Written in 2014 by author-poet Austin Kleon, Show Your Work is about how to do self promotion for people who hate self promotion.
Austin’s book is interesting because it highlights a strategy that I think can be applied to more than just artists and creative workers who were the original audience of the book.
Austin’s main strategy is to be open with your work. To share your work. Per the book, this is compared to a normal artist who toils and sweats in secrecy before releasing their work in the world and expecting attention.
And that’s the thing. Most people do this (including myself), not just creatives and artists.
Over ten illustrated chapters, Austin suggests that instead you should document your progress, share your thoughts, inspiration and teach what you know. A little bit everyday can go a long way to accumulate an audience who knows you and your work before you need it. (Interestingly, Gary Vaynerchuk began popularising a similar idea in 2016).
Something I found generally difficult about self promotion is that is often spammy and low quality. I think Austin’s ideas here helped me understand how it can be done tastefully. Sharing your inspiration, work and insights as you go makes sense because it is backed by the idea of providing value to readers, rather than baseless attention seeking.
However this idea hangs on whether people will actually be interested in the behind the scenes of your work. Austin argues that they will be. Most people are generally curious into how things are made and the thinking, planning and crafting behind work, he says. Though he is most likely talking about artists, it seems plausible that the inner-workings of most industries can be at least somewhat interesting too.
Curation was also mentioned in the book, a topic I haven’t seen discussed often. Austin stresses that crediting sources is essential to not just honour the author but also to help viewers find more value. Without crediting another creator, readers have almost no way to find out more valuable information or work from that author. In the book he analogises curation and crediting to little plaques in a museum or gallery.
Show York Work is a practical, interesting book which can help inspire and guide you to tasteful self promotion. You can find his book on Amazon here.