by David Carus
The one constant love of my life has always been reading. As a kid I’d leave the library with a huge stack of books almost as tall as I was and race to finish them all before I had to take them back. When I got a little older I was through the roof when I discovered I could buy paperbacks for $0.25 at the local Goodwill and started amassing my own library. It was reading books that empowered me and it was always my most successful action in life to get where I wanted to go. So you can imagine my excitement when I recently woke up and realized where technology has taken books and what reading them looks like moving towards the future.
The idea of electronic books (ebooks) is nothing new. They’ve been around for a few years, but today it is easier than ever to read them and that is changing everything. I remember my first ebooks were internet marketing related and I could only read them on my computer so they’d go unread. Who wants to read a book on their computer screen? It’s not a comfortable experience. But then things changed when smart phones and mobile devices hit the scene. Now you could read an ebook anywhere, just like real books! When the first iPad came out I couldn’t wait to start reading ebooks on it. I laid down on my bed with my iPad, ready to be swept away to the future, but it wasn’t what I expected. The ebooks cost nearly as much as regular books and after awhile my hands started cramping up because that first generation iPad was pretty heavy. So I gave up using my iPad for reading ebooks and used it instead for watching Netflix, checking email or writing notes.
A couple of years later I couldn’t help but notice some of my author friends were publishing ebooks using Amazon. They’d send a message asking me to download their ebook and many times they were free. I didn’t know how I would read them but I clicked the purchase button on my phone. I’d always planned to be a published author myself so I became more interested in ebooks the more I saw them mentioned across the internet. Amazon Kindle kept popping up and so did Nook. I found out I could download a free Amazon Kindle app on my phone and read those ebooks I’d purchased. Having a toddler is pretty challenging and in recent years I’d found it harder to read as much as I wanted but suddenly with that app on my phone I could get through tons of reading quickly and easily anytime I had a spare couple of minutes. I always had my phone with me so I could read anywhere at anytime. It was life changing.
I started to read more than I’d ever been able to read before. It was because I didn’t have to carry around physical books, prop them open or worry about losing my place. Reading ebooks had some big advantages. You could carry hundreds of books weightlessly in your pocket. You could jump from one book to another and your place in each of them would always automatically be kept. I used to hate reading books with difficult vocabulary because I’d need to have a dictionary close by to look up words. When you read an ebook all you have to do is press your finger over a word and the dictionary definition pops up! You can even make notes and highlight sections of the text. You can make the font bigger. When you’re reading in bed at night you don’t need a special reading light because your mobile device is already lit, and you can adjust the brightness!
I was loving the experience of reading ebooks so much that I bought a Kindle. My iPad had cost $500 but I got my Kindle Fire HD for $120. It was the perfect size, built for reading ebooks and the store was affordable and easy to use. It didn’t take me long to see that reading books on a device like a Kindle was a huge leap into the future. For the first time in my life I didn’t feel the need to buy physical books. Why would I when books were easier to store and faster to read for me digitally? I understand people will always want to read physical books and some couldn’t ever imagine themselves reading books electronically. I hear it all the time. People say, “I just like the feel of an actual book.” I know that feeling all too well. Books are awesome! With that said though, I think there are a lot of people that might view ebooks the way I used to view them: as unwieldy, sub-par and less accessible. For anyone that hasn’t tried reading them on a mobile device like a Kindle, a Nook or one of the smaller iPads out now, give it a try. I think you’ll be blown away like I was.
I’ve been so excited about digital publishing that it’s made me dust off my old manuscripts so my books can be part of this revolution. It’s still early in it, so if you’re an author you should get moving too. There will be those that hold on tight to hardcovers and paperbacks but as more people discover ebooks they will only continue to grow in popularity. It will become the primary way people read. There will always be physical books just like there will always be vinyl records but they will become more rare, reserved for those books we want for our special collection. I can’t imagine letting go of all my physical books but I know for the most part, I’ll be buying ebooks from here on out. I can access and read them faster. What’s more important? The books themselves or the knowledge gained from reading them? The world is about to get even smarter.
For anyone interested in reading my books, make sure you’re on my mailing list. You’ll hear about them first, have opportunities to read some of them free and all are geared towards inspiring artists. You can join here: davidcarus.net/mailing-list
by David Carus
For many artists the idea of marketing means acting like a used car salesman, hounding people with annoying pleas to “come on down and look at what I got!” They wouldn’t be alone because there are plenty of people that have this viewpoint from so many salesmen not treating their profession as an artist might. I’m here to tell you that the used car salesman model doesn’t work and isn’t what anyone should be doing, not even used car salesmen. When done right, marketing is an art.
Marketing is more than just selling. There are many parts to it. Think of it like a big machine, ironically, like a car. You have your wheels, tires, body, frame, brakes, engine, windows, etc. The machine called marketing basically has these parts: the thinking up of an idea for something, the making of it, the distributing of it, the packaging of it, how people perceive and discover it and how they go spread the word about it. It includes things like selling and advertising too.
Once you know that marketing is not just putting up a sign or shouting at passers by, but an overall big picture of how you get a product from being a lightbulb over your head to getting it into the hands of lots of people, you can now move forward with some success. You’re probably already doing some marketing but in order to really take flight as an artist you’re going to have to be an artist at marketing too.
Let’s take a look at an example of successful marketing. Apple. They gave us the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad and are easily one of the biggest companies in the world. Why? They are artists at marketing. They created a concept for a product no one even knew they wanted. How could anyone imagine being able to carry thousands of songs on one small device called an iPod? We were used to portable CD players and thought we were hot stuff if our CD player had anti-skip protection! Apple came up with an amazing idea and then rolled out a marketing campaign that captured the idea. Remember those great ads of black silhouettes over colorful backgrounds rocking out, earphones swinging? The iPod was fun, creative and something new. People had to have it and it spread by word of mouth too. But there was also the packaging. Have you ever walked into an Apple store? It’s nice being in there isn’t it? From the sleek look to the workers in blue t-shirts to the way the packaging feels when you hold it. Apple has made the entire experience of being a customer of their products into something amazing. That takes skill and those guys are true artists.
You might say, “well Apple is a big corporation, they can afford to hire professional advertising agencies and designers, but what can I do?” They are a big company but they started as two guys in a garage. Walt Disney was a struggling artist trying to break into a new field called animation and started by reading one book on the subject. Today the Walt Disney Company is the largest entertainment company on Earth. My point is that everyone starts somewhere. So don’t feel limited. Feel empowered with the possibilities of what you can create and how you can create it.
You probably already know what kind of artist you are. You might be a fine artist or a novelist or a singer-songwriter but no matter what kind of artist you are you need to master the art of marketing. Hell, there was even a very famous car salesman that you could easily call an artist of marketing. What he’d do was simple, brilliant and got him the Guinness World Record for number of cars sold. Whenever someone would find their way to his car lot he would always remember to write down their name, address and birthday, then, like clockwork on their birthday he’d send them a birthday card. It got to be a major production where he’d send out thousands of birthday cards, but people loved them! He might not sell them a car right away but they’d always remember him and eventually they’d buy from him or refer a friend when the subject of buying a car came up in conversation. Why wouldn’t he get their business? He did something no one else was doing. Often, people don’t remember to give birthday cards to their family or friends and here he was sending a card year after year. He turned the idea of a used car salesman from the guy to avoid to the guy that always sends you a birthday card. Think about what you could do with one simple marketing action.
When it comes to marketing your art, the sky is the limit and it’s one big empty canvas for you to paint into a masterpiece. The internet makes it even easier to market your work. You now have the ability to reach millions overnight with the right work or message behind you. You must treat marketing like an art because it is. You have to continually work at it to get better. Over time your skills will improve until you have an assembly line of masterpieces being pumped out.
Tackle the marketing of your art as an extension of the art itself, not even because you want it to sell, but because there is further pleasure to be had creating in the field of marketing. Steve Jobs took an interest in not only building iPods but in building stores. Walt Disney looked beyond his movies and envisioned theme parks where parents could bring their kids.
Look beyond the empty canvas sitting on your easel as your only form of art to create at. Talk a walk outside and try imagining what the world will look like as you market your art in it. The ways are as limitless as your canvas at home because the canvas of the world is so much bigger. Get those lightbulbs glowing and start flinging that paint!
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What is a blog? It's slang for "web log" which is basically a journal or diary you publish online. In the past, diaries were something private you kept in a locked drawer but today lots of people are using blogs to communicate to the millions of people surfing the internet for content they can connect with. A blog is a great way to create something meaningful that can be discovered, shared and grow into something bigger. Want to promote your work? Want to have a place to express yourself? Looking to establish yourself in your field or start a movement of change? You're gonna need a blog.
A blog is one of the easiest things to do online. There are literally dozens if not hundreds of websites where you can have a blog for free. There's Blogger, Tumblr, Wordpress, Yahoo! and tons more. Once you have one set up you can write as often as you'd like, you can write blogs that are as long as a novel or keep them as short as a couple of words. You can also add photos and videos and music. You can pick any topic. There's no limitations to what you can make your blog about but if you pick something that is specific, unique and focused you'll soon find out that there are lots of people online that are interested in exactly what you're blogging about and you'll have a growing audience you can continue to build on and even make a living from.
How can you make money from a blog? It's pretty easy because there are a ton of ways to "monetize" your blog. You can place advertisements on your site which make you money when someone clicks on them or buys that particular product. You can sell your own product like ebooks, t-shirts or art prints. I make music so I sell digital albums. You can also ask for donations from visitors who might feel compelled to help the cause. There are even more ways to make money from a blog, like booking speaking gigs from establishing yourself as an authority on a subject. But all of this boils down to one important thing: you have to create good content.
You don't have to be a great writer like Ernest Hemingway or a great marketer like Seth Godin to get going. Any blog is better than no blog and someone will always be interested enough to read. However, you will get better and better the more you blog and your success with it will continue to increase. In the beginning you may find it slow to build an audience depending on how many people you know etc. but I have some tips to get you on the fast track to being a great blogger.
1. Make sure your blogs have social media share buttons at the bottom for sites like Facebook and Twitter. This makes your blog easier to share and go viral. It also gives you some numbers to look at to know where people are sharing your blog.
2. Reach out to other bloggers and offer to write a guest blog for them or get them to write a guest blog for you. What is guest blogging? It's a smart way to leverage the power of another's audience and traffic. When you get another blogger to write for you, your audience discovers them. You write for them and their audience discovers you and your blog link.
3. Make sure you have a title and image attached to your blog that are attention grabbing and shout: "Hey! Bet you didn't know this! You're gonna like this and want to share it immediately after reading it!" This is where the creative juice has to come out. If you struggle with stuff like this it's a good idea to find someone to work with that can help you find the right approach or angle. (I'm available for hire if you need help getting started, want someone to write a blog for you or anything else). I like helping people create and it's why I started my blog.
The internet is literally a blank canvas and your blog is one of the most important ways you paint your masterpiece on it. Have fun creating, finding the people that love what you create, keep delivering your art and in a short time you'll find yourself with a pretty swanky art gallery filled with admirers. The show opens any day you want it to. I hope to walk into it one day and see your paintings hanging where they should, with spotlights and people talking.
It happens to us all. You put yourself out there by showing the world something you made, something you believe in and just when you are at your highest, happiest, proudest moment, someone says something or maybe they don't say something, but the communication is clear: you suck, you're not that special, you're not that talented, it wasn't a very good idea, and so on. At this moment we flare up inside and then get that feeling of wanting to hide, to escape, to get the hell away and make the suffering end or quite possibly get mad and verbally attack back. However, I would challenge you to take another look at what is really happening. You should know something: You should be feeling on top of the world. Huh? Let me explain.
Not everyone puts themselves out there. In fact most people sit idly by wishing they had something they could put out and had the courage to actually show people. They don't but you do. Congratulations, you are indeed special. Yes, that's right, your mom wasn't lying to you and deep down you always knew too so take a moment and give yourself a proper acknowledgement. Okay, good. So you've got a few guys putting themselves out there so that must mean everyone else hates you, right? Wrong. Like I said, most people wish they had something to put out, something to believe in and go after passionately so they're not actually bad people, they're just trying to find something to believe in and be passionate about. That's where you come in with your idea, your painting, your novel, your song. So who is the guy hating on you? There's not many of them and it's probably your best friend. Huh? Let me explain.
You see, there are heroes in the world. That's guys like you and me. Artists, creators, doers, the guys that make stuff happen and help people. And you see, there's also bad guys. Sure, these are your Adolf Hitlers, rapists, murderers, serial killers, etc., but they are not always so obvious to spot. Why? Because they are COWARDS. What would a coward do if he didn't like someone and wanted them to sink? Would he come right out and tell you he hated you? No, that wouldn't be very smart. What would he do then? He'd cuddle up to you, get as close as he could and slowly stick the knife in as he smiled the most genuine smile he could muster, pretending loyalty but always looking for ways to make it hurt more. You've seen the movie lots of times right? Isn't it always the guy the hero never suspected? Of course we see it because we're the audience, but he usually doesn't.
A funny thing happened to me once. I'm big into comic books and love the hell out of them. I like to follow writers and artists that I like. I like their fan page, I might follow them on Twitter (I'm @David Carus by the way) and I like to keep up with the guys that are creating universes filled with heroes. I started a friendship with one writer that was kind of a big deal. He was a New York Times Bestseller, he wrote comics that I enjoyed and was working in the industry, a real professional. One day he posted something that was pretty scary, that went totally against stuff I knew to be true and I commented on his post. He came at me like a vengeful, hateful, slobbering, slimy bastard that wanted to shrink me down to nothing, and he did this in the name of helping me. He wanted me to know how wrong I was and when I didn't take the bait the real guy came out. Now remember, this is a guy I had admired up until this point and it was shocking to see him act like a hateful monster. He called me names, he belittled my core beliefs and I was supposed to be left feeling like an idiotic piece of crap. But I didn't. I quickly unfriended him, laughed it off and turned my attention elsewhere. But, it's not always so easy. You know what I mean, right? That feeling was still there. That feeling of being slimed. I didn't like it and something had to be done. So what did I do? I immortalized him in song. Huh? Let me explain.
I make music and it's hip hop music and the one thing you don't want to do is piss off a rapper. You see, rapping has one interesting element to it: the diss song. When someone upsets a rapper he just writes about him in his next song. Heck, even Taylor Swift has used this method, taking her bad ex-boyfriends' actions and turning them into million dollar hits. So what did I do? I wrote a song about him. I'd been working on this idea for a song called Copy Machine because I thought it was a cool metaphor for how people just like to spew out stuff they heard somewhere else without really coming up with anything original themselves. The best example of this is when people watch the talking heads on the news and then stand at the water cooler at work the next day giving the exact same opinions they got from their TV. But this happens a lot. So I decided I would take this critic, this hateful individual, this guy that had tried to make me small and I decided to make him big. I put him in a song that will survive longer than him. He'll forever be known as the Copy Machine guy. And the kicker? I never mention his name. He's not going to get one new fan from me. But I got and continue to get new fans because of him.
The next time you get someone being critical, ignoring you, telling you that what you have to say isn't important, look a little closer and really listen to what that person is saying. All of those things are not directed at you, they're really directed at themselves. Deep down they know what they're doing is wrong and if they can't be right they don't want anyone to be. You just have to know they are Copy Machines spewing out the hate of people that were their Copy Machines at some point. Then, you just smile because you must know this: they thought you were important enough to target because you are. You're the most important kind of people we got on this planet: an artist. And you know what? Artists Run This Planet. The Copy Machines don't but wish they did. Get happy, take it as a win and make art because ultimately that's what will help everyone, including these guys. Even they want to see you win, deep, deep down. Don't ever let them make you small because you're not. You're a giant and you leave big footprints. Just know that sometimes people will fall into them and get hurt. When they do, and climb out trying to murder you from every angle, just keep your head up in those clouds and make a beanstalk. When someone climbs it, that's your real friend.
Hope you enjoyed this blog. Make sure to join my mailing list if you haven't already and if you get a chance, check out the music video for Copy Machine below. It was a lot of fun and if you watch closely, that's me in the mask :-)
When I was younger I knew I should go to college. How did I know this? It was encouraged at every turn I took. My parents, my teachers, the television; seemingly everywhere I looked the message was clear: go to college! I did. I was well on my way to a promising career as a lawyer and then into politics where I would someday work up the ranks of elected office until one day I was President of the United States and then I could save the world. It seemed like a perfectly logical and reasonable plan that everyone I knew was totally backing me up on.
So what happened?
Well, I was interning on Capitol Hill, flying through all of my Government major at record speed and was confronted with the opportunity of throwing on a second major. I chose English. All of a sudden I was reading tons of novels again, discussing their importance and meaning. I realized I had way more fun and passion for books and poetry than I did for politics and then an idea struck me: who impacted the world more, a politician or an artist?
I knew government extremely well and I had to honestly say that the work of any one President could easily be wiped out by the next guy and very few politicians made lasting legacies and how valuable were any of them really? I looked at famous writers and thought to myself, wow, someone like Shakespeare has been influencing the world like crazy and he's been dead for centuries. Hmmmmm.....the answer was clear. Ideas were the thing. Whoever created them and could have them spread won. And when it came to expressing ideas there wasn't a better person to do it than an artist.
I started writing poetry which turned into spoken word poetry and by the time I graduated from college I was determined to be a novelist. I returned home with my degree (everyone was happy) and got a job as an English teacher at my old high school. I would write in my free time until I could make a full time living as a writer. It was a logical plan and once again all was right with the world.
So what happened?
Let's just say it wasn't an ideal place for a politically minded, self-determined individual such as myself to make into any kind of a permanent home. I did my best though. I was most proud of one thing I used to do with my students. I took a stack of blank white paper and gave each student a sheet. I then told them they had 15 minutes to come up with something, an idea, anything they wanted. At first they were like deers in headlights but I encouraged them with further explanation. I told them that the piece of paper was their only barrier to having whatever they wanted. I asked, "Who wants to be a millionaire?" and practically all their hands went up. I said, "Good, so here's your chance. Put a million dollar idea down on that paper. You can write a song, an idea for a movie, the start of a story, invent something that will change the world for the better." The lightbulbs shined brightly above all of their heads and I walked around the room for 15 minutes continuing to encourage them.
As time went on I left teaching in very dramatic fashion (I wrote a whole book on it called Hip Hop Will Save The World, look out for it) and found myself having to confront making a living as an artist. You see, I had started recording hip hop music just months before I decided to leave teaching. I was making about $100 a day as a teacher and I quickly realized that if I just walked around and talked to people I could easily sell 10 CDs at $10 each and make the same amount of money. Once again it sounded like a logical plan and it was!
I spent the next several years making a living as an artist selling my music one by one to the people I met. I set my own hours and I met tons of interesting people. And this was before the era of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube! Anytime I walked outside and communicated with people it was a successful action.
Fast forward a few years. I'm married now. I have a son. I live in New York where it snows. We have the internet on our smart phones so..... Yep, I stopped going outside like I used to. My music and my art was still reaching people but not enough that I could make a living off of anything. I scratched my head and wondered what I was doing wrong and then it hit me. There was a time when I was making a living being an artist and then I stopped. I realized that what I was doing back then held an answer to all this. It did. It could be boiled down to one word: Communicating.
What does an artist do? He communicates! But, what does that mean? Well, to communicate you have to have something to say, sure, everyone knows that and boy do people have a lot to say, but it's more than just talking and saying stuff. Communication is a two way thing. Someone on the other end has to listen, duplicate you, understand and then they get to say something back! This is basically how people become....wait for it....friends. Friends? You might say, "I have 2,000 friends on Facebook but they don't pay me to be an artist!" My response: Have you really been COMMUNICATING with your "friends" and are they really your friends?
We all have something we want to tell the world and in getting our message out we know it would enhance the world and make it a better one to live in but in order to be heard we all have to do a better job hearing other people. They have something to say too and when you listen to them they listen to you. I know you have friends, real friends that you'd support if they all of a sudden had a book they self-published or were performing in a local play. Who wouldn't support a friend? They're your friend after all. When you have lots of friends boy you can get stuff done. Selling a book, an album, a movie, anything, is super easy when you have lots of friends. Real ones that care. In order to get those you have to genuinely care too. (Think about all those big stars that thank their fans and seem to genuinely care about them.)
Now, not everybody is going to be a perfect match to be your friend so you have to go find your friends by communicating with lots of people. With the internet it's now incredibly easy. You can find people's entire profiles filled exactly with what they like, and if you like what they like, there's a good chance you'd be friends. Imagine if you made tons of friends, how easy would it be to make a living as an artist or at anything else for that matter? Real power comes in numbers. It doesn't come from staying locked indoors or not interacting with people.
My approach is now completely different. I don't just post my stuff and expect people will respond. I post other people's stuff, interact with them, become really interested in what other people are doing and somehow they become really interested in what I'm doing. This isn't a trick, it's not something faked. It's all about finding people you can connect with and communicate with. An artist communicates and when you look at any great artist, what did they do other than communicate with a lot of people? You have that opportunity every moment. When you go to the store, when you pump gas, when you go online, when you visit your kid's school. Make friends, communicate, build an army of support for yourself and not only will you make a living doing whatever you really want to do, you can topple any opposing force with ease because it's not just you at that point, it's a whole army fighting for you to win.
This isn't an easy solution. It takes hard work to be a good friend. But isn't that what makes it valuable?
I hope this blog has helped you. I know it's already helped me just writing down what I'd been thinking about the last few days. I hope you reach out and leave me a comment on this blog, send me an email (I'm firstname.lastname@example.org), follow me on Twitter @DavidCarus, etc. because like anyone else, I could use more friends. Also share this blog with anyone you think it might also help. I truly hope you get what you want and you help make the world a better one because there's no excuses anymore right?
P.S. If you enjoyed this, there's a good chance you'd enjoy my songs. They always carry a message of being at cause and making things better. You can download my music for free here: xraypoetz.com
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I'm David Carus. From overcoming one of the most dangerous cities in the country and graduating from one of the most prestigious colleges in America to leading an educational movement as a teacher and running for Congress at the age of 25, I decided the best hope our world has is through art.