An Aspect Of Marketing Few Creatives Understand
This morning, while wrapping the last of this year’s Christmas presents, I was listening to The Creative Penn Podcast, by London-based author, Joanna Penn. The episode I tuned into was an interview with book cover designer Derek Murphy, which turned out mostly to be a conversation about the role cover designs play in the marketing […]
This morning, while wrapping the last of this year’s Christmas presents, I was listening to The Creative Penn Podcast, by London-based author, Joanna Penn. The episode I tuned into was an interview with book cover designer Derek Murphy, which turned out mostly to be a conversation about the role cover designs play in the marketing of books, especially for independent authors.
The Commerce Of Art
While discussing how to understand what book covers and web site designs can do for an author, Joanna made a brilliantly concise statement that summed up something few creatives seem to understand.
“The writing is about you, the publishing is about the book, the marketing is about the customer.”
– Joanna Penn
Or, put it this way; the music is about you, the mixing and mastering is about the album (or single), the marketing is about the listener. For photographers it might be; the photography is about you, the processing is about the photo, the print is about the customer.
The Print Market
I’ve spoken with a quite a few photographers who’ve struggled to sell prints. One well known photographer even lamented that it was a “waste of time.” All the photographers seemed, to me at least, to be making similar mistakes. The photos we think are our best images, the ones we like the most are not, necessarily, the ones other people might want to put on their wall.
All too often, photographers spend their time, especially online, trying to impress other photographers, rather than trying to understand what makes consumers interested in buying or appreciating photographs.
Amongst the prints I had for sale in 2010-11, the one that sold best wasn’t my favourite photo. It didn’t (obviously) show off my technical skills. To be honest, this monastery photo feels kind of postcard-ish. But, I learnt some folks really like to have this kind of image on the walls of their home or office.
Stages Of Creative Process
We no longer live in a world where a photographer needs a gallery to sell prints, nor does a musician needs a major label to see globally, or an author a publisher to release a book. But, the thrill of being able to do it ourselves, shouldn’t make us blind to the benefits that existed in the old system.
The moment we start to render our work into a tangible form, turning music into an album, words into a book or photos into prints, we need to start asking ourselves what serves the best interest of the work.
I’m often asked to comment on projects by musicians who are DIYing their own albums. A lot of the music is really good. But, almost without exception it would have been a lot better if the musicians had invested a bit more in getting their music mixed or mastered properly, with techniques and approaches suited to the music that has been made.
And, if we choose to turn that creative work into a product, then marketing becomes essential. But, sadly, few independent creatives make the time to understand and have insights into the people who are, or could be interested in their work. To have a complete, sustainable approach you need to understand yourself and your work, but you also need to understand how to best realise the kinds of work you do, usually with the help of others and you need to find and understand the people who are willing to support your work, or buy the things you make.