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.
BLOG YOUR BOOK
Blogs can help you reach an even bigger goal: Your book!*
(6 minute read)
In last week’s column, I shared how looking past the usual marks of modern success (money and fame) could encourage us to share our work more on social media.
One reader left a comment, admitting that one of their big goals with their art was to write a book, to share their sources of inspiration, their thoughts, a peek behind the curtain of what their art is all about.
Of course, writing a book is a huge project. (Ask me how I know! Ask me how a dear friend is struggling to write a book!)
I understood that the artist probably doesn’t expect to make a mint. They just want to get their story out there, to share their insights and experiences with others.
Here’s the thing:
A blog is like a mini-book. Or a mini-chapter in a big book.
And our email newsletters can be the same.
Even when a publisher pays us (as an advance) to write a book, and we devote all our efforts to it, it takes time. A lot of time. Time, effort, and work. Editing. Rewrites. It can take at least a year, even with the theme/set-up/expertise of an editor already in place. I know, because I actually wrote a book, the first mass market how-to book on carving rubber stamps. (Sooooooo much easier than carving linoleum block.) (Ask me how I know!) (Because I have the scars to prove it…..)
My next two books were self-published as ebooks on Amazon’s Kindle, here and here. I’ve got more in the ‘back room’, more topics that I hope to publish as on-demand paperbacks.
The first book was a book the publisher asked me to write. It covers one aspect of my artwork. And because of the strict format, there wasn’t much opportunity to express anything about my philosophy, and no opportunity to talk about the rest of my work.
I had complete creative control over my ebooks. There’s more ‘me’ in them, more insights into understanding the mechanics and dynamics of doing shows, and interacting with potential customers. I love that I have the privilege of being a ‘published author.’ But I love even more the books I published myself, that allowed me to have a bigger say in the world.
Here’s the astonishing thing:
My blog subscribers asked me to write those books. Some of them begged me to write them.
And they were comprised me of blog posts I’d already published.
I kept asking them, “But why do you want to buy my articles when you can read them for free?” They had their reasons, good ones, too!
It was still a lot of work putting them together. (I wish people designing templates for books and blogs were more user-friendly.)
I have not made a ton of money from those sales.
But when I get my sales report, and see that people from Canada, Europe, Australia, etc. bought one, I am gob-smacked, in a good way.
Blogs and email newsletters serve a similar purpose: They help our followers, our customers, our potential customers, up to date on where we are in life. Maybe we do that by focusing on our process and techniques. Maybe we alert them to new products (cards, calendars, prints, etc.) or new work. Maybe we share when and where our next event is.
In fact, I used to reserve my email newsletter for the latter, until I had an epiphany: People signing up for my newsletter wanted to know more about my world. Not just events (or why would people across the country sign up??) But also me, my art, my philosophy, my personal conundrums I worked through, and then shared.
My blog used to be bigger than my mailing list, and much less expensive. Now my email newsletter list is growing, slowly but steadily, and my blog subscription rate has stalled.
I decided to combine the two, to a certain extent. So far, my email list is still growing!
My point is, if you already have a blog, or want one, what you write there is sort of a book-in-progress. And if your email newsletters are about more than just what show you’ll be at next, those are articles. And they, too, can become a book-in-progress.
The artist who shared that dream did so in such a way that I am curious about her book, too! They wrote with passion, insight, and a big vision.
Sharing our passion, insights, and big vision is what art marketing is all about.
When we can’t connect personally with our audience, because of a pandemic, or because they live on the other side of the country, or the other side of the world from us, our newsletters/blog posts are what connects us.
And a book is a connection they may be willing to pay for. A way to have our presence in their life even when they aren’t connected to the internet. A way for our words to be gifted to someone else.
A way for even more people to find our artwork, and work of our heart.
I’m betting that someday, Instagram will recognize that, like Amazon, there might be self-publishing opportunities to offer its platform-users. How cool would that be, to have all our art pics available so easily?! This is ringing a bell for me, about a platform where this was possible, but I’m drawing a blank. If YOU know, please let me know?
If it’s easier for you to talk about your art/process/inspiration/etc., then consider recording those thoughts, perhaps with the microphone/dictation function on a smartphone’s keyboard, then editing and organizing them. (Because, you know, autocorrect is hilarious at times.)
So put those dreams of writing a book into micro-action. Copy-and-paste your newsletters into whatever document apps you use. You can organize them by topic (like I did for “Good Booths Gone Bad”) or experience (my work-in-progress is about lessons I learned as a hospice volunteer.) Visual artists have a leg-up. Images of our work can fill the pages!
If you go for email newsletters, know that FASO websites come with an excellent email newsletter system. I’m not techy, so it took some finagling. But again, excellent customer service helped me figure out what worked best for me.
Share not just your artwork, but who you are in the world, with the world.
*I started with the concept of blogging a book, but soon realized a) not everyone is comfortable blogging, especially starting out when low readership can be discouraging. (Ask me how I know!) And b) most people would be more inclined to write an email newsletter—which can fulfill a similar function. See? I’m still learning!
As always, if you enjoyed this article, let me or my editor know! If you’d like to read more, you can either read more of my articles on Fine Art Views or subscribe to my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com. You can visit my older articles in the wayback machine at Radio Userland. (They are harder to search for, but they are also shorter!)
If you think someone else would like it, please forward it to them. And if someone sent you this, and you liked it, ditto!