An Open Letter to Self-Published Creatives
Dear Artists, Authors and Inventors,
I am writing from my perspective as a member of the tarot community. However, I believe most communities function in pretty much the same way. If you are a self-published creative in any community, or want to be, please pay attention.
Twenty years ago, we called self-publishing “vanity press.” To pay to publish your own work was usually a waste of time and money. Technology changes everything. Today, self-publishing is a viable option for a wide range of creative people.
The success of your self-published project depends a great deal on your ability to market your project. To do that, you will need to reach out to members of a community. You will need to connect with other entrepreneurs who produce podcasts, webcasts, vlogs and blogs. You need interviews, and you need reviews.
We vloggers, bloggers and reviewers need you, too.
At a certain point, I realized I had gained some notoriety for my webcasts and reviews, because my inbox began filling up with introductions from creative people, essentially asking me to promote their work.
That’s not as bad as it sounds. I need interesting people to interview, and new products to review. Every professional community is symbiotic in that way. We have to work together. We can support each other, and lift each other up, or we can tear each other down.
When you approach members of a professional or hobbyist community to ask for support for your project, everyone’s experience will be better if you keep a few things in mind.
First, we are a community. Many of us have known each other for years, even though many of us have never met in person. If you send an impersonal cut-and-paste form letter to each of us, we will know. If you want to send an email blast to people you don’t know to announce your new project, just don’t.
If you want my time, take some time to build a relationship with me. You don’t have to buy me dinner or send me flowers. You do have to send me a personal email, not a copy-and-paste request. Understand the value of community, and of relationships. If I like your work, I will introduce you to my friends. That is how it has always worked IRL (in real life). That is how it works in cyberspace, too. We all want and deserve this basic human courtesy.
Here’s a true story. Recently, many of us received the same email request regarding a new project. My friends and peers smelled a spammy rat right away. My reaction was different. I was excited about the project and forgave the heavy-handed approach. Well, without any further contact, and without my request or permission, they added me to their official spam mailing list! I had no choice. I withdrew my support from a project that had really excited me. My friends had been right all along. Yum, yum, crow.
Ultimately, whether your bad internet manners are a result of naiveté or intentional spamming doesn’t matter. Your poor results will be the same. You see, we all have mailing lists, too. We are very careful to make sure we don’t spam people with our mailing lists. That you don’t show this same courtesy and restraint shows us we don’t want to work with you. Behavior matters.
Here’s another true story. I was doing weekly webcasts on a Livestream channel. Over the course of a week, I received two emails, each from people hoping to promote their self-published creation. One was very demanding about his requirements for the interview; even though he was the one requesting it! I expressed my enthusiasm for his project, and explained the constraints of my production schedule. The reply I received was abusive, beginning with the phrase, “You are an idiot.” To this day, I have heard nothing more about this project.
The other person who approached me was very polite in his initial email. When I responded by inviting him to be a guest on my show, he was appreciative. We had a wonderful interview. His project has become a successful reality, and he is now working on a follow-up project. This time I’ll reach out to him with a request for an interview.
Please don’t misread me. I am not saying that my webcast is a star-maker. I am saying that the attitude of the artist matters. To promote your work, you have to make the rounds. There are more shows looking for guests than you can imagine. Bring a good attitude, and you will be on every show and in every blog. Bring a bad attitude and very few of us will want to talk with you.
In any community, there can be a few talented people with difficult personalities. Most people are forgiving enough to appreciate talent and excuse a few social faux pas, thank goodness. However, for most of us, there is a saturation point. If you irritate enough people, you will have a hard time finding any peers who are interested in your work, no matter how good you work might be. This isn’t usually an organized community-wide blacklist, it’s just something that happens. What you learned on the elementary school playground remains true to this day. If you don’t play nicely, no one will want to play with you.
The ability to interact with creative people is one of the great perquisites of my job. Like many of my friends and peers, I will gladly review your project and promote your Kickstarter. We are all in this together. I can support a friend. I can support a community member. I can support great art. I can’t support an egomaniac, or a spammer. I can’t support an entrepreneur who doesn’t take the time to learn basic internet courtesy. I think you will find many of us feel the same way.