I'm in the middle of a publicity blitz in support of my book, Your Castable Types. Many performers shy away from the publicity process even though they're aware of how crucial it is to the success of any project and generating opportunities to do more work in the future. I believe the reason for this is twofold: actors don't like to do the work of creating a media kit for their projects or formulate insightful and engaging questions and answers about themselves and what they're promoting. Much like putting together an acting resume, it requires facing your work head on, looking it straight in the eye and determining what about it is worth the public's time and attention. Is it "good enough" for reporters, reviewers and show hosts to cover? Is it really the best work you have to offer at this point in time? Do you have the confidence to stand by your credits and creations? That's heady stuff to be sure, and for many performers, the answer is no. That makes blowing off the publicity process much easier, doesn't it? If no one sees your work than it will never be judged. Your family and small circle of trusted friends will support your effort without considering the actual merits of the work itself. Putting yourself out there in front of an audience isn't all that risky if you know you'll get pats on the back every time. It's the acting equivalent of playing t-ball. Everyone gets a prize and pizza slices for showing up. There's not much creative development, career growth or artistic contribution in that nonsense, although it goes on all the time. When I hear performers say that doing publicity feels too businesslike or manipulative, I want to call b.s. on them. We don't perform for ourselves alone. We create for the betterment, enrichment and entertainment of our audiences. We create to provoke, enlighten, inform and challenge. If audiences don't know we're out there, if they can't find our work or determine that the cost of a ticket to see our performances are worth it, then we aren't Professional Artists. We're mere dilettantes. We might be in a big city but we're really doing the equivalent of community theater for our own entertainment and to show off to our friends.
Doing publicity in support of your work forces you to look at it with a clear and discerning eye, find it's essential elements and clearly articulate them to audiences and the press. It's through this process that the public can find your work and perhaps, producers, distributors, sponsors and decision makers as well. It's also one of the best ways that you, the performer and artist, can determine if your work is ready for an audience. If you can honestly and enthusiastically promote what you've created and know that, whatever your creation is, it will be of interest to an audience, contribute to the cultural discourse or just entertain the hell out of people, then it's ready to take flight.
After the arduous process of writing a book that laid out my unique approach to acting, training and career development, then going through the mind numbing tedium of editing, and design, the very last thing I felt like doing was creating a media kit for it and getting out there to promote it. But, I challenged myself to complete that last task before the book hit the shelves. At the end of the process, I was so exhausted from all the work that when the publisher sent me a box filled with glossy copies of my books, I didn't jump up to open it. The box sat in the corner, untouched for longer than I care to admit. That exhaustion came from putting my heart, soul and head into it's creation. It was an honest, hard won exhaustion. The meaningful content was there. My publisher knew it and promoted it to retailers. I began to get calls, texts and emails from colleagues and complete strangers who were buying, reading and loving the book. Your Castable Types was influencing actors for the better, the feedback was uniformly positive and I was ready to build on my hard work and the positive reaction of the public. If I had caved to my fatigue and put off that last, crucial element of my project - the media kit - I would never have been ready to jump into the saddle of promotion and publicity. That would have been a shame because after every interview and promotional event, good things happen. Actors are benefiting from the content of my book and I'm getting to work with a whole new group of talented people from all over the country and the world. Plus, it's fun! Talking to show hosts, answering listener questions and being immersed in what I love, Acting and Creating, is complete joy for me. I accomplished a goal I always dreamed of doing and saw it through to completion, even though I was tearing my hair out by the end of the process. Now, I get to enjoy what I created and the positive reactions to it. If I hadn't done that last step and created a media kit, if I had allowed exhaustion, moments of self doubt and burn out to win, I would have a box of books that I might never have opened and the chance to share my talent and develop professional, creative opportunities pass by unclaimed.
As always, I'd love to read your comments and feedback and know more about how you approach the challenge of publicity for your creative work.