Bob Baker's Artist Empowerment Blog

Build Your Personal Brand Online

Deborah Harper of interviewed me by phone yesterday on the topic of my book Branding Yourself Online. While her audience is primarily made up of therapists and mental health professionals, we had fun discussing a wide range of general self-promotion strategies that can also benefit musicians, writers, artists and more.

Click here to listen to the 40-minute interview. Also visit Deborah's Psychjourney Book Club to see and hear interviews she's done with several other cool authors and experts.

The Creative Pro-Am Revolution

Are you part of the revolution, or are you just watching from (or oblivious on) the sidelines? What am I talking about? Read on ...

The U.K. think tank Demos published a free report last year called The Pro-Am Revolution, subtitled "How enthusiasts are changing our economy and society." It's described this way:

From astronomy to activism, from surfing to saving lives, Pro-Ams -- people pursuing amateur activities to professional standards -- are an increasingly important part of our society and economy. chimes in with its own definition:

Pro-Am is a conceptual term to describe a blurring between the distinction of professional and amateur, within any endeavor that could be called professional, such as writing, sports, computer programming, music, film, etc.

In the introduction to Unleash the Artist Within, I describe the three basic modes that people engage their creativity:

  • Mode #1: Full-time -- they make a living doing music, books, art, etc.
  • Mode #2: Part-time and working toward full-time -- they may work a day job or do something else to make ends meet now, but they aspire to some day earn a living from their talents.
  • Mode #3: Part-time and satisfied -- they do not aspire (or don't think it's possible) to play music, write or create art full-time.

Generally speaking, people in Mode #1 are considered professional, those in Mode #2 are either semi-professional or amateur, and people in Mode #3 are amateur. (This definition has nothing to do with the quality of someone's work; I'm referring strictly to a person's money-making status.)

In the past, creative people in modes #2 and #3 often suffered from an inferiority complex. (Most still do, actually.) If a writer or musician wasn't making a living doing their thing, they felt they hadn't proved themselves yet -- that maybe they were kidding themselves in thinking they could do something meaningful with such a fanciful hobby.

Well, the Pro-Am Revolution is showing that you can create a quality creative product, reach thousands of people with it, and make an impact with your art, music, prose, film and more ... while working at your craft part-time, sometimes without even leaving the house. Advancing technology and the Internet are making this revolution possible. And it's only going to get stronger.

As Andrew Taylor says on his blog, "It's likely one of the fundamental dynamic shifts in the way creative work will be conceived, created, distributed, and received in the coming decade."

For more on this, check out the BBC story 'Amateur Culture' Set to Explode. The subhead says it all: "The 21st Century is seeing an explosion in the field of amateur culture and creativity."

So, regardless of your current mode or status, I ask you again ...

Are you part of the revolution?

The Need to Make Yourself Useful

I've written about Jory Des Jardins and her Pause blog before. You can always count on her to produce a fun read that makes you think. In a post early this year she discussed The Need to Make Yourself Useful. Jory's insights hold particular value for us creative types. Here's a portion of it:

Sure, there are some of us who LOVE what we do, but sadly ... most people don't discover their life's work. Rather, they send resumes to companies for jobs that they can likely do blindfolded. Then they show up for the interview seeming as sane as possible and hopefully get hired.

Those who are "successful" show acumen at something, build a reputation, and are often recruited to fill a position. These people tend to make good money, which ... is often misinterpreted as a sign that their job is their purpose.

I can't imagine God, or some higher power with the grand plan that is YOUR PURPOSE, gluing together the molecules that are to be you and thinking to him/herself, "And this one shall hit home runs" or, "and this one shall close sales."

Rather, a larger purpose was generated that gave us talents and interests of very broad sorts -- the ability to analyze, to inspire, to communicate -- that somehow lend themselves to skill sets.

This discussion could easily move into that sticky fate vs. free will debate, so I won't go there -- except to say that I'm inclined to believe what Jory is suggesting: that we each have strong leanings, areas of interest, talents that come easier than others, etc. We have a personal (or spiritual) gravitational pull toward certain skills that, when put to good use, serve others and make the world a better place.

The trick is to find out what that inclination is for you and then figure out the best way (or ways) to act on it and make a contribution to the world.

In this other excerpt from Jory's blog, she talks about the importance of connecting with your purpose, especially if you're currently working a day job that isn't in line with it:

We working stiffs ... need to do it now. We need to find what we are happy doing, for pay or for free. If we can't make money doing it, we need to find ways to make money to support us doing it. We need to bring those worlds closer together -- those of inner desire and external necessity -- and see how much more the world can yield.

Can someone be the very best seller of widgets that the world has ever known? Sure. But why would you want to be other than for the money? The very best telemarketer for the United Way? Absolutely. Perhaps earning money for charity is a way that you can leverage your persuasive abilities for the greater good. It doesn't matter WHERE you put your talents. Just please, use them.

Wow. Think about that for a while.

What's On Your To-Be List?

In a previous blog post I talked about the Be-Do-Have concept. It's often referred to as the best three-step process for reaching success with any worthy endeavor. Sadly, most creative people pursue the three steps in reverse.

For example, many musicians mistakenly think "If I could only HAVE a record deal (or a hit song or some other material symbol of achievement), then I could DO the things an accomplished musician does, which would then allow me to BE the successful person I want to be.

Again, this line of thinking is backwards.

First, you must BE a successful person (with your music, art, writing or film activities). From this inner sense of knowing and confidence, you begin DOing the things a successful person does. If you BE and DO long enough, eventually you will HAVE the material success that naturally comes from this three-step process.

It's best to work from the inside out, not the other way around. Doing things in reverse is like signing up for a class and saying, "Give me a good grade and then I'll become a smart student." It's like standing in front of an empty fireplace and insisting, "Give me some heat and then I'll throw in some wood." That's not how life works.

So I got to thinking about other success tools, such as the almighty To-Do List. Making a list of things to do is great. Giving yourself action steps allows you to focus your energy on the most important tasks -- the activities that will move you closer to your goals.

But there's a danger in becoming too obsessed with daily tasks. When you only focus on the tactics of your plans, it's easy to lose sight of the Big Picture. You must constantly ask yourself, "What is my ultimate goal? My primary outcome?"

Turning once again to the Be-Do-Have model, we know that one of the most important things you can do is BE the successful person you want to be. The real payoff of BEing successful (and of reaching goals in general) is the feeling you get. Therefore, in addition to a daily To-Do List, you should also use a To-Be List.

Make a list of words you'd use to finish the sentence "I want to be ..." Some possibilities are:
  • Happy
  • Creatively Satisfied
  • Appreciated
  • Confident
  • Prolific
  • Fun-loving
  • Passionate
  • Too Sexy for My Shirt
You get the idea. Who do you have to BE (and how do you have to feel) in order to DO and HAVE the things you want? Use your answers to make certain your daily To-Do List tasks are moving you closer to BEing who you want to be.

DIY Books (and Bob) in the News

This just in from the Toot My Own Horn department ...

There's a fantastic article on self-publishing in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I feel blessed that the writer, Shera Dalin, felt the tips and advice I dished out for do-it-yourself authors was valuable enough to use liberally throughout the article.

I hope that my story serves as an example to others that it is quite possible to pursue a passion and purpose -- and find a way to make a living doing it.

If you're interested in publishing your own book some day, take a look at the new Self-Publishing Tips & Resources section I just set up online.

Whether you're doing books, music, art or film ... it's all about self-empowerment, baby!

Does Your Arts Scene Suck? Don't Complain, Do Something About It

The headline reads "For Young Artists in Baltimore, It's a Do-It-Yourself Art World." And the introduction to Peter Walsh's Horizon Magazine article says it all:

As America continues its methodical defunding of the arts, putting one community arts institution after another into severe financial difficulty, young artists have been particularly hard hit. The traditional routes to public success and basic survival seem blocked; managers of alternative spaces and galleries schedule shows years in advance, and older artists, every bit as desperate as their youthful counterparts, are competing for the same shrinking piece of pie.

Not to worry.

In cities all around the United States, artists in their twenties are energetically tackling the challenge. Here are four examples of young artists in Baltimore, Md., and their unusual and gutsy solutions.

That's the whole idea behind a blog (and podcast) called "Artist Empowerment." It's not about waiting for someone or something to come along and rescue you, or to deliver an audience to you on a golden tray. It's ALL about creating your own lucky breaks and living up to the idea behind this well-known quote by George Bernard Shaw:

"I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them."

In his article, Walsh highlights the efforts of Logan Hicks and Todd Lesser, two young Baltimore arts entrepreneurs. He writes ...

Tired of seeing their friends shut out and ignored, and unswayed by the notion that good art made by young artists couldn't be sold, the two joined forces in 1997 to create Cones and Rods, a week-long arts festival in a loft space on Baltimore's Guilford Avenue -- a show that featured the work of more than 40 visual artists, more than a dozen rock bands, the Bindlestiff Family Circus, film screenings, and experimental music performed on handmade instruments.

The event was well attended and even did the unthinkable -- it helped sell art!

Most of the work was priced to sell to a young crowd, from $25 to $250 for individual pieces. And sell they did. Over 50 pieces of artwork were sold. The youth community rallied around the event; hundreds of people attended each night.

This quote from Hicks sums up the attitude that drives the artist empowerment philosophy:

"This whole show came out of the philosophy of, 'If you don't like it, change it.' Baltimore is a great place to live. Unfortunately, we cannot say much for its cultural events, though. There comes a point when you can only bitch so much about not having anything to do. Sooner or later you have to shut up or do something about it."

Peter Walsh is a founding editor of Link: A Critical Journal on the Arts.

Self-Promotion for Introverts

According to Charles D. Hayes of Autodidactic Press, "The sad truth is not all of us are born promoters. I would even argue that the tendencies for introversion are more prevalent among writers than for most other occupations."

Many people would insist that the same thing applies to artists, musicians and more. Creative people are often at peace with the creation process, but when it comes to marketing, they feel as comfortable as Michael Moore at a Republican fundraiser.

Hayes has written a fantastic article on the Midwest Book Review site. Even though it's geared for authors, the principles he covers are useful for creative people of all kinds. Here are my favorite sections:

"In my view, the most important thing to remember is that you don't have to be naturally good at self-promotion in this business to succeed, but you do have to learn to 'value' the process with enough enthusiasm to see that it gets done."

Promotion usually takes artists outside their comfort zone. And like anything you engage in for the first time, you may feel awkward at first, as if you don't know exactly what you're doing. But Hayes learned an important lesson when he took a publishing course at Stanford University ...

"One of the most useful things I learned ... is that everyone is in the same boat in the promotion department. The folks at Random House and Simon & Schuster are feeling their way along just like the single book publisher, although they do have a decided advantage.

"I went to Stanford thinking that ... someone had the answers, and I was ... disappointed to find out most of the people there were just as confused as I was. But, in a way it's a relief to know that no one has all of the answers in this business and that everyone, including the seasoned veterans, are groping their way along to find something that works."

That's a great perspective. Which means trusting yourself and "knowing" that you have as much right as anyone to pursue exposure will make the self-promotion journey much easier.

Here's another great concept from the article:

"These are truly paradoxical times in publishing. It has never been harder to promote a book than it is today. But the opposite is also true: It's never been easier to promote a book than it is today. The reason it's so hard is that so many people are doing it. The reason it's so easy is that there has never been so much uncertainty about how to get people's attention and there's never been so many ways to go about it."

Again, this also applies to music, art, photography and more. Anyone with a computer and a bit of technical savvy can create something and attempt to reach the masses. That can be viewed as both a blessing and a curse. The thing is, much of what is being created is inferior and simply won't connect with an audience. That means if you have a quality creative offering and can find an audience of enthusiastic fans, the Internet allows you to make a much bigger impact than was ever possible in the past.

"Another benefit in book publishing for introverts is longevity. If you are in this business long enough, particularly on the web, you will leave a long trail of material. You will be easy to track for anyone interested in your subject matter."

Also be sure to read Hayes's comments on the importance of reaching a self-sustaining critical mass without national media coverage:

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and scores of books like it are self-sustaining. They make their own waves. My point ... is that you can create a tsunami without anyone seeing the rock that set it in motion. Connect with enough connectors and you can still make waves without being in the media limelight."

Read the entire article here. It's filled with great advice.

Top 7 Blog Posts of 2005 (So Far)

As we pass the halfway mark of the year, I thought it might be fun to look back at some of the top posts from this Artist Empowerment Blog. I based my definition of "top" on a combination of reader comments and my own subjective opinions. If you missed them the first time around, enjoy these posts from January to June 2005:

It's Time to Take Back Your Crayons

The Role of Enthusiasm in Creativity

Self-Promotion: One Do and One Don't

Are You Profiting From the Long Tail?

Simple Secrets of Successful People

What's Your Definition of Passion?

Being Perfect vs. Being True to Yourself

Self-Publishing Tips & Resources for Authors

If you are a published or soon-to-be-published author, or if you simply aspire to write a book some day, you may be interested in a special web page I just created called Self-Publishing Tips & Resources.

There are a few reasons I created this special section on my site. For one, I'm blessed to have reached a point where I make a living as an author -- and a primarily self-published one at that. Also, for the past year and a half I've served on the board of the St. Louis Publishers Association, an organization whose members are mostly self-published authors. These experiences allow me to interact with authors of all kinds -- from those just getting started to those with multiple titles to their credit.

In the midst of all this I've discovered two things: 1) A lot of people are interested in writing a book (in fact, a recent survey suggested that 8 out of 10 people claim they'd like to write a book some day), and 2) Many people who are interested in writing a book (including some experienced authors themselves) are filled with self-defeating attitudes and outdated perspectives on creating, marketing and selling books.

As you might expect, it's my mission to debunk the myths about book publishing "realities" and obliterate the negative, self-imposed beliefs that keep so many people from publishing their own book. We live in an Age of Empowerment. And if you want to express yourself creatively (whether that's with a book, a play, a song or a piece of art), there's nothing in the world that should keep you from doing it.

So check out Self-Publishing Tips & Resources and read a collection of articles I've written, included "5 Reasons to Self-Publish Your Own Book," "The 7 Attributes of Highly Successful Authors" and "Do You Suffer from a Book Publishing Myth Complex?" I've also included links to my favorite book publishing info sites.

Enjoy, and express yourself!