Believe in It First!
A relative of mine asked advice on how to get a long cherished work that her daughter wrote out into the world. She was convinced it would light up Broadway -- if only she could get it in front of a big producer. The conviction she had about this work, the passion she felt about its quality, touched me -- everyone should have such an advocate in this world. Inspired by her faith, I wrote her daughter a letter. The names and circumstances have been changed to protect the innocent. But all of it is dedicated to the brave and optimistic who are trying to do the same thing.
Forgive me if this email is long but I hope you find it useful. But I wanted to write while the lovely conversation with your mom was still fresh in my mind. She believes so much in you that she inspired me to share everything I can to help you on your journey.
First, I listened to your demo of “Love, the Musical” again. The melodies are pleasant, and the production values — the way the music and vocals sound — are all in tune and clear. Presentation is definitely important.
But “Love”, as in real life, needs some contrast. if you think of the great love stories of the world, including musicals, they have drama and tension, sometimes even violent or tragic tension in addition to great music.
Whether it is West Side Story or Les Miserables or Rent, there is always a challenge to fight: a war; injustice; hard times — something that the characters must overcome, perhaps in doing so, learning something, and the music would also reflect that, in pace, volume, tempo, etc. It is also good to have relief, as it is exhausting to always be caught up in tension, and so some kind of comic interlude in the form of a character or song, will not only break up the story but also enliven it.
Second, many Broadway producers and theaters and agents state that they will only accept submissions that have a track record or come through a referral from someone they know.
But everyone must start somewhere.
1. Start by getting back in contact with other artists — and finding an audience. It is important to be among others who care about the craft, who have experiences to share and can help you shape your work. Take classes and workshops, or do impromptu readings of excerpts among your friends. It is important that people other than you hear your work. And those other artists can become your friends and allies, whom you can learn from and lean on when you need to.
2. Take the leap into the big world — by starting right outside your door.
- Organize readings and small performances at local venues. I started with our local candy store. You will learn an incredible amount from a real audience, and local venues might appreciate the attention and traffic that your work might bring.
- Research opportunities to participate in events where your work can be appreciated. As an author, I looked out for bookstores that have readings, and festivals in which to participate. This gives you more learning opportunities to see what attracts a buyer of your work — what do people respond to, what do they ask questions about?
3. Research and network…constantly.
- As an author, I contacted lists and lists of reviewers when I first started out with electronic version of my book, and got some very helpful initial reviews from book bloggers Nickie Anderson and Crystal Crichlow. I then tried again, six months later, once I was able to offer a print version. And I was able to gain wider interest and more reviews, including the Midwest Book Review, which was a happy surprise.
- I networked with an open mind, not by simply telling people about my book and what I did. I would start by trying to find out what THEY did first, and think about all the things I was involved in that might be helpful in that connection — my book, my day job, my related interests in technology and women. In conversations where we had related interests, I would find that those connections would lead somewhere, because they had contacts to share, and I would also have something to share that would help them. Through these helpful contacts, I discovered the Brooklyn Book Festival and the Brooklyn Children’s Book Fair which I’m going to try this year. There are always others seeking to share their art — find them, and share the journey.
4. Give back through your art. Your art means something to you. In meaning something to others, it might inspire good will. Because The Crowded Kingdom is a children’s book, and a book I wrote for and with my children, the girls and I felt proud to be able to donate proceeds to UNICEF from our sales at the Brooklyn Friends Winter Festival.
I was proud to be a part of my daughter’s local Read-A-Thon, helping them to raise money, raise awareness in reading, and even gain a coveted mention on their Recommended Reading List. The enthusiasm I got from children who ran up to me just hours after reading my book, and the gratitude from the parents and teachers in having something to give to their school efforts, was priceless. So get involved and give back through your art!
5. Do it yourself, and learn along the way. Now, let me tell you I wrote to over 30 agents before I decided to self-publish electronically through Vook (which helped me distributed through iBooks, Nook, and Kindle) and in print through Amazon Createspace. I will tell you that I learned that print is still very important for children, and that the decision makers for buying a book — the parent — like to see something tangible on the shelf or with a review or reference. Because I witnessed this in action when I was selling at book fairs or readings, we changed the cover for our second print edition, and I’ve made notes for further improvements for this book and for its sequel, The Underground Labyrinth. You will learn, as you interact with real audience members and see real reactions, what might play best for your work. And works can be improved and revised because of it.
6. Try again. Now that I have gained some attention and reviews with smaller efforts, I decided to try again, and have started up good dialogues with agent and publishing contacts. They may pan out, or if not, at least I know how to keep going on my own. Try again by putting out another work, because building a body of work is yet more of a chance to hone your craft and build your audience. Just try again.
In the end, it is by doing a bit of all of the above that can build up attention and prove out your work that people of interest will start to take notice.
I hope that all helps. Good luck, and keep trying for the love of your art.
All my love.