Erin and I are in the middle of the fourth week of an eight week national tour, the Championing the Arts Tour. We are holding Passion of Painting Workshops, offering free workshops for children, holding art shows and salons, visiting friends and patrons, and meeting with artists and arts organizations to find out what is working in the arts community.

So far we have visited Abilene, Texas; Horseshoe Bend, Texas; Covington/Mandeville, Louisiana; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Asheville, North Carolina and Roanoke, Virginia. We are now getting ready to head north to visit with Barack and Michelle. I hear they might be out of town, but I am still hoping he can take me for a tour of my favorite spot, the Lincoln Memorial.

This week we have a bit of down time, and I am trying to catch up with my notes, and begin entering images, video, and text from our tour so far.

Please friend us on facebook, or subscribe to this blog if you want to follow us on this journey of disovery.

This tour is sponsored in part by the

Arts Council for Monterey County

and is presented in association with the

Dr. Carol Channing and Harry Kullijian Foundation


It used to be that when an artist asked me “what’s the best way to promote my opening?” We would have a discussion of press releases, postcards, email blasts, and phone calls. My answer was always the same, “What do you do? All of it.”. If you want to get the word out, it is incumbent upon you to use all the avenues available. If you don’t, and you don’t get the results you want, you don’t have to look any further for the cause.

Now there is the same issue with on-line marketing. You can post an announcement on your website, send out personal emails, make an event on FaceBook, and create a Constant Contact (or equivalent) newsletter. What do you do? All of it. Now we put the event on our website first, write a e-newsletter announcement second. Post the e-newsletter to our blog. Put an event announcement with a blog link in Face Book. And finally, start sending out personal emails to our close constituents and friends.

This is even before we start press releases, PSA’s, Postcards, and phone calls. Marketing is a lot of work, but the alternative, as far as I can see, is to get a job. If getting your work out to the public in a remunerative manner is important to you. You have to be prepared to do the work.


Going Live

May 5, 2009

We sent Drinking from a Cold Spring  to the printer this afternoon. We are happy with the text and the cover. Everything looks good. We even had a copy-editor go through it one last time.

Now its time to start to get the word out to the world.

I put a “pre-order” page on my Yahoo Store, offering to have every copy pre-ordered before June 15th to be autographed by Erin. Erin wrote a Constant Contact update letting her readers know that she is publishing a book and encouraging them to pre-order.

She posted her CC into her blog, then put a link to her blog entry on her FaceBook page. I put an order now link on the home page of her website.

This is where the relationship Erin has built with her readers is really beginning to pay off. Our goal is to sell 100 books before the delivery date. That way we’ll be able to pay off the printing cost before our Credit Card is due to pay. 

In the first 5 hours, her CC went out to 900 people. 100 have read it, 22 clicked the “buy now” link and 9 people bought a book. With multiple orders that makes 14 books sold in the first few hours. Seems good to me.

We’ll see how it goes from here.

Lulu or BookSurge

May 4, 2009

Drinking From a Cold Spring, Erin Lee Gafill

Drinking From a Cold Spring, Erin Lee Gafill

I put together our manuscript using In Design and the cover in Photoshop. I followed the guidelines from Lulu and, even though I knew I had a ways to go in terms of editing and color correction for the cover, I ordered four copies from 

This was a 150 page book, soft cover, perfect bound, 6″ x 9″ with no graphics inside, all black & white text. The cost, including  delivery was about $50. 

It took about two weeks for my four books to arrive. During that time, I had a couple of problems, and posted queries to the Lulu help e-mail. I never got a response back. I did get an email query from their sales department, but when I said I wanted to take them up on the offer but was still awaiting tech support, I never heard from them again.

My four books arrived, and they look good. All the problems I see are problems I created. The color cover was a bit darker than on my printer, but that is one of the reasons I got a print, so that I could see how their printer rendered the photo.

I did find myself frustrated by the lack of support, though, so, during the waiting time I researched a couple of other companies.

I checked out Wheatmark – they offer some great .pdf resources for marketing that I downloaded and have gotten a lot out of. There price structure was too high for me. I want a printer, like LuLu, that will just print my finished manuscript. They offer this service, but the inital outlay of money was pretty high.

I checked out BookSurge after reading about it on someone’s blog…I wish I could find their blog… They offer just what I want, but they have humans you can call for tech support. They have “design” teams that review your files before they hit the press and flag them if they see obvious problems. I haven’t gotten my books yet, but, from what I’ve heard their quality is comparable to LuLu. They are also wholly owned and operated by Amazon. This is great if you want your book in line to be sold by the largest bookseller in the world, not so good if you think Amazon is Satan.

Now  what about cost. For $200 they go through the whole project including giving you an ISBN etc. I ordered 250 copies of my book initially and they waved the $200 set-up fee. The printing cost of my book is $4.00, plus shipping. This is over $1 less per book than LuLu and I get customer service to boot. They offer 35% royalties to authors for Amazon sales.  I am very excited.

The down side is that the print time is 4 – 6 weeks for the first run. Quite a bit longer than Lulu, but, so far I think it is a good tradeoff.

My main goal with a self-publishing project is that the book not look self-published when it is sitting on a shelf, or someone is holding it in their hand and turning the pages.

I am no great designer, but I have some facility with InDesign and I usually can see when something looks bad. So, my first step is to go to a bookstore and look at books of the approximate size and style I am producing. Once I have one in I like, I buy a copy and use it as my template.

I have already decided I like the way this book looks, so, I measure the margins. I count the lines per page. I note the way the headers and footers are populated with author names, book title, and page number. I estimate the font size. (it will surely be between 8 pt and 12 pt) I look through the front matter. (everything before the actual book) I look at the back matter.

Before I go to InDesign, I prepare the content in Word. It is an easier program to work with for things like spell check, inserting page breaks, and editing. I don’t “place” my content in an InDesign document until I have a pretty clean copy of the text. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if you do major edits in InDesign, you may find it throws your formatting off, so, I like to get most of the work done in Word first.

Now, I create an empty InDesign file of the appropriate size (6″ x 9″ in my case), give it the correct size margins (inside 1.1″, top 1.25″, bottom 1.75″, outside 1″ in my case).

I then go to the master pages and insert my headers and footers, just like in my template book.

Now, I go to Page 7 of my InDesign Document, leaving six blank pages for “front matter”. I “place” my word document at the top of page seven, holding down shift, so that InDesign automatically creates enough pages and text boxes to fit your manuscript and populates the book with the text.

Now, if I have created my Styles in Word, (see my post Preparing a Word Document for Publication) my Chapter Headings are in one style, my body text is in another style, if I have any “special styles” for poetry, quotes, captions, etc. those pieces will automatically be imported in the correct style.

Now before you do anything else, go through the whole manuscript and see that everything is basically how you expect it. Check that everything is there, start to finish, and that all the styles are correct.

I will describe finishing touches in a later post.

After years of marketing and promotional services for artists and other creative types,  I am working on the publication of a new book of essays by my wife, Erin Lee Gafill. Drinking from a Cold Spring will be published on April 24, 2009, on Nepenthe’s 60th Anniversary.

Erin is a working artist in Big Sur, California. Together we live in the Log House above Nepenthe, pictured at the top of my post. Besides being a gifted and award winning painter, Erin has maintained a writing practice through her on line journal. These writings focus on the tension between creative practice and day to day life.

I believe that creative expression is the highest form of human expression. Through creativity in all it’s forms, people attempt to make visible, that which is invisible. The attempt to synthesize a subjective experience into a concrete part of the objective lexicon is the primary purpose of a creative life. By exercising a creative practice we bring our own point of view more in line with the methods and mysteries of The Creation.

No one lives a life of pure creative expression. Every day life gets in the way of focus. These distractions can be internal or external, petty or profound, personal or global.  Drinking from a Cold Spring is an attempt to document the integration of life and creativity. It speaks directly to every person who has ever picked up a pen or paint brush; changed a diaper or cooked dinner; stood on stage before an audience or sat before a potters wheel; loved and lost or been left to wonder at the meaning of it all.

Its central message is stay present. Stay focused. Get out of the way of who is really doing the work. Keep your head in the work, stay out of the results.

Being able to bring this manuscript to fruition has been an exciting experience. Through the process, we have crafted a group of seemingly disparate essays into a narrative that we hope will be of value to others.

Working on this project already involves learning a myriad of new skills and the use of new publication and promotional tools. Through this blog, I will document my ideas and experiments, methods and technologies, successes and failures. By taking the time to record this information, I intend to memorialize a set of activities for my own record, as well, I hope, to provide insight and information for the use of others who are trying to develop commercial success in support of a creative life.

We will see.

Tom Birmingham