Book Promotion: 10 Steps in the Time Line

The chartreuse book promotion binder, brought emails from people who noticed that I called yesterday’s blog “Organizing The Book Promotion: Low Tech Rules” and grumbled that I didn’t spell out the rules. Ah, modern language. “Rules” in this case wasn’t a noun–as in “Six Rules for Self Promotion,” but rather, a descriptor meaning “Low Tech is the best way to handle promotion.”   I could have said, “I’m rockin’ it old school,” but it makes for a long headline.

Hating to leave readers waiting, here are the first 10 steps I’m taking in promoting my book, Raw Art Journaing: Making Meaning, Making Art. First of all, North Light Books, the publisher, just sent me a big pdf spelling out some things that help.  So. . . .
1. Read the information from the publisher. (4-6 months out). They know how to do this. Choose items you want to do first. You are more likely to start.

2. This is your book. It is your responsibility to promote it. (Always). I was surprised to hear people say they thought the publisher was responsible for promotion. To me, that sounds too princess-and-the-pea. The book was my idea, and my work, and the person who can promote it best is the one whose idea it was and who wrote it.

2. Make a time line. (4-6 months out). I will need to promote the book for a long time. I’ll want to avoid both overwhelming myself and burn-out from doing nothing else except promotion.

3.  Over-promoting yourself bores your friends. I’ll want to stay interesting by being interested in other people’s lives, books, projects, and classes.

4. Reserve the name of your book as a url. (As soon as you are sure of the name of your book.) Then make a website. I reserved and created a website for RawArtJournaling when I started to write the book. There are reasons for keeping a book title site separate from your website–if your business is very different from your art; if your employer would frown on the distraction of your book from work; if your clients would run if they knew you had written a book. In that case, promoting your book secretly creates a new group of problems.

4. Create or unite your website if it makes sense. (3 months out). Luckily for me, I want to attract people who would enjoy the book to my business website,  People who hate the book will hate a lot of my core values, and may not find my coaching, training values, or writing to their liking, either.  That’s a concept I have to be OK with: not everyone will like my book, me, my photo, my age, race, religion, weight, height, logo, or my values, and they will say so in their blogs and reviews. Meanwhile, I want people who do like my values, training, writing, book, and ideas to find everything in one place. And that’s why I’m uniting my business site and RawArtJournaling.

5. Identify with your book. (5 months out.) That means creating a signature on your emails, getting a business card with the book name on it. Since I did art in the book, I will create a set of Moo Cards with art from the book. Once your book is on Amazon, go there and create an author’s page. Link your blog posts or Twitter, FB or other social media to the author’s page.

6. Line up book signings and events. (5 months out.) In the case of a how-to book, it doesn’t make much sense to do a reading–although there are sections that are great for reading out loud (you’ll see!).  I’m suggesting to the bookstores that I’d like to do a demo or project. That makes it more interesting, and perhaps draws people who are interested and persuades them that the book is worth buying while they are there. I think if you aren’t famous  (yet!) it’s a good way to go.

7. Line up classes about the book at art, craft, or paper stores. (4 months out.) Same rule applies–people are more likely to buy the book if they see how it works through a class. I’m making sure every class I do is new, fresh, and fun.

8. One book store doesn’t do it all. In Phoenix, people live in self-sufficient neighborhoods–so within a three-mile radius of my house I have three Home Depots, two Michael’s and a Hobby Lobby, and easily a dozen grocery stores. People won’t travel 10 miles to see a book signing, much less 30, so I’m planning a lot of different events. People who come to multiple ones are welcome!

9. Plan some press coverage. (3 months out.) The press won’t know about my book. There are 200,000 books published each year. Only 5 percent sell more than 5,000 copies. I want my book to be one of them, so I’m sending easy-to-love press releases to local press outlets. I have to focus on summer items for immediate release, and pitch magazines for items that happen three to six months for now. And yes, I have to send images for immediate use. Low-res images are fine. It’s good to be contacted if the news source needs more.

10. Plan a blog tour. (4 months out). A blog tour is a group of bloggers who agree to let you write a guest post about your book, or run an interview, podcast, or mini-class on their site. You “stop in” at each blog over a two-week (or longer) time period around the time the book comes out. The purpose of the tour is to make readers other than yours know about your book. I’m planning on asking a few people I don’t know as well as people I do know, letting them choose from available dates, and preparing Q&As as well as being available to their questions.

What IS a Muse, Anyway?

After the muse swap a few weeks ago, I began to think about the definition of a muse. What are they? Friend or foe? Helpful or distracting? Laurie Doctor, an artist and calligrapher posted this great poem on her website that comes as close to a great answer as I can find:

This Work

My friend, the poet
asked me
what I was doing.
I said, you know,
the visual form
of mumbling, the verbal
version of stumbling.
Leaving my hands
to their own devices,
closing my eyes,
transforming vices
into color and verse
Saying this work is my prayer.

Your muse is the part of your heart (or soul, or spirit) that isn’t influenced by purpose–not by selling you work, or pleasing others, but only by the power of creation. You can certainly re-tune your muse to your purpose, but when your purpose doesn’t match your values, your life’s purpose, stuff goes wrong. That isn’t about your muse. That’s about you.

Another view by the poet William Stafford:–Quinn McDonald is a writer and raw-art journaler. She is publishing a book, Raw Art Journaling–Making Meaning, Making Art, in June of 2011. North Light Books is the publisher.

No Decisions Based on Fear

About the time I left the corporate world, I had to make some big decisions. How to run my business. What my core principles would be. I decided to use the same principles I use for my personal life. When you own the business, it looks a lot like you anyway.

Some of the values were easy to choose: Be honest. Be fair. Ask before you spend the client’s money. Don’t jump to conclusions. Listen.

Then came the giant one: no fear. Do not make business decisions out of fear. Don’t make any decision out of fear.

It’s hard to keep that one. I had made business decisions based in fear for a long time–fear of my boss, fear of not meeting the team goals, fear of the competition, fear of getting fired. And it was that fear that made me a lousy corporate employee. So, on my own, I decided–no fear.

There are plenty of things to be afraid of when you own your business–not making a profit, getting underbid, outperformed and over cautious. But fear was the big “Aha!” in my business life.images3.jpeg

A decision based on fear is frequently loaded with other weak motives. Revenge, neediness, lack of control. If you take fear off the table, you get a different picture.

“What if my competition underbids me?” Became “How much do I need to earn to make a fair profit and do the job well?” If it costs me $10,000 to do the job, and I underbid on purpose and then get the job for $8,000, I am not getting an $8,000 job, I’m losing $2,000. That’s fear.

“I hate Client X, she’s always blaming me for her own mistakes.” I can choose
to work with Client X and be clear on responsibilities or I can pass on the job. But if I continue to let her blame me for her own mistakes, I’m letting fear make my decisions. At the end of the job, she’ll either blame me anyway or I won’t respect myself for taking on blame that isn’t mine.

Fear undermines us. It justifies bad behavior. It is the road to the collapse of self-respect. I can’t live my life without fear, but there are a million great reasons to make decisions and always one lousy one–I did it because I was scared.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach. (c) 2009 All rights reserved.

Collage: Sampling Art

Collage is a flexible, satisfying art form. It’s particularly gratifying for artists who are not illustrators. Using the vast palette of magazines, journals, books, graphic novels, and newspapers, we create stories, convey emotions and display ideas.

dreamleaf, collage by quinn mcdonaldThe issue of copyright lurks in the background. Those images might be someone else’s. Early photographers faced similar issues– photographers who took pictures that included buildings were told they needed to get permission first. And before we shrug that away as ancient art history, it was not too many years ago that the first camera phones caused concern because people were secretly taking pictures in bars without permission. Now the pictures arrive on YouTube for the world to see, no permission needed. In our culture, sampling is part of creating music. Open source information gave us Wikipedia. The collaging of experience, ideas and words, gives us new songs and books. But sometimes time and contents aren’t in balance. In 1916 Heinz von Lichberg wrote about a traveler who rents a room as a lodger and is smitten with the young daughter of the homeowner. “Young” is the operative word here; she is not yet a teenager. A child molester? A story worth tipping off Dateline NBC? Not quite. The young girl’s name was Lolita, and so was the title of the book. Surprised? I was, too. It was published a full 40 years before Vladimir Nabokov’s novel made the name Lolita famous–and vice versa. Johnathan Lethem, in an article in Harper’s, says, “Inspiration could be called inhaling the memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos. . .” So life imitates collage. We hear and see snippets of information and they become the wallpaper of our lives. In May of 1996 folksinger/songwriter Bob Dylan wrote “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” which contained the much-discussed line, “To live outside the law you must be honest.” Oddly enough, it caused no raised eyebrows at all eight years earlier, when Stirling Silliphant wrote almost the same words for Don Siegel’s film noir, The Lineup.

So the collage artist stands in the middle of a loud, chaotic life with scissors and glue. We make sense of it by cutting it apart and reassembling it so that others can recognize it and make meaning of it. Maybe we need to give up the idea of exclusive ownership based on lawsuits.

Maybe it’s time to take another look at copyright. Creative Commons seems like a good alternative worth exploration.

–Quinn McDonald is a collage artist and certified creativity coach who is thinking through a sharing system based on honesty instead of lawsuits. She did the collage above.  See her work at QuinnCreative.

How To: Write an Ad for Your Art

Ads help your clients understand your work. If the client doesn’t understand your work, they won’t  buy it.  If the client can’t understand your ad,  they won’t understand your art and you won’t make a sale.

Several years ago, there was a trend for artists to use their pets in the ad. The reason? A pet supposedly made the artist seem more appealing, interesting, human or fun. Generally the pet’s name was included as well as a title, “Chief Tester,” or “Canine of the Board.” I never understood this trend. I wasn’t selling my pet.  Why waste space showing the client my cat and not more of my art? Most ads are sold by size, and the more space you use up not showing your product and selling it, the less space you have to allow the client to fall in love with your work.

Rule #1 for art ads: Show your art. It’s what you are selling. If you do pet portraits, paintings, or other artwork, you can put your pet in the picture. Otherwise, leave your pet out of the picture.

Rule #2: Give the clients a reason to like your work. Close ups of your art is best. If your art is functional, showing it in use is also a good idea. Clothing is almost always shown on gorgeous models so you can imagine yourself looking that wonderful if you wear that item.

Rule #3: Talk to your audience. That means you have to know who your audience is. Hint–it’s not “everyone.” Use words, references, and ideas your audience knows and approves of. If your target audience is young women between the ages of 16 and 30, skip the references to Woodstock, Audrey Hepburn, Twiggy and The Beatles.

Rule #4: Keep the copy simple. The best copy includes the features of your product (characteristics that make it special) and the benefit to your client. (Benefit is how your product will make the user’s life easier). I know it might sound obvious that a waterproof purse lining will not absorb spills from your water bottle, but the reader may not be thinking about that.

Rule #5: Include your contact information. Give the reader at least one way to see more of your work (store hours, website) and one way to reach you (phone number or email.) And include the name of your business as well.

Rule #6: Show the price. This is controversial. Many artists believe hiding the price keeps clients from rejecting it before the artists speaks to them about it. I don’t believe this. If the client is shopping by price alone, and will eliminate your piece only because the price is too high, the price will always be too high. I’ve tried it both ways, and I get more sales if I show the price.

Yes, ad writing can be complicated. Yes, there are a lot more rules. But if you follow the ones above, you’ll have an ad people will understand. And that’s a big step forward.

–Quinn McDonald is an artist and a trainer in communicating clearly. See her work at (c) 2008 All rights reserved.

Show Artists, Speak Up!

Here is your chance–you are being asked for an opinion on a topic you’ve always wanted to speak up about. If you are a show artist, your opinion on what’s happening to the art show world is being counted.

The National Association of Independent Artists (NAIA) has a survey on its website. You don’t have to be a member of the NAIA, just an artist who does art/craft shows. The survey is in the left navigation bar. It takes about 15 minutes and is worth taking.

craft showHere’s my take on the condition of art shows–it’s my opinion, based on 15 years of observation and doing shows, big and small.

Once upon a time, in the 1970s, the purpose of an art show was to let artists who did not have gallery representation sell their work to a local audience. Artists could show and sell their work, and the public had access to good, original art.

Over time, promoters took over shows, giving them organization, advertising, and recognition. To make the show profitable for promoters, they charged the artist for the space and the public an entry fee. In those days, the promoter spent the artist’s fee money for expenses and advertising, and took gate money as profit.

Skip forward to the 80s. Promoters noticed that art shows were profitable. It was a time of art appreciation and the cash to buy it. Artists could make a living in the show circuit. Promoters added loyalty rules and raised prices. Scouts from one promoter swept through other promoter’s show and took names of artists who “weren’t loyal.” No promoter ever guaranteed you a living, but you played by the rules or you didn’t play. Many artists were able to make a decent living. posterBut many artists admitted they didn’t know much about business, and were happy to turn the business end of being an artist over to a promoter. There were whole groups of artists who became known by the show promoter they were loyal to.

The crowds, however, didn’t want to see the same artists over and over again. Particularly if the artists didn’t add more and different work to their line. The public was eager to attend different shows to find new and different artists.

Promoters took that as a sign that the public wanted more shows. Shows who wanted the best artists dropped the loyalty rules.

There were many factors that signaled the collapse of the art show success. Promoters raised prices for booth fees. A $250 fee became a $600 fee over five years. Artists had to pay extra for electricity and corner spots, so a $600 booth could become a $800 booth if you wanted to light up your corner spot. Artists who did all of a promoters show were given an incentive–free corner spots, or a whole free show. Promoters began to ask for full payment six to eight months in advance. And not all promoters used all the booth fees for expenses and advertising. Instead, they looked to artists to develop mailing lists and bring their following to a new show.

Artists had their own ideas. In the face of rising costs, they began to cut corners. They hired friends, relatives or other cheap labor to do the time-consuming work while they created originals. In time, the cheap labor did more and more of the work. In fact, you could pay the cheap labor to be at one show, while the artist did another, creating more income on a weekend when there was more than one good show. It was easy to add a few pieces that looked a lot like your work, even thought it was made by cheaper labor overseas. Newly arrived immigrants joined the art show circuit and had their relatives in poor countries do the work. It seemed like a wonderful world where everyone made art and enjoyed it.

Except for the third leg of the art-show stool: The public. While artists were creative in cutting corners, and promoters decided not to enforce the buy/sell rules because they were increasingly difficult to apply, the public grew from art lovers to bargain lovers. We raised up among us a Wal-Mart Nation. Art lovers turned into art consumers, and the buying decision was based on price. Artists who had bargain prices were those who by now had stores, factories, or at least a lot of family employees. They could pay the higher booth fees.

To a promoter, a check that clears is better than one that does not. The original artists, who made every piece by hand, who hand-fabricated everything, were not honored as national treasures. We were laughed at for being slow, expensive and not consumer minded. The public reminded us at each show that “I can buy something that looks just like this for half the price at Wal-Mart.”

Original-work artists began to dwindle. As we couldn’t afford the shows, art evolution worked by natural selection. Why pay full price for a painting, when print was cheaper. In fact, you can print it on canvas, treat is as special, and call it a “Giclee”? Why buy a painting at all, when a photograph does as well? Why pay full price for a photograph when a print will be no different, but a lot cheaper? Who cares if that necklace clasp is handmade or purchased in bulk? Does it matter that that jacket is hand-sewn and stitched or if you purchased it pre-made from China and painted it?

Promoters, needing larger audiences to cover expenses, increased the size of shows. It was not unusual to have shows with 400, 500, even 700 artists. To the public, this looked like the best flea-market in town. If one artist wouldn’t lower a price, they simply went to the next row, where an enterprising art-representative had a piece of “family made art” to sell, and much cheaper.

Large shows meant longer stays, so families began to bring the kids and dogs. Food and entertainment was added to the art mix, turning artists into part of an entertainment package. Dogs peed on tent corners, children touched art work while holding french fries, fried dough or cotton candy. To an original artist, it meant a ruined piece of work. To a store-artist it meant a tax write-off.

What no one noticed was that art lovers left the shows. And the original artists followed them. Some opened galleries, some got part time jobs, some began to teach what they knew at art retreats.

Is it too late? Are original art shows a thing of the past? It depends on what artists want, what the public values, and what promoters are willing to do. We are now a consumer nation, a bargain-loving nation, and a nation who has become used to outsourcing. If your job is being done by someone in India, why shouldn’t your art be done by someone in China?

I believe the art show is now a flea market show. I’m still an original artist, and I will continue to make each piece of my art by hand. That means my work won’t be cheap and won’t be outsourced. Why am I so stubborn? Because the original purpose of my art is not to make money. It is to make meaning. I’d rather do other work (and I do) to allow each piece of art to have a voice and speak with a clear voice. So far, my work has always spoken to an audience. It is the only way I want to make art.

–Quinn McDonald is an artist, writer and certified creativity coach. See her work at
Images: Tents, Poster: (c) 2007, Quinn McDonald. All rights reserved. No reproduction, electronically or in any kind of print, without express written permission of the author.

More Doubt

This past weekend, I participated in a retail art/craft show. I’ve done them for a living for almost 20 years. Some shows are good, some not. This one, run by a respected promoter, was dim. At best.

A good sign that show doesn’t have a good turnout is not having to wait in the ladies room. I never had to wait. No once. And my sales showed the lowered attendance. For the first time in ten years, I didn’t make my show fees back in sales. I planned to sell my outdoor tent, and it sold, which boosted sales, but that doesn’t count, really.journal

Not doing well at a show is an invitation to doubt. Doubt shows up as negative self-talk, gremlins that chatter unceasingly while there is no one in the booth. That was a long time this weekend. Negative self talk starts small, with the idea that my work is slipping. Then the chorus of “what else are you bad at?” starts in, and by early afternoon of the first day of a three-day show, my gremlins were yelling that the quality of my work is horrible, that I was foolish to think my product had value, and no one would ever, purchase another

It took effort to pull myself away from those voices that I hate, but will listen to. I’ll bet you have the same problem when self-doubt begins to nag at you, don’t you?

In the middle of all that noise in my head, I pulled myself up out of it and began to look at the audience. Not only was attendance light, the audience was all wrong for my product. These weren’t people interested in handmade paper, journals, or notecards. These were people looking for bargains. These were people strolling and shopping. Many were on their cell phones. A number of people didn’t believe me when I said I make paper from plants. One told me it was impossible.

Another said “no one cares about art anymore.” That phrase may have been true for her, but sweeping statements generally are more telling about the speaker than the product.

As hard as it was to focus on the real issue, I forced myself to. First, the checklist–my product is made with attention to quality and creativity. I have had success with it when in front of the right audience. The audience was not right for my product at this show. That meant that I was on the right track but at the wrong station. Handmade, quality work doesn’t come at bargain prices. It was as if I were selling flowers at the butcher shop. The wrong product at the wrong place. But that left me with three days of failure.

I needed a way to focus on what would work. I made notes on exercises to include in the journaling classes I’m starting. I thought of some items I could add to the website–another size of journal cover, and then add some covers that I make for those people who don’t want to make their own.

The show has been over for six hours now. I was not the only one whose show didn’t work well, but I am a person who has a list of improvements, ideas and plans for moving forward with the product. No one promised me a life of ease as an artist. And doubt is still waiting for me to look its way to nip my ankles. But knowing that self-doubt will chew a hole in your soul if you listen, I chose to focus on next steps. It wasn’t easy, but I left the show with my head up and excited about tomorrow.

–Quinn McDonald is a certified creativity coach. See her work at