We’ll make you a star!
You’ve got the talent. We’ve got the tips. Gary Marshall discovers the best ways to show off your stuff
Use your Mac to showcase talent
Your groundbreaking novel hasn’t been published, your amazing photos are still in Lightroom, your beautiful paintings are still drying and nobody has heard your mind-blowing triple-concept album… However, now could be the time to share your creativity with the rest of the world. And it has never been easier to do so. Whether you’re an illustrator, filmmaker, crafter or artist, you can cut out the middlemen and go directly to your public. If you can find them, that is.
Because it’s so easy to put your work online, more people than ever before are doing the same – however, the downside is it makes it even harder to stand out from the crowd. So it helps if you know some shortcuts…
Get yourself connected
Connecting with others boosts your profile. Musicians follow one another on SoundCloud, commenting on each other’s tracks, which hopefully tempts other artists’ fans to check them out, or they collaborate with other musicians via WholeWorldBand’s iOS apps.
Authors can go to Kindle forums or post reviews and comments on goodreads.com. Photographers chat on Flickr or 500px, and you’ll find all kinds of creative types on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and on blogs.
For crime author Ed James (edjamesauthor. com), Twitter “was a big game-changer. I use it anyway, so it just became natural to extend it out.” James used Twitter to promote his debut novel, Ghost in the Machine, which he’d written on public transport. “I tried loads of other stuff, but nothing much seemed to work,” he told us. James also found that Amazon was the only outlet generating significant sales: even on a bad day, he sold twice as many books on Amazon in a day than in six weeks on Nook, iBooks and Kobo combined.
Today James doesn’t write on public transport; he reads his Kindle or plays his 3DS instead. His books are Kindle best-sellers and he now has a literary agent, a publishing contract and writes fiction full time.
Follow the leaders
It’s possible to get attention by piggybacking on somebody more popular. Canadian rock band Walk Off The Earth produced a clever cover of Gotye’s Somebody I Used To Know and have been viewed 159 million times. Another member of the million-plus club is the duo Pomplamoose, whose joyous mash-up of Get Lucky and Happy comes with a video that’s had more than 1.5 million views.
YouTube singing star Tiffany Alvord has racked up 365 million video views thanks to covers of songs by Taylor Swift, Avril Lavigne, Justin Bieber, HAIM and Robin Thicke, and she’s now using that platform to promote her own original material, her tours and her website.
However, what makes Alvord stand out isn’t her talent. It’s her work ethic. She actively sought out higher profile YouTube stars to collaborate with in order to build her own profile, and she’s been a prolific uploader for several years. Not only does she appear to cover every hit imaginable, but she also uploads fan-pleasing video logs about her favourite things, her family, how she does her make-up, why she hates Valentine’s Day and so on. You can see why her fans love her.
Artists such as Alvord know that the key to online promotion is to connect with as many people as possible. Those connections could be through YouTube comments or Twitter conversations, Facebook discussions or blog comments, but whichever forum you use, it’s important to use it sensibly. Posting endless commercial messages or tedious corporate blather rarely goes down well, and if your social media is nothing but endless selfpromotion, your audience is likely to consist solely of bots.
Look at the people you follow on Twitter, or on SoundCloud, or on Facebook, or on Tumblr. Chances are you aren’t following people who just post ‘Buy my stuff!’ all day. You’re probably following people because they do, say, upload or link to interesting things.
It’s important to choose the right venue, too. If you’re a musician, you’re more likely to get noticed if you network on SoundCloud rather than Facebook. Remember that users of the former are there because they want to listen to music rather than skive at work. Facebook’s algorithms may hide your promotional posts anyway. The bigger the network, the busier it is, and the harder it is to get attention.
Building an audience and getting good reviews takes time, so why not cheat? The going rate for 1,000 Twitter or Instagram followers is $1 to $3, and $5 gets you a five-star book review on Amazon, a single review on iTunes or a product review on Etsy. Ebook superstar John Locke admits to buying 300 fake reviews to boost his books’ profiles, and you’ll find stacks of people posting requests for fake reviews on sites such as freelancer.com.
There are two arguments against such bad behaviour. The first one is that it’s unethical, dishonest and, if you’re a business, illegal. The second is that it’s easy to spot, and as a result, it often backfires. A Twitter account that’s new but boasts thousands of followers screams fake, as does a stack of five-star reviews for a band’s debut single written by people who’ve never reviewed anything else. Suspiciously high ratings are a clear giveaway: when even The Great Gatsby gets panned on Amazon, a clean slate of top reviews for a self-published ebook suggests something not right.
Of course, there’s an even cheaper way of getting reviews: write them yourself. It’s fairly
If you’re a musician, you’re more likely to get noticed on SoundCloud rather than Facebook
easy to disguise your identity and sites such as Amazon aren’t great at detecting such tactics, but it’s usually obvious.
When your work attracts genuine reviews, it’s important to take any bad ones with the good. Resist the urge to get upset; unless reviews are factually incorrect or deliberately trying to damage you, it’s a bad idea to argue.
Feed the beast
The internet is a hungry beast, and the best way to feed it is to keep creating things for people to enjoy. The more you upload, the more opportunities there are to be discovered. If people like what they see, read or hear they’re likely to check out your other work.
For Ed James, sales were sluggish until he had published several books. “The first week I earned £4.23,” he recalls. Things didn’t start moving until he published his second DC Cullen novel, Devil in the Detail. Sales jumped to £70 a week, and when he released the third book, Fire in the Blood, sales doubled again. “Then it went mad around September last year,” he says. “I had a publicity campaign, I ran adverts, I changed the covers and sales topped £1K a week… since then it’s been consistent.”
“E-publishing isn’t a ‘one and done’ thing like traditional publishing,” James says. “It’s a job and a tough one, but if you write to a high standard and with high frequency, people will get into it and love it.”
James advises making the overall package as attractive as possible, working hard on sales tools such as blurbs, and “trying stuff out. Don’t play too many games with the system, but do try to use it to your advantage.”
Love vs money
The reality of putting your creativity online is few people make money from it. It’s difficult to persuade folk to pay for music downloads, to accumulate enough YouTube views or to get enough ad clicks to make big amounts of cash.
But, of course, money isn’t the only measure of success. There’s the sheer joy of creation, the thrill of seeing strangers loving what you do, the friendships you can make and the unexpected places your art can end up taking you. Although, we must admit, making a few quid would be nice, too…
Tumblr blogs and sites such as Etsy and Folksy offer crafters the opportunity to show off exactly what they can do – it’s not all macramé, wonky pottery and papier-mâché!
Canadian rock band Walk Off The Earth takes tunes the world already loves and gives them a unique slant. Their success and fanbase is all their own with no help from a record label.