My experiences have told me that I am more fringe than mainstream with my creative presentations. My work has run the gamut from written words, spoken words, theatre, storytelling, mixing poetry with live music, dance music, creating mixed new media and more to come. The part about ‘more to come’ is not in doubt. Whether there will be any financial gain in it is open to question. Whether finances will ultimately prevent me from expressing myself is never open to question. The creative work will be done, but the road ultimately travelled is certainly determined by whether there is a toll booth, and how much I have to pay.
Whatever your career goal may be, there almost certainly is an industry to wrest from you every dollar you might be reluctantly willing to spend to get to your goal. I don’t know the facts in each case, but I’m willing to guess that these industries (vanity presses, talent scouts, film schools to name a few) are sometimes more profitable than the industry they are supposed to be helping you to break into. When it comes to vanity presses I am quite sure the presses make more money than the authors. In a previous article I wrote in some detail about self-publishing. There are reputable institutions and people performing valuable services certainly. Just as certainly there are institutions set up with the goal to get your money from your pocket. It is rare indeed that any will guarantee that they will get you even close to your goal.
I’ve learned to be very careful with my money, but it’s not always wise to be a cheapskate. I prefer to place my bets where I know I’m getting a real value service, like advertising, or public relations. Unfortunately, advertising can be quite expensive, and so can hiring a public relations or marketing professional. However, these are the truest tools for you to use. Advertising, Public Relations and Marketing are what get the big guys use to get where they want to go, and what will get you where you want to go. You can even take some control over where you are going. But you may have to be more creative to accomplish the same things.
Maybe you already went to the local newspaper, (if you’re lucky enough to still have one,) maybe even advertised in it before, found it to be expensive and didn’t get a great or even good response. You already called a few PR professionals and figured out that you can’t afford them. TV ads are really out of your reach, and radio might as well cost just as much. These are the traditional tools, but you are not a traditional person are you? You already use the internet don’t you? Maybe you already have a MySpace page; you’ve been to YouTube, blah blah blah. What else can you do?
There are other tools available to you. The amount of effort you are willing to put in, will (eventually if not right away) benefit you exponentially. One of the most important things is to be consistent with your efforts. Back in the 1990’s, I started a website called PlanetAUTHORity.com, which featured a Poem of the Day. I worked diligently to collect original poetry from willing poets, and posted a new poem every weekday. Even though that site is now an archived site, Yahoo still lists it in the first page of search results for Poem of the Day. When I submitted that url to Yahoo more than ten years ago, I really didn’t think that far ahead, but I benefit simply because I did it, and because the Poem of the Day page is still published at PlanetAUTHORity.com. My efforts also continue to benefit everyone who does spoken word or writes poetry, because it promotes the people who practice those arts and contributes to general awareness.
I benefit from anything that promotes what I do, and also gain some name recognition by placing myself in a variation of a role I already play. For a writer to write articles is a natural. One of my all-time favorite writers was also a journalist, Mark Twain. I believe it made him a better writer and a better person. Have you ever considered writing a column, or starting your own weekly podcast? You could start your own blog on the web, or find a place where you would like to be published. Working with a site that’s already been around for awhile means that you don’t have to work so hard to get a little traffic going on your posts. Here at Listen & Be Heard Network Arts News and also at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Cafe Blog, I always welcome queries from writers, podcasters, poets and others who would like to contribute regularly on a particular theme or area of expertise.
There are other places on the World Wide Web that are looking for the same. Back when I was writing articles for the print version of Listen & Be Heard Weekly, I registered with Article Alley, wrote a little author profile, and basically donated a couple articles which I even checked off to allow re-use by other sites. I still get traffic from the reuse of my articles coming to this site. Every little bit of traffic makes a difference and increases the exposure that your announcements get when you register and post them here. Similarly, I wrote some profiles and press releases for musicians at Allaboutjazz.com, when my husband and I were running Listen & Be Heard Poetry Cafe, and I was looking for ways to promote the jazz that we were presenting there.
If you have a dial up account, chances are that you can host a subscriber mailing list. You can also query Listen & Be Heard Network about hosting your arts related subscriber mailing list. You can choose whether to moderate it, lay down the ground rules, solicit your colleagues to join the list, discuss topics that concern all of you, and presumably benefit from each other’s knowledge and ideas. This kind of activity is synergistic, inevitably moving from e-mail to action. Once again, by placing yourself in a key position, and creating a useful tool for you and your peers, you gain some name recognition, and if you’re good at what you do, respect. A bulletin board can serve a similar function, whether virtual or somewhere in your community, like an independent bookseller, or coffee shop deserving of your patronage and support.
So far I haven’t mentioned anything that costs money. When it comes to advertising, the internet is growing fast but is still more affordable than the older forms of media. You can find out for yourself pretty easily who the big players are. Google is giving out price breaks to entice people to purchase tv, radio and print ads in addition to their internet ads. There a host of companies offering advertising spots made available by web publications like this one. This site currently runs ads from Commission Junction, NeverBlueAds, Linkshare and Google. You could also think about sites that you already find useful, and visit frequently. Ask yourself whether it might serve you well to advertise on those sites and find out how much it would cost to deal with them directly. You may not get dramatic results right away but you will be investing in your personal infrastructure of tomorrow, and may not even be able to imaging right now where that will take us all.