Hey, fellow readers and writers! I’m a little late on getting this post out, thanks to the joys of summer like visiting with friends, afternoons by the pool, and late night fireworks. I hope you all are hard at work on your story world bibles. In the meantime, I have a great post for you this week written by fellow writer and professional geographer Jason VanHorn. No matter where you are in the writing process, it’s not too early to think about your author platform!
Let’s here some great advice from Jason:
Do you have tons of creative awesomeness to share with the world but have had epic failure to promote your efforts? Let’s fix that today.
As I put on my hairnet and man-beard mask, I stared at the drawing on the wall. It was a map of locations where tea is grown around the world. I was at the headquarters and one-and-only production facility for Celestial Seasonings Tea Corporation, in Boulder, Colorado, and the map showed all the places they’ve partnered with tea growers around the world.
The smell of the place was intoxicating. Peppermint, peach, chamomile—every sort of glorious flavor emanating from those special crates full of tea on the production floor. The heavenly aroma drenched me so powerfully that a few hours later my shirt still smelled like a candy cane. Even with my manly Christmas smell, I still couldn’t take my eyes away from the cartographic study of tea.
As I looked from country to country on the map, all I could wonder was how could Celestial Seasonings possibly provide 1.6 billion cups of tea each year across the globe? How did this happen with a few hippies picking herbs on the foothills of the Rockies outside Boulder in the 1960s? How did they make all of these connections with real people, in real places to give the world amazing organically-grown tea?
Could I do the same thing with my artistry as a writer? Could I make connections with real people everywhere who were interested in my work around the world?
In today’s post, I’m looking at three simple techniques you can use to build and promote your work as an artist—whether an author, an illustrator, a designer, a poet, a singer: an artist of any kind—to maximize your promotion and raise your artistic profile.
Those Boulder tea hippies of the 1960s had vision. Vision is an exercise in dreaming about where you want to go or what you want to do—it’s about what will be true of you in the future. The tea masters dreamed not only of collecting and brewing great herbal teas for themselves, they began to sell to health food stores, so others could enjoy. Their vision was to provide the healthiest herbal tea possible to everyone.
What about you? What kind of vision do you have for your artistry? What do you want to be true of you in the next year? How about five or ten years? Without vision, the hippies would have been lost in the herbal mountains of Colorado. Do you feel lost without a vision? If so, then it’s time to do some vision casting.
If you’ve never done a vision statement, let me show you how. Start by dreaming and write down all the things you can think of about what you want to be true of you in future. Do some short and long term vision casting and see what you come up with. You can always refine and edit later. And don’t be afraid to dream big. If at some point the tea masters of the mountains would have been afraid to dream big, millions, including myself, might never have enjoyed Sleepy Time tea from Celestial Seasonings, just to name one of their delicious blends.
Now that you know a little more about your desired future trajectory, you have to think about a series of goals that will get you there. The hippies of Boulder tea found out their herbs, although pretty awesome and natural, actually weren’t from the tea plant—the tea plant doesn’t grow in Colorado. And the tea plant is pretty important if you want to sell tea for a living. So they constructed goals to establish relationships with tea growers around the world.
So what are your goals as an artist and are they aligned to reach your vision?
My vision is to be middle grade fiction author and write several different book series. My goals to reach this vision include daily writing goals, participation in writing communities, submission to different writing competitions, read middle grade fiction books, and commitment to learn from others who have been successful in writing. Following these goals, I think I will reach my vision. How about you—what goals can you set that will maximize your ability to manifest your vision?
Spend some time writing down your goals and seeing if you think they will get you to your vision.
The wonderful things that happened at Celestial Seasonings, as they established strong relationships with tea farmers in different countries, was greater ability to offer herbal tea products to the world. Grocery-by-grocery, health-food store by health-food store, they reached out to let the world know what they were selling.
I’m guessing you are an artist of some kind since you are reading this blog entry. How about you, what are you selling—what is your product (even if you aren’t selling anything for money)? Whatever your artistic product, how will you reach your potential to offer your artistry to the world? What is your platform? Is it a storefront on your local street where you hope people will walk by and see what great art you make or is it something else entirely, like a digital platform on Facebook or Twitter or something like that?
Whatever the platform you are using to promote your work, the bottom line is that you need people to see your work. They need to be exposed to it. So how can we do that better? How can we maximize the number of people exposed to our artistry through a platform?
Let me submit to you a simple two word answer—strategic engagement.
You need a platform if you are going to promote yourself and your work. And listen closely here: You don’t need to be on every platform out there. You can be strategic about which one or two you choose to promote yourself. Why? Because it’s work and your time is valuable. If you have too many platforms to maintain, it becomes burdensome and people notice that—you become less engaged and less authentic. People are smart. Don’t be fooled—they take note of impersonal engagement.
Also, focus on just your artistry through your platform. Build which ever platform you want to use solely around your artistry. Be strategically focused, as if you were building a brand, just around your artistry.
Check out how I focused my brand. I write middle grade fiction and my current series is about Alabaster Dangermond. My website is focused primarily on this series (http://alabasterdangermond.com) and my Twitter platform focuses on me as a writer (@Dr_VanHorn). I only use these two platforms for promotion.
Choose one platform that makes sense and then go for it. My preference for promotion is Twitter and I’ll tell you why. The hashtag (#) is the most powerful social media device in existence for promotion. Why? Because it allows you connect with people interested in that hashtag. And that, my friend, is what you need for promotion—people.
Whatever platform you choose to work with (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, a storefront, etc…), you have to meet new people all the time and let them see your work. That is what the Celestial Seasonings folks did to promote their product.
If your platform is not introducing you to new people, then dump it and get a new one, especially if you’ve been engaged on an existing platform, but you’ve hardly met any new people.
That was my life on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Facebook is too personal to share much with strangers and my Instagram is just for family, so that’s a no-go for me. LinkedIn promotion is great, except I hardly meet anyone new and there is zero interaction, other than requests for skill promotion.
On Twitter, I meet NEW people ALL THE TIME using hashtags.
When I started with Twitter in 2010, I had about 15 people who followed me and I followed about 200 celebrity and sports types of people. That was all fun because I learned about their lives, kept up with sports, laughed a lot at stupid memes and .gifs, etc… I hardly met anyone new who cared anything about me or what I was doing.
Then 8 months ago, I dumped most of my celebs (sorry about that, LeBron) and began using consistently one hashtag, #writerslife. I focused my platform use almost exclusively for my art—writing. That one hashtag about writing introduced me to a new world of writers who were using many other writing-type hashtags, which I investigated and also began to use. People began to follow me and I began to follow them because we had something in common.
I found writers, poets, publishers, agents, editors, and all sorts of people interested in writing. Eight months later, I have over 1000 followers and I follow about that same number. I’ve started my own hashtag, #LitQOTD, which is Literary Question of the Day. I have met the most amazing people and we talk about writing all the time. Daily engagement that is authentic is the key to maximizing real connections with people, thus promotion of yourself, your artistry, and your vision.
I am working toward my vision as a writer though my goals and strategic engagement on Twitter and I am seeing tremendous success.
Do you use Twitter with strategic engagement to promote your artistry? What are some keyword hashtags that will help you focus your engagement and meet new people interested in your kind of artistry?
Now it’s your turn. Are you ready to use the Twitter platform to raise your artistic profile? Give it try and have fun and you’ll discover an amazing world of possibilities for your artistry through Twitter.
I’d love to hear what you think. Join me on Twitter @Dr_VanHorn and drop me a line.
Image courtesy of pexels.com. CC0 License.
Jason VanHorn is a writer and professor of geography. His life as a fiction writer provides fictional (and sometimes real!) opportunities to explore exotic geographical locations around the world through teenage superspy, Alabaster Dangermond. When he’s not writing fiction, Jason publishes research on terrorism and cartographic mapping. You can find out more about his stories at https://alabasterdangermond.com/