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

Mac Format - - CONTENTS - Words: Gary Mar­shall Im­ages: iStockphoto

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.

Promo no-nos

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.

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