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Where art comes from…
During this winter season as I went to trade shows, bazaars, and arts and crafts sales I was asked several times where my art comes from, where my ideas and inspiration came from. A question I couldn’t answer as easily as I would have liked, simply because I never thought about it.
No matter if it is writing, design or photography or any other form of art, it’s origin is unique to the person. At least that’s what I believe. Every person sees the same thing a little differently or even different. I look at a sunset and it’s beauty, the burning sky, the play of shadow and dimming light, takes my breath away. So… where does art come from?
Over the last few months I thought a lot about that and not just when asked and in the peril of trying to explain it. Where do my stories come from? Where do patters, pictures and designs come from? Why do I take a picture of the things I photograph?
I think the answer is the soul. Something deep inside us that simply needs to be expressed. A deep need to share that passion, emotion, or beauty only I can see and express the way I see it. Does this make sense to anyone but me? Maybe… maybe not.
When I write a book, it gives me the chance to not only tell a story but to shape the world in a way I want it to be, or create one I would like to be at. To bring characters to life I would like to meet or to fight. I can express my political, ethnical, and religious views, without making it obvious or offending. Most of all I can give it the happy ending we all deserve but rarely get in reality. Quite frankly, when writing, I can play god to my own little universe and have no competition.
It’s similar with art. I can express with colors, photoshopping, drawing and forming lines into shapes how I feel about a topic or in general. I can create something beautiful from nothing and share it with others. I can (within the rights of copyright) take something and reshape it, give something already existing a new meaning. With every art piece that springs into existence through the use of my hands and mind, I give birth to something new and unique.
I think, art comes from deep within us and reflects who we are, how we feel and think and what we dream about. Art is freedom, creation and expression.
We all know what commercials are, and what their intent result is. No matter how you call it, an add, commercial, book trailer or anything else, the result it is supposed to have is always the same. An increase in sales. Now, as with everything else, there is a science behind commercials which is based on human psychology/behavior pattern. Most of this I only learned myself recently as I tried my hand on my first commercial. Which by the way I pretty much half-assed and never thought through in the first place.
Now, here are some things that are working according to studies.
Commercials should be short, about 30 seconds long and moving, (no static pictures that just stand there like a poster)
They should not present a load of articles but only one to three.
Interactive… this means whatever you present you should present in a way that speaks to your audience and praises the product you have to offer. Talk to the watcher so to speak.
Music should reflect the emotion you want the watcher to feel.
These are some pointers that I was given not so long ago and then researched to learn a little bit more about them. However, I have always been someone going against the grain, making up my own mind and most of all judging things rather by observation then statistics. The thing with statistics is that they are compiled using a broad range of people. When 80 out of a 100 react the same way, it is considered working that way and only that way. But, what if I want to reach those 20 that weren’t affected? How do I know it’s those 20 I want to reach?
You don’t. Chances are you will never find out if you are trying to reach those 20 or those 80 with your products, and you don’t have to. Use common sense rather then statistics and most of all observe others during commercials, talk to people about it and make up your own mind then add whatever is useful from statistics.
How do you react to commercials, and what do they do for you?
Me—I ignore TV commercials almost completely. Sometimes there is one I look up at because of a good song, cute animals, or funny animations. However, they never made me want to buy anything, not even as a kid. And since we have a PVR I often skip them unless I need to use the bathroom, need a drink or some food.
By the way, watching others and talking to them I learned that many of them react to TV commercials the same way I do. Totally and utterly bored and unimpressed.
Online commercials, like on Facebook, on the other hand can in some cases hold my interest. Some of them show me new and innovative products from health care, or new technologies. Some will present me with new kitchen tools and others inform me about science in general, new computer software for designers or the next best way to publish my next book. By reading this you should already realize why I am more inclined to watch those commercials rather then the ones on TV. Because an algorithm handpicks them according to my interests.
It’s all about TARGET AUDIENCE.
No matter if you are a writer, designer, artists or business of any other kind knowing your target audience is key. Easy. Right?
Well yes, and no. I guess it depends on what you are doing. A romance writer has romance readers as target, a carpenter someone who needs furniture or a house. A designer needs someone who needs a design. And an artist needs someone who likes to look at pretty pictures.
Sadly, it’s not that easy and I don’t have a recipe or road map to success. Believe me if I had I would be sitting in Bora Bora and not in front of my computer with a view of a winter vista. Still, I do have some tips and theories and sometimes it seems they even work.
First of all, even as it sounded like you should disregard the science behind commercials, don’t. Pick and choose with common sense. For example, most people have a short attention span, so keep the advice of keeping it short. People want to be entertained, so keep the pictures moving, don’t have just a poster, and call it a commercial.
If you have the budget hire a company specialized in promotion and your area. However, I know that few do have that kind of budget, neither do I.
Meaning we are on our own, from start to finish. So, what is step one.
Step one is accepting that promoting your work, business or product is going to be hard, time consuming and headache creating. If you think it helps bang your head a couple of times against the door frame in advance.
First you determine WHO is your target audience and narrow it down. I’m going to use my own business as example.
Business = Nicole Kiefer Design
Brought spectrum target = art lovers, people who need an individual and unique design for private or business, Stores that might sell my art on shirts and other merchandise.
Now, this first target audience is for your whole business. You can create a commercial that simply promotes your business, (business name, contact ways, goals) and no specific articles. If you’re not shy make a video of yourself introducing your business and yourself. Keep it short, point out what you can do, and what your goals are.
Second tiered/ more specific targeting = T-Shirts with: aliens, fantasy, pattern, nature, animals, fun phrases, comic, humor, love, sexy, sarcastic, and so on.
This is still a brought target group. Here you can make a commercial pointing out that you do T-shirt design, showing the genres you specialize in, and one or two examples. Make sure all text and pictures are sharp and clear in any resolution. Again, if you can do a video shoot of sort use it, if not use something like PowerPoint or similar program.
Third tiered/get down to product = T-shirts with aliens, targeting sci-fi lovers, believers in aliens and such.
Here is the true hard work, deciding which designs you want to use to represent this category. To me that’s the hardest part because I like them all, after all, I designed them. If you have sold any of your artwork already use those you sold, or if you had some that won competitions, prizes, and awards use those. If not, listen to your guts and hope for the best. If it doesn’t work do it again with different designs.
If you can afford to buy some shirts, do so and ask friends, family, or the guy at the bar (but be careful) to model them for you. Take pictures and assemble them into an animated slide show with some fun copyright free music. (Copyright free music can be found and downloaded on YouTube)
If that isn’t an option try creating 3D models with DAZ or Poser if you have either of those, then dress them in your designs. I only started using those myself and know it’s not easy so don’t get frustrated when the first results don’t look so great. It takes practice. If you don’t have those programs or can’t manage to create what you need go to public domain photo sites like pixerby and download a model you like, then dress that one.
I know I said earlier that you should follow rules like playtime, keeping it short, and that’s still the case. However, animation takes time and if it happens to fast it get’s annoying to watch. If everything just flashes by I personally tune it out. If text vanishes too quickly I tune it out. Stay under one minute if you can. Present only a few examples of one category and choose music that reflects the mood you want to create, matching your designs. (Meaning if you want to sell a Valentine’s design don’t play death metal music.)
When you put your commercial/slide show together show it to friends, family, or the guy at the bar if you liked him. Ask them how they liked it, if they could read all the text you had in, if they liked the music or if they think you looked good in that shirt. Then make changes as needed or don’t depending on the outcome. If you don’t have anyone to ask, well, you can always hope and pray. Or you can present your commercial to groups and friends on Facebook, MySpace and such to help you find out what is liked and what’s not.
When you think, you’re done put your commercial on YouTube, your website, blog, send it by email to your friends, family and customers and promote it on Twitter and Facebook. Zazzle for example has an area where you can link and promote them. So, do many others, including Amazon for authors on their author page.
It doesn’t matter what business you are in; the basics are always the same. Know your product, determine your target audience, and narrow it down, then make short promotional videos, slide shows or recordings of yourself. Distribute that commercial as far and wide as you can. Don’t be generic, be your extraordinary self, be unique while sticking to some of the science behind promotion.
But most of all, don’t give up just because it didn’t work the first time. Go back to the drawing board, do some research into your genre of business and try again. I don’t believe that there is a single working road map to success, or that only one way works. What I do know is, you’ll never succeed if you give up. Keep on trying, experimenting, and retrying. Don’t give into frustration, don’t despair over a sale missed or not made. Celebrate each sale no matter for what amount of money, every sale is a success, even if it is a small one. Keep on going, be stubborn, be determined and keep on learning. Most of all, try to have fun while never giving up or giving in.
Here are two of my recently designed commercials on YouTube. They are still not perfect but better than my first, second or third.
Good Luck and have fun.
When I was in my teens, I loved going into museums, fascinated by the art exhibited there. Once when I was sixteen our class took a several day’s long trip to Dresden (Germany) and there we visited the Gallery of the Old Masters. I was awed as we walked along the rows and rows of paintings and sculptures. More so because I knew I would never be able to do anything alike. Truly, give me a pencil and paper and the best you get is a squiggly line or some stick figure. To me the connection from my head, where beautiful pictures house, to my hand, is screwed up.
The one thing I believe about art is, that it is inside of you, like a force that motivates and drives you. That no matter what path you choose in your life, the need to create will find a way to be expressed, to show that passion, drive and need that’s inside an artist.
I know this sounds feministic and condescending, but I think women in general will understand my meaning better when I say women know how it feels to create something from nothing. Creation is in a woman’s genes. Yes, it’s not exactly the same, but just like with a child that was created inside our body, the art someone creates is loved once it is finished and ready to be shown to the world. And just like a child, someone else might not like it, find it too squishy, ugly, or too loud. The difference is you would never tell those things to a mother, but you most likely will to an artist.
Child birth has a time limit for it’s creation, art however has not. Some people will discover their artistic outlet in a young age, like Mozart did. Others might be well into their 70s or 80s when they do, or realize that they have done art in one form or another for years.
In a way, I was always creative. As a little kid, I loved to spin tales to get out of trouble. Yes, it’s called lying, but I prefer to think of it as story telling. When my mother opened a small, home based print business I fell in love with Corel Draw and it’s clip arts, brushes and all the little gizmos. When I got my first camera I was fascinated by taking pictures, but not very good at it and it quickly got expensive. That was before digital cameras were on the market. Then later in life when I was in my twenties I began to write, despite my dyslexia. I think it was kind of a rebellious way of expressing myself, but at the same time I found joy and comfort in it, happiness even. I even did my own cover designs. Yet, I never thought of myself as an artist of any kind. I considered myself a writer and designer, but not an artist. Art is what you find in museums and galleries. Right?
Wrong! Art is everywhere and in every act of creation. When I was a cook I was an artist in the way of creating recipes, and using them to feed people. As a writer, I create worlds with words, bring joy, laughter, and pain to my readers. As a designer, I bring the ideas and concepts of others to life. As a photographer, I capture the beauty that nature paints. And I have gotten better in that department as well. In any case, art in general is filled with variations and ways of expression, of creating something. That has always been the way of art. What has changed over the centuries is how we distribute and access it.
As I said in the beginning I got my first real impression of the magnitude of art when going to the gallery of the Old Masters. Sure, I was replicas of famous art on someone’s wall, in shelves, and some people that had enough money even had originals. However, for a long-time art as in paintings, photographs and drawings, was often expensive and if you wanted something special and original, hard to find.
Today with modern technology, internet, and public domain picture collection (regard the copyright) art has not only reached a new level of opportunity, but has become easier to access and distribute. Where twenty years ago, you would have gone from one gallery to another to maybe get one piece of art exhibited, you now upload it to an art portal, or print on demand service and sell it directly. Mind you, I only discovered recently, as in two or three years ago, and it’s an ongoing process, how to utilize my artistic talents.
When my Fibromyalgia forced me to stop working as a cook, my dyslexia prevented me from taking an office job and my anxiety blocked me from doing something in customer service, I took to writing once more. First to give me something to do, then to share my stories and finally to make money with it without investing a fortune. That brought me to book cover design and from there it was a small step to creating something new and different all together.
Only when I started with digital art I wasn’t sure what to do with the finished picture/design. Remember the art gallery and museum. Most artist I think dream of at one time being exhibited in a museum. However, in my experience it’s most often the dead that get there and I don’t intent on joining their ranks any time soon. So, I no longer care about museums.
And art galleries are kind of a one-time deal. You put one picture, painting, or photograph up for sale and that’s it. Once it’s gone only one person has it. Yet I wanted to share my creations with many, and sell it more than once. It’s the business woman in me that wants to make money repeatedly.
That’s how I found Art to Wear. Yep, finally I’m coming to the point.
At first, I stumbled over Zazzle, which is a nice enough portal for distributing art, don’t get me wrong it has its benefits. However, it lacks in the graphic T department. Graphic tees are a wonderful way to share and sell art. For which I can recommend Redbubble, they have a great selection on graphic tees and a super easy platform to upload and present your work.
I guess art to wear is a very limited description, it’s more like, Art to put on everything that can be printed on. From normal shirts and graphic tees to lap top skin, mugs, and notebooks. Hell, even duvet covers and fleece blankets. Where thirty years ago, (god I’m getting old) I would have sworn to you that I’ll never be able to create anything artistic, I now offer my art on several portals for you to buy. The best is, thanks to modern technology the things I create are actually worth looking at. Sure, I still don’t use a pencil and paper, but who the hell cares? I now do anything from greeting cards you won’t find in a store, to duvet covers I would have loved to have growing up or even now. Anyone who ever wanted a piece of art on their wall, or body, can with the click of a button and a credit card.
Peachy was originally created for a crowd-sourcing competition, with a totally different context. The little guy didn’t have a face, arms, or legs at that point, just his funny hair and a tie. Still, when I looked at it I smiled and fell in love with the little feller. Once the competition was finished and lost I stared at the little guy and didn’t want to let him go.
I assume all of you know the phrase “everything is peachy”, even if it is an older saying. That phrase simply didn’t want to go out of my head. So, I did the worst thing imaginable… I started to think.
Peaches, they are soft, fruity and juicy with a thick skin and hard, strong, unwavering core. They are full of vitamins and when you look at them they have rosy cheeks like a healthy person should have. Peaches represent health, and strong, withstanding characteristics.
With those thoughts in mind, my little peach became a meaning, a soul so to speak. Then it became arms, legs, pants, and expressions. Most importantly it became a mission.
Peachy the happy peach is born and destined to spread happiness, give strength, support and let you know you matter. Peachy is immortal (no age), ASO (All Sexual Orientations or none), All or no religions, disabled or healthy, to save some time and put it simple, Peachy is everything he needs to be, filled with nothing but love and acceptance. He will stand beside and behind you, support you and hold on to you. Peachy stands for all things that are good and never discriminates. With him, everything is peachy….
In previous parts we talked about promotion options that are easily done and something anyone should be able to do. Now, these ideas are a little more complicated and not for everyone unless they want to hire someone to do them. These tips and ideas are for the graphically able.
Creating a fan base for your brand (you the author) and/or your product (the books) is a very important part of business. And it doesn’t really matter if you have only standalone books or a series.
Now, as much as I am against stealing or copying others, in this case it’s different. Look at what big publishing companies are doing, or movie companies, comic books and so on. Have you ever wondered why they use pictures, posters, or TV ads to promote? Why even the promotion letters you get in the mail, or promo postcards are colorful and filled with pictures?
Because the human mind works on a very visual basis. A smile will convey happiness, a stern look concern. From the day we open our eyes for the first time, images, colors and expressions bombard our brain and get connected to emotions, sounds and become part of our decision making.
What do the big guys do to make a use of that? Well, first of all of course the cover of your book. We say don’t judge a book by its cover, but in fact the cover is what makes people look and notice the book. It gives them the first glimpse of what might be hidden inside.
If you are graphically able you can design the cover yourself but get feedback through Facebook or Google+ groups. Or hire a cover designer.
You might wonder by now why I’m talking about book covers when this is about promotions, because your book cover can become a strong promotion part, in form of a poster. When you design a book cover, keep the background picture without the texts as a separate file. If you have one designed ask the designer for a copy of the picture.
You can use those picture and offer them on your website for free as poster or desktop background for free. You can use them for competitions as price. For example you could say “sign up for my newsletter and win a poster of my book” if you are able to print it, or have an affordable printer at hand, you can make that even a signed poster. Here is an example of the posters I offer on my website for free, http://www.nicolekiefer.com/Free-stuff/free-stuff.html as you can see I offer one version without text and one with the Title worked in.
But your book cover can be used for more, another thing which is promotion outside of cyberspace, is postcards. You can use your front cover and size it to postcard size for your readers to print out. Place a phrase like “I’m reading now…. Book Title” or “Look what I’m reading” on the front with your Title and Author name. If you can afford it you can print a few off yourself and have them with you on readings and signings. If you are willing to invest a little bit more you can send some out to bookstores, or other retailers to let them know of your new masterpiece.
Another thing you can do with some but not all of the covers is make them into bookmarks, which you can hand out with your books on signings.
If you are graphically able, you can use the elemental parts of your book cover and redesign/rearrange them to create several versions of all I said above.
At last something I haven’t tried myself, but seen on several occasions, using the same graphics for T-shirts. Personally I think this is something to be used when the book I want to promote that way is either a very good sale or if you can find a service that works similar to a POD service, just for shirts. I have it on the back burner for my Utopian Sage once more than half the books of the series are out. However, I can imagine that it is a wonderful way to promote, and it gives you additional items to sell when you’re at a convention or book sale, trade show and wherever you put up your table. If they are placed strategically they might lure people to your table that weren’t looking for a new read but are infatuated with your shirts and then buy the book as well.
In addition if you are really good with graphics you can add pins and keychains to the inventory, selling them or giving them away when someone buy’s your book.
All these things can be effective but in my experience work best with series. In addition to all I said so far, you can open a fan page on Facebook dedicated to the series you are writing or have written. It will help direct your target audience and keep the focused. However, share a post from your author page or other fan pages from time to time, to remind them that you have more than just that one series to offer. For example when you run a free promotion, or a giveaway, promote those things across all your platforms and social media.
New book Cover designs are now online on Nicole’s Word and Art world. And there are coming more on a daily basis. But not just e-book cover already set to the standard size of 1600 x 2400 pix but you also find photos that you can use to build your own cover design. One or several of them might inspire you to design you own cover. All pictures are royalty free without restrictions or conditions other than the law. Once you bought the photo you can cut, resize, mutilate and cut it up as you like, until you design the cover you wanted.
All book cover designs are royalty free as well, to design them I only use my own photos or for commercial used licensed pictures, photos, clip art, or vector graphic. All of them are royalty free as well so that the person buying the cover design will never have problems with anyone claiming royalties.
Each cover I design is unique even when the same components are used. When the cover design is sold it will be taken of the shop so you have a cover design as unique as your story.
Since I design the covers for my books myself (Example here http://www.nicolekiefer.com/My-Books/my-books.html ) I know how many tries it might take until you have a cover design you really like and then when slept over it might not like it anymore. Which is the reason I never charge more then
$ 5.00 for any book cover design. In addition to pre-designed book covers, and photos I offer to help out building your cover for a small charge depending on the amount of work. If you found a picture in my store and just need it cut to size and text (Title and Authors Name) added, I will charge the minimum additional amount 0f $ 5.00. If I have to cut and paste and adjust a lot I might charge up to the $ 20.00. Payment can be made via PayPal.
If you can’t find anything in my store but like my work, feel free to ask if I would design your cover. All I need from you is the Title, Author Name or Pen Name and a synopsis of your story to get a feel for what it is about. As well as what elements you would like in your cover. For example if you want a strong man in it, or a vulnerable woman, or maybe a sunset. Contact can be made via firstname.lastname@example.org and soon as I reviewed your synopsis and expectations I will let you know if I think I can do it and how much I will charge you. If you don’t like the cover I design for you feel free to say so and go somewhere else. I will put the cover I designed up in the store in that case, all rights stay with me until you actually bought it.
I really hope to see you soon in my store, or hear from you and your ideas for the perfect cover for your book.