May 31, 2009

Art and Money Feedback, Q&A, Lessons Learned

hollowtree

It’s time for the Sunday Store Update. I use this time every Sunday afternoon to tell you more about the small business I’m building to support the rest of the site.

I have a no-hype marketing policy, and I ask that you don’t buy anything from me unless you have a clear need for the product. All regular content is ad-free and freely available.

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Greetings once again from my corner of the world, also known as the hipster zip code of 97214. For everyone who’s NOT an artist, thanks for your patience during the launch week for my new product. We’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

We launched up Art and Money on Thursday morning to a great response, including several people who were chatting about it before it was even released. Check out this partial selection of feedback and buzz from the first few hours. I was really glad to see that people are excited about it.

A Few Questions and Answers

What’s it all about?

The Unconventional Guide to Art and Money guide is designed to help artists thrive without selling out, with the emphasis on the “thriving” part. The backstory is that I was curious about the fact that 30,000 students graduate from art school each year in the U.S. alone, but only a small minority are able to support themselves through their art. I wanted to find out what the minority does that is different from the majority of “Starving Artists.”

Will this help other musicians and other kinds of artists?

Good question. The guide is designed to help artists of all kinds, including writers, musicians, and anyone else. Many of the concepts and resources, especially the info on social networking, will apply no matter what kind of art you make. However, the guide definitely leans more towards visual artists, and all of the interview subjects thus far are painters, illustrators, crafters, or photographers.

To address this limitation, we may expand the product in the future to include a broader group of interview subjects. Any additional interviews will be free for everyone who already owns the product.

How do you download the audio files?

Right-click, save the files to your computer, and then import to iTunes or whatever audio program you use.

Where is the email list?

It is at the bottom of the download page you are referred to after the purchase. If you don’t see it, you’re probably using an ancient web browser – it works in Firefox, Safari, and the newer versions of Internet Explorer.

Is there an affiliate program?

Yes and no. I have a limited affiliate program – you can read the details here. However, I’m not really seeking new affiliates at the moment. Currently the program is available to the affiliates who have been active before and the artists who participated in this project.

For everyone else, I’m going to upgrade the program and make a few changes in the near future – as in, next week. Stay tuned and I’ll cover this in a future Sunday update.

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Lessons Learned

I try to post a self-evaluation after each product launch for fellow entrepreneurs and anyone else who is interested. Here are a couple of things that helped with this project:

1) The expertise of fabulous artists

I’m a full-time writer now, so it seems that most artists have accepted me into their fold. However, I don’t know the first thing about painting, sculpture, or photography, so I thought it would be best to go straight to the source to hear stories from those perspectives. My collaborator on this project, Zoë Westhof, did a great job interviewing a number of successful, working artists.

Thanks again to Karen, Michael, Leah, Hazel, Shannon, Dan, Soniei, Sandra, Joseph, and the sources who preferred to be anonymous.

2) Taking the time to get it right

Art and Money was supposed to launch a couple of weeks earlier than it did. It’s a long story, but we basically slowed things down a little, did a bit more editing, got another interview lined up, and made other small improvements. I don’t like to be late, but if you are selling something, it’s usually better to wait a while and make sure everything is right.

3) Bringing in another person to work on the product creation

I like to be done with things and move on to something else. This works just fine for most of what I do, but with information products you can deliver much more value (and increase sales as well) by continuing to refine the deliverables and add to them as time goes by. If this were up to me, it would not happen. Thankfully, it’s not up to me – Zoë is excited about doing that, and I’m grateful. Yay.

Perfectionism vs. Leave-It-and-Move-On

In terms of things I could have done better, the biggest thing I think of is that the video on the offer page is not as good as the writing and layout. I did a few takes of it, but I’m still getting used to looking at a tiny laptop camera and speaking casually. (If you haven’t tried it, I assure you it’s much different than speaking to a group of people in real life.)

Anyway, no excuses and I know it needs to be improved, but I’m OK with that. My theory is that the video is optional, it’s there to support the rest of the presentation, and most people won’t watch the whole thing. Also, I can always re-record it, something I plan to do later this week.

With all of my work I strive for a blend of perfectionism and let-it-go-and-get-on-with-it. The trick is knowing when to apply which principle. In this case, the product had to be excellent and the overall presentation had to be very good, but the launch video was not critical and can be easily improved later.

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Alright, that’s it! Thank you again for your support.

There won’t be any more product news until next Sunday – this week we’ll look at Learning from Everyone and What a Community Needs. It will be fun. See you tomorrow.

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“Hollow Tree” Image courtesy of the great Leah Piken Kolidas