The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.
Whether it be our art or business, so many of us have trouble promoting ourselves. It feels like bragging, narcissism, or selling out. And it can be, if it is done arrogantly or in bad faith. But it is essential if we truly want to share what we have to offer with the world. Others can’t benefit from it if they don’t know it exists.
For example, look at how the Beatles captured America’s attention, as written by Stanley Booth in his biography of the Rolling Stones*:
Two of the Beatles’ records had been released in the United States a year earlier to scant response. Capital Records, who distributed the Beatles’ records in the U.S. spent fifty thousand dollars for what they called a “crash publicity program.” They plastered five million THE BEATLES ARE COMING stickers on telephone poles, washroom walls, and other appropriate places around the country. They tried to get a copy of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to every disc jockey in the country. They made a four-page newspaper about the Beatles and sent out a million copies.
And what happened? The Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan show was seen by seventy-three million people. Does this self-promotion diminish the artistic value of Yesterday or Hey Jude? Does it tarnish the Beatles integrity? Of course not. Their genius touched the lives of millions. But to do that, people had to know they existed.
But how do we self-promote successfully and with integrity? To answer that, I’m going to highlight key points from Austin Kleon’s exceptional book on the topic, Show Your Work.**
- Get comfortable with sharing your work. “We all have the opportunity to use our voices, to have our say, but so many of us are wasting it,” Austin writes. “If you want people to know about what you do and the things you care about, you have to share.”
- Don’t be afraid to show the process. Show the struggles, the failures, the mistakes, the growth—as well as the end product. It shows you are human. It lends heft and understanding to what you have created and people value that.
- Don’t worry about making what you share perfect. Just make it worth the audience’s time. Thank about not just what interest you, but what would interest your audience. Avoid navel gazing and mental noodling. Speak in plain language. Value your audience’s time. Be brief. Make it the best you can and then put it out there.
- Don’t let the sharing of your work take precedence over doing the actual work. If you are spending all your time posting on Facebook about your writing instead of writing, you are poster not a writer. Keep your priorities straight.
- Know that your work doesn’t speak for itself. “The stories you tell about the work you do have a huge effect on how people feel and what they understand about your work affects how they value it, ” Austin writes. As I in The Abundant Bohemian, Sculptor Shon Walters had to learn this lesson. “I used to think as long as you made the art and you knew it was good, everything would be okay, and when in doubt just keep making the work,” he told me. “But I learned how much networking and promoting your work matters. My sales increased dramatically once I made the leap from ‘I’m going to make that work as good as I can and I don’t need to talk about it’ to sharing the stories of the work with people.” He writes narratives describing the life of his sculptures and the work that went into creating it. “These stories get into people’s heads and hearts and they have a better appreciation for the work.”
- Don’t be human spam. Human Spammers are people who don’t want to want to listen to your ideas; they want to tell you theirs. If you want fans, you have to be a fan first. If you want to be accepted by a community, you have to be a good citizen of that community. If you want to be noticed, you have to notice. Support others that you believe in. Encourage them. Promote their businesses, art, writing, spiritual journey or whatever passion they are pursuing. It is important to give in order to receive.
I’ve struggled with self-promotion myself, but I wrote my book and write on my blog because I believe what I share has value and I hope you do, too. And if you do, then you can help by following the blog, posting comments, liking my Facebook page, or writing a review of the book on Amazon. And if you don’t want to, that’s okay, too. Thanks for reading.
My book, The Abundant Bohemian: How To Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving In the Process is out now. You can find it at http://www.amazon.com/Abundant-Bohemian-Joseph-Downing/dp/1633370135/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1419609806&sr=1-1&keywords=the+abundant+bohemian
*Show Your Work by Austin Kleon can be found here:
**The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones can be found here: