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Art to Wear

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.

So why not check it out? Not just my art but what those portals can do for your inner artist as well. Take a look at my website, Zazzle store and Redbubble store and the many different designs.


Marketing

You wrote a book, you published your book, now what?
I was at that point not too long ago, and it was the only time I missed publishing the traditional way, when I realized my work had just begun… bummer…
I grew up in my parents business, so basically anything to do with business I heard, saw and experienced from the cradle throughout my life. Only it seems when I decided to go Indie my brain decided to hide, or go into denial about the work involved of actually selling the book. … Stupid brain…
However, I have some experience of bringing my book to the readers, or so I thought. When I was published in 2006 with a small press in Germany, I went around to the book stores talking them into ordering it. That was easy enough, especially since my husband was the one driving me around.
I sat down and made a list off all the marketing avenues I could think off… it was a short list…
1. Going to all the book stores and talk to manager
2. Promote on Twitter
3. Promote on Facebook
4. Talk to newspapers

That was pretty much all I had, and I thought that was plenty, much more than I did for my books in Germany, and I sold quite a few there.
What I didn’t realize was that we don’t have that many book stores in Manitoba that are selling new books. We have a lot that sell used books, but new ones, not so much. Just a handful, which is sad from both reader and writers point of view.
Twitter is a good way to get the word out, but if you don’t have a budget it’s hard to reach the people that will buy, it’s more like blowing a grain of sand into the Sahara. Same counts for Facebook, yet both avenues can’t be ignored. Twitter and Facebook are not so much your sales platforms as your self-promotion platform. A way for potential readers and gained readers to stay in contact and informed.
Having a website is very important as well, a place to promote yourself and your work. You will find that a lot of marketing isn’t just about your book, but you are selling yourself as well… it’s like prostitution just without the sex.
So all that was left on my list was talking to the newspapers, especially the local newspapers are often willing to write something about you and your book. Unless you have written a romance/erotic novel like me and live in a church rich town. But even then they might help out by (as ours did) taking a picture of you at some trade show and mentioning that you published a book that you sold there.
Now, since my list was at its end, I needed to find new ways of promotion. But where, and how?
I started in this business almost ten years ago, but that was on a different continent and I had a break of several years in between, and now I knew that what I had learned back then, was no help here. I was at a loss, at first.
Do you know the phrase, copying is the greatest form of admiration… well that’s my marketing advice, check out what others do and copy them…
There are lots of groups on Facebook and Google+ that can give your ideas of how to promote your book. What will work for you, you will only know by trying.
There are sales groups on Facebook you can join, either to promote you book for online sales, or to offer direct sales through you to a cheaper price. Other portals like eBay work as well, but remember that if you do offer direct sales you need to have some books at home to actually send out. I usually keep a stack of ten to twenty at my place.
Reviews are important as well, get as many reviews as you can and the best ones you can feature either of the title page, and/or on a blurb page in the beginning of the book. Link from your webpage to those reviews, and use them in Twitter to promote.
There is a lot you can do online, create a page with Goodreads for example, promote your book there and collect reviews. If you can do some promotion like a giveaway, or send out a coupon code for anyone who signs up to your mailing list. Yup… forgot that one, create a mailing list, so people can sign up and get the news first.
How big you go is depending on the budget you have or are willing to invest. If you can invest, you can hire companies to do your promotion for you, but I have no firsthand experience how effective it is.
In the physical world you can go and talk to book store managers/owners. But book stores aren’t the only ones selling books. Keep your eyes open and if possible always have a standard letter, and/or reading sample with you. Pharmacies, corner stores, Co-OP’s , grocery stores, gas stations, many of them sell books as well. If you have recreational facilities like hotels with a gift shop, shops at beaches and national parks, near camping grounds, or retreats have often books as well. The thing is many only work on commission, meaning you have to take the financial risk.
The same with going on trade shows, art’s and craft’s sales, or conventions if there are any in your area. Those only get interesting when you either have something else to sell with your book, or when you have more than one book to sell. However if you can, you can always team up with other authors and share a booth/table with them. That reduces the costs and it doesn’t look so empty.
I am sure the things I told you about aren’t all the things you can do regarding the marketing of your book. I, myself are still exploring and learning new ways every day, trying to find out the most effective and low cost way of getting the word out. In time I’m sure I will find more ways and write about them as well.

Can you believe that?

Since Waiting in the Wings was republished after being professionally edited by 3Pediting, I tried to get local stores to sell it for me. Not that I had much success with that but besides that I got the most ridicules excuse this week. You know I can life with, “sorry but I don’t want to take the risk.” Or something like, “sorry but your just not known enough to make me any money.” I get that, I grew up in business and know the risk they take, by placing me in their inventory. But I got the most amusing and ridicules excuse a little while ago.
I live in a small town of around 2000 people, out in the prairie, where you find more churches then schools and kiddy places together. It’s a quiet town, peaceful, and yet there is always something going on it seems. Anyway, it’s your average town, and the population is mixed in age.
One of the businesses I talked to, that serves mostly customers in the age group of 30 to 90 looked at my book. They sell from several other independent authors from the area. I left them a copy so they could read through it, and came back a little more than a week later.
The store owner then informed me very nicely, …drumroll… “I didn’t read it, I just opened it to one side and well… it was quit sexual. I since most of our customers are pious, God fearing folks, and many of them older, I think they might be offended. You know they are just too old for something like this.”
I was quiet torn when he looked at me apologetic, because for one the upper range of customer age in statistics is around 54 years of age. I also know that the main age range of his customer is around that age, it was one of the reasons I hoped to sell there. The other reason was, I had 10 books on my backseat destined for delivery in the old folk’s home. All of the people who had ordered one over the age of 75.
When I delivered them I had to bite my tongue not to tell them what the store owner thought of them.
Here a link to one of many statistics https://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=582
To fellow authors, I don’t know about you, but I think I’m going advertise more in old folks homes, so far I had my best sales there.

Operating in a void

Fellow authors will most likely know what I mean right away. As and author the feedback of readers is one of our most important tools, only with feedback can we improve.
When our readers don’t tell us what they like or dislike, we operate in a void. A very frustrating void, especially when sales a low, or none-existent.
Any review is helpful, even when it’s telling us that we suck… sigh… because it might be the reason we don’t sell. We can’t improve if nobody tells us what we are doing wrong.
I call it operating in a void, because the silence is deafening and the daily look into the reports frustrating, making us wonder if we suck so much that there is no chance to ever sell a book.

When I first published Waiting in the Wings in April, it was the review of a reader that alerted me to the fact, that the person I had trusted with the edit, didn’t do a good job. Since I’m dyslexic, I knew that I couldn’t correct that, so I hired a professional editor to help me out.

I didn’t want to take the book completely of the market, so I put an info post in each description, warning the reader of the problem and promising to correct it as fast as possible. It took the editor and me four months, but we are finally done and the book is out again, fully edited. Yet contrary to the first publish, nobody is saying anything about it, and I live in a void when it comes to Waiting in the Wings.

It’s like torcher, wondering if the editor did a good job, if the changes made it better or worse, and if the story speaks to anyone. In my case, because of health issues, my writing, cover design and print work is all I have as income and this void is frustrating.
I talked to several people for the past view years since I was first published 2006 in Germany, and heard very often that they don’t want to write anything that is negative, but don’t feel like pointing out only the good without the bad. Well, hell… as an author I grow from both, the good and the bad. Sure I would love to read, hear nothing but praise, but that will never happen. I read a lot, many books are bestselling novels, yet I always find something negative.

I hope fellow authors agree with me, when I tell you to leave your opinion, even if you only read the sample, even when all you have to say is “it sucks because….” stop leaving us authors in a void, it would be highly appreciated. At least by me.