.
And so many artists end up not doing it at all.
Here’s the thing: There’s a difference between bragging, and self-confidence. And self-confidence is healthier than self-denigration!
Like any other skill in life, practice helps. Start with a short little newsletter to your audience. Pick one thing that’s going on with you in your artist life this month/week/day.
Let’s start with that ‘talking to a good friend’ analogy I mentioned in last week’s article.
Imagine you have a meet-up with a person you really like, and they really like you, and you haven’t seen them for a while, what would you talk about?
HOW would you talk?
Would it be a monologue? Would it only be about the stuff you’re proud of? Would your intention be to make yourself bigger than/better than your friend? Because bragging is a way to make other people feel less-than.
Or would you share your successes and breakthroughs in manageable “bites”, with gratitude for your good fortune, with joy for what you’ve accomplished, knowing they will be genuinely happy for your success?
If you were working on a new project, and it didn’t work out the way you intended, would you only complain about everything that went wrong? Whine about all the people who made it worse? Blame your shortcomings on others?
Or would you make it into a funny story that makes you both giggle? Or share how you worked through the hard parts and found a way through, knowing your friend would be happy you did?
Do you strive to present the “perfect life”, like a social media ‘influencer’, carefully editing out anything that would mar your dream world? (If so, you’d better treat your friend to their meal.)
Or would you go back and forth, sharing the ups and downs, checking in with them about what they’re up to, how their getting through, and sharing what’s worked for you that MIGHT work for them, too?
I’ve read some newsletters that truly brag, the sender actively applauding themselves, congratulating themselves on how amazing they are, how talented, how rich, etc.
Bragging implies that rewards, success, wealth, and influence are a finite ‘pie’. And if their share of the pie is huge, that means there’s less for everyone else.
But what if we simply acknowledging our gifts: The skills we’ve worked hard to acquire. The time we’ve carved out for ourselves, to make this work.
What if we let people have a peek into our life: Share our creative process. How we get our ideas? How we know when a piece is ‘done’? What if we thank the people who have supported our work by purchasing it?
That’s not ‘bragging’. That’s owning our own life, honoring our unique journey. Achieving what we’ve practiced and prepared for. Sharing our dreams and goals.
We get to do that.
We can share how we get ‘set back’, and how we found the courage to move forward again. It will encourage someone else to find their courageous heart, too.
We can tell how we got stuck somewhere in our latest project, and how we found our way through. It will let others know there are always things that get in the way, and help them not be discouraged, too.
We can write about something funny and charming that happened, and it will make someone else smile, too.
Acknowledging our gifts and being genuinely grateful for them is not evil. Self-confidence is not evil. There are ways to let people know that EVERYONE has a gift. This one just happens to be yours.
The pie is infinite. And if our slice is huge, that means there’s plenty for everyone else, too.
I love this paragraph from an article I found while checking my own assumptions about bragging vs. self-confidence today:
“That’s one reason many of us don’t like to show off. We live in a highly competitive world, and we don’t want someone else to feel badly just because we’re feeling good. But sometimes that concern stops us from sharing good things that our friends, families and colleagues would actually like to know. And of course, in the workplace, there’s a fine line between showing off and genuinely outlining accomplishments that can help you move forward professionally.”
(F. Diane Barth, L.C.S.W.)
“Don’t let that concern stop you from sharing good things….” Yep, there’s my entire column today in 20 words or less.
Granted, a newsletter can feel like a one-sided conversation. But it really isn’t. It’s a way of sharing aspects of our life that people wouldn’t otherwise see. Letting others in on that is courageous. Powerful. And good.
So once more, with feeling: Imagine someone who wants the best for you. Someone who loves you for who you are, and what you do. Someone who has found joy in your work, and wants to see/hear/learn MORE about what we’re up to.
Write them a letter.
Then sit back and let the magic of authentic connection, grow.
Next week, I’ll share some ideas of what to write about. In the meantime, if you’ve already found your ‘happy place’ with your newsletters, share some of your insights. Other people will be so grateful! If you’ve received a newsletter from someone else, and it spoke to you, share a) what it was that made you feel connected, and b) how it could work for YOU.
And last, if you enjoyed this article, and know someone else who might like it, too, feel free to pass it on. And if someone sent you this and you did like it, see more of my articles at FineArtViews.com, other art marketing topics at Fine Art Views art marketing newsletter, and my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com.
Luann Udell, artist/writer
“Ancient stories retold in modern artifacts:
Jewelry, sculpture, fiber works inspired by ancient art.”
Oops! Forgot to publish this last Tuesday. So now you’ll get TWO articles on writing email newsletters this week! Because tomorrow is my NEXT Fine Art Views post…..
NEWLETTERS 101: #1 Tips and Tricks to Help You Connect
(6 minute read)
Someone wrote back to me today, telling me how much they enjoyed my email newsletter. They said it gave them hope that they could make theirs better. Yippee! I love it when I can encourage people to take one step forward. I know it will lead to many more.
I’m not the perfect newsletter writer. But I’m happy to share more insights on what might work for YOU.
What’s my secret sauce?
- Be authentic. I write like I’m talking to a good friend. (You can now skip this entire article if you’re out of time, because that’s the heart of my advice.)
- Be positive. So, not the friend where I cuss and swear about something frustrating that happened to me at the supermarket. I stick with positive news. No politics. No complaining.
- Don’t be boring. And not like the letters we had to write for elementary school English class. (As in, “Hello, how are you? I am fine! Today I had a sandwich for lunch. What did YOU have for lunch?”) I share something I’m excited about, something interesting I’m working on.
- Don’t be pompous. If making people feel smaller works for you, okay, I guess. But I prefer reading about the people who make me feel like I have a voice in the world, too. (Again with the ‘friend’ thing…)
- Act like you care. I write as if I’m talking with someone I care about. Someone who hasn’t heard from me in a few weeks, someone who really likes me, and who loves my work.
- Share your news. Then I tell them what’s up. What I’ve done, what I’ll be doing, and oh, you might be interested in this thing I made/wrote. And I ask them to let me know what they think. (More on this in the weeks to come.)
- Think about what YOU like to hear in emails. I think about what I like when I get other people’s emails. So in the next few weeks, take note of what newsletters YOU get. What do you like about them? Which ones do you stop and read right away? Why?? What’s in them that makes you happy? Inspired? Thoughtful?
- Don’t make it all about the money. I consider the things I DON’T like to see in other people’s emails. Repetition. Always about sales. Acting like a TV commercial. Creating false urgency. (Even a call to action does not always have to be about buying something.)
- Remember that when people sign up for our newsletter, it means they WANT to know more. They want to know what makes us tick. How (and why) we do what we do. How we found our way forward, and how they can, too.
Otoh, I think about the people who put me on their email list without checking with me first. DON’T DO THIS!
- Be casual. Perhaps this advice is not ‘professional’. Perhaps people who are famous artists do it differently. After all, they may have a prestigious clientele, people who would willingly pay $25,000-$100,000 or more for their artwork.
But that’s not me. So I do it differently.
- We’re visual artists. Include pictures! This would be so much harder if we were musicians….
- Remember, all customers are fans, but not all fans are customers. I’m writing to people who may not be able to afford my work. And people who have collected my work for decades. And everyone in between. In my newsletter, everyone is worthy.
- Let people know who you are. The people I’m writing for are people I saw regularly back in New Hampshire, and people who may have never met me. People who come to every open studio, and people who have never been to my studio. Some of them are on the East Coast, some are on the West Coast, and some are in the middle. So we can’t even talk about the weather! But what they all have in common is wanting to know more about us, about our work, about our journey.
- There’s too often, and not enough. Too long, and too short. Etc. (You get to choose.)* Because I don’t want to inundate people with my writing, I used to limit my email newsletter to ‘events’, just like I did with my snail mail mailing list. Here’s my booth number at that fair, here are the dates of my open studio, etc.
I subscribe to quite a few blogs and artist newsletters myself. Some write every day. Some write once a week, and some write once a year. Some are so long, I never stop to read them. Some are so interesting, I drop whatever I’m doing to read them.
When I unsubscribe from a newsletter, it’s because a) I’m no longer interested in what they’re sharing with me; b) I’m not buying what they’re selling; c) I never signed up for their newsletter in the first place.
My point here is, there is no single right-or-wrong way to write a newsletter. Except, too boring, too repetitive, and waaaaaay too long. (I’m lookin’ at MYELF here…)
You might be disciplined enough to send one every week, or every month. Or you might be like me, skipping a month or two, then sending three in a week.
If people like what you’re saying, they won’t care. If they don’t, they’ll find any excuse to unsubscribe. And like people that say mean things to us, it’s more about them than it is about us.
- Email newsletters are soooo much easier/quicker/cheaper than snail mail mailings to stay in touch with our followers. Back then, it was expensive to mail thousands of people, even just a postcard. So I never sent a newsletter for any other reason.
Now, all I have to do is type, and add some good pictures, and hit ‘send’. Yay! I just saved $600!!
Last, here’s something I’ve learned this year:
- Newsletters level the playing field between extroverts and introverts. More on this to come!
*Now my caveat: There are people who offer different advice about newsletters. They have more expertise than I do, and perhaps even statistics to back them up. Please, feel free to skip my advice if/when it conflicts with theirs.
But if this appeals to you, stay tuned for more columns ahead, where I’ll share some ideas about things we can write about, and why newsletters can be a powerful tool for introverts.
Share your own stories in the comments! What newsletter did you create that got the best response from your audience, and what do you think was the reason why? Where do you get stuck when creating a newsletter? What’s your greatest fear? (Hint: Getting our work out into the world is a hero’s journey. Newsletters are much less strenuous!)
If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to pass it on to someone else. And if someone sent you this article, and you liked it, too, see more of my articles at FineArtViews.com, other art marketing topics at Fine Art Views art marketing newsletter, and my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com.