What Book Should I Write? (Curious Monday)

Not too long ago, I sat down to figure out what I was going to do with my book, I’d Rather Be in the Studio. The first edition was published in 2008 and the last edition in 2015.

While most if it is still relevant, it could probably use an update.Self-Promotion Book for Artists

How could I freshen it up and get it back into print? It has been a valuable resource to artists and students all over the world.

Then I got a big knot in my stomach. I realized that I don’t want to freshen it up.

I am not the same person who wrote this 10 years ago. It would be completely different if I wrote it now.

It doesn’t make sense to freshen up something I no longer feel connected to.

So … I’m exploring new book topics.

I realize that it could be a very bad idea indeed to ask this, but I’m doing it anyway.

What book should I write?

What book do you need that has yet to be written? Do you have an inkling?

What book would delight you to hold in your hands?

Please leave a comment below to help me with this dilemma.

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73 comments to What Book Should I Write? (Curious Monday)

  • A couple of book ideas…one feel quicker than other:

    – consolidate your most popular blog posts & comments into a reference/chapter book
    – do the total rewrite of IRBITS…just don’t call it IRBITS…just begin it (I’m thinking of Big Magic & just staying curious during this) (You did write: I am not the same person who wrote this 10 years ago. It would be completely different if I wrote it now. What would it me now????)

    I will keep thinking. These were two ideas that quickly came to mind.

    • Thanks, AM. I am really uninterested in writing about self-promotion in a book format.

      Yep – more Big Magic thinking.

      • My next thought is please, NOT another “self help for artists” book, please. There is so much advice out there for “getting through a downtime” already….

        There are enough: Art is Fear, Big Magic, Cory Huff’s website, authors Stephen Pressfield & Eric Maisel.

        There is even Jennifer Lee’s Right Brain Business Plan & the book that follows…both being great companions to IRBITS.

        I will always keep learning from you and enjoying your posts…but another self help for artists book just isn’t for me at the moment. Seems that most of the comments would disagree with me…but that’s ok. 🙂

        I agree with someone else’s comment that you already KNOW what you’re going to write and this is a tease. Whatever it is you are cooking, it will be great (even if another self help for artists, lol).

  • sue

    how about “just stay in my Studio”

  • Something about deciding on one’s personal goals in terms of art might be useful. It’s something I am struggling with personally. Still working in my regular business, but the artist subplot to my life is asserting itself more and more, wanting more attention. Perhaps I do not want to commit 100% to this path, but how to sort this out?

    At a recent immersive studio course, one of the other artists there talked about how she had been making her living from art, and left that because she did not enjoy the work of making the art a business, and now makes her living from something else, but continues to make quite amazing art.

    So deciding what one’s goals are. Working through that internal clarification process.

    • Susan: Absolutely! I have always been adamant that the “art as a business” life isn’t for everyone.

      Do you mean helping you sort out “What do I want from my art?”

      You say personal goals. Do you mean how art is intertwined with your life?

      Tell me more about this.

      • Yes! This is what I had in mind. You could combine this with insight on different ways artists could start a business that sustains their practice. I find that when I focus on selling, my artwork loses it’s honesty. I’d rather make a living through another means. It would be interesting to learn how artists are doing this by creating their own businesses (i.e. art studios, workshops, collectives, galleries, alternative spaces, alternative schools, etc.). Using creativity both in the studio and in your business.

  • Hi Alyson
    How about a book that addresses the stresses in daily life that steal an artist’s desire and inspiration. Also something on the changes we artists undergo in our lives that may lessen our original desire to create?
    Maybe something like “Be the Artist You Once Were” or “Regaining your Artistic Confidence and Desire”?
    Thanks

    Pete

  • The top 10, (15 or 20) things artist do to impede/sabotage their success.

  • Melissa

    Let me say that I just got the IRBIT’s download about 6-7 months ago. It has been valuable to me as I prepare to launch my art biz. Other art coaches and writers recommend this book so I would not change it much other than to keep it relevant with the times. But if you feel it needs an overhaul, maybe use it as a jump-off point for a new book while leaving IRBIT’s in tact. Meaning flesh out what you feel should be new. Write it all out. Then you may ‘see’ more clearly what this new book should be.

  • Margit

    Why don’t you gather your newsletter topics into a book by deepening some relevant issues?

  • Actually I want to ask you the same question. You have had many artist workshops, and you, I bet know exactly what artist hot buttons are. I bet if you really thought deeply you have this already. Actually I can’t wait to read your book too!

  • I really and truly believe IRBITS is a very necessary book and that it’s main points remain and probably will always remain, valid. All it really needs is an update. As with all things, the passage of time makes some details obsolete as newer replacements take over. Think buggy whips and cars. Or even carburetors vs. fuel injection. IRBITS might benefit from an update but it should not be abandoned. It is fundamental knowledge for all serious artists who want to make a living from their art.

    If, on the other hand, you want to write a completely new book, I think you should consider what topic is closest to your heart and mind and what will keep you coming back to the keyboard (or paper or recorder or whatever mechanism you use to write). You have a lot to offer us artists.

  • Your book is still useful to people so rather than a complete overhaul perhaps just a dust up or leave it as is. As for a new one, why not consider a more meatier (sorry vegans) approach to taking your art business to the next level. IRBITS is the nuts and bolts of a basic foundation. But I’m sure in your inner circle coaching you get into way more advice and detail about how to take your career to the next level. There is no book out there now that I’m aware of that does that. Most career advice books focus on the foundational elements. So what do we do after we have that in place?

    • Yes! You wrote this while I was writing. I agree completely. I have a decent website, Facebook, Instagram etc. I have an (almost) steady newsletter and a core group of fans/collectors but I can’t seem to grow past this level.

    • I love working with higher-level artists, as you know, Jean, but it’s hard to right 1-size-fits-all for this level. Once you get past the systems, etc, everyone is different.

      However, I will consider it and see what comes out on the other end.

  • I love IRBITS and agree that it has a core message that doesn’t really need ‘updating.’ What I’d like to see is an in depth book on how to really SELL art. There are a zillion ways we can gain exposure as an artist but most of the time we have to pay for it. From entering shows to vanity galleries, and the latest…no entry fee but there is a hanging fee, does any of this lead to greater sales? Analyzing Etsy vs. POD sites vs. self-printing, etc.

    There are so many non-gallery ways to ‘get your art out there’ it is overwhelming, expensive and I don’t know where to spend my time, energy or money.

  • Gay Pogue

    Alyson, those of us who have been following you for a long time pretty much have all the “how to’s.” We know WHAT to do and mostly HOW to do it. Of course, there are always new ways of doing things and so on. And yes, I need refresher courses in that from time to time.

    What I would like to hear from you is the stories you have collected over the years about how what you teach affects others (the artists, students, and collectors) emotionally and spiritually and makes the world a better place.

    Why is getting our art out there so important in these troubling times?

    Inspire me to keep working.

    Gay

    • Gay: Thank you for this. I’ve been writing more and more about this, as you know. Hmmm.

      • I agree with Gay about the stories. I automatically thought of the post you did recently about your experience of watching the docents in action and how it moved you. That was some powerful writing. Maybe a book of essays along those lines….about finding meaning in art experiences….not just for artists, but for viewers as well.

  • Alyson,

    first and foremost, I love your book. It has become my art bible.
    I read some part of it everyday. Thanks!

    What about more tips for marketing one’s art as a wholesaler?
    If you could expand on that topic, that would be awesome.

    Thanks again

    Roxanne

    • Roxanne: Thank you! I’m super happy to hear this.

      I usually recommend Carolyn Edlund at Artsy Shark for wholesaling. She knows that business much better than I do.

      Not to pass the buck, but to know my strengths and to appreciate the strengths of others.

  • Oh dear, I may have missed the mark. What I want to read is the explanation that comes after the sentence “I’m not who I was ten years ago.” People, artists, are afraid to grow, especially if they have a working formula. I want you to go beyond how to market my wares and dig deep into why it is essential that those wares change as evidence of personal and artistic growth. How to stay steady, keep the rudder down and still advance in total (personal, artistic, soul, technical, spiritual, networking) growth. Tall order but you could do it, your own story and those of others.

  • I have written a few books. Coming from my ‘job’ as what I call ‘a helping person,’ I wrote a book on healing techniques in the 90’s. Three years ago I decided that I had learned so very much more about what it takes to BE a healer that my 90’s take would benefit from a re-write, incorporating all the valuable information I’d gathered about. I pulled out the ancient word doc, re-read it a time or two and then began elaborating where the text seemed to say, “I need more!”

    One thing led to another and doors in my mind soon began opening, showing me where larger portions of the ‘new’ information could easily be incorporated. Unlike my first book, which I self-published, this version was embraced by the publishers of my 2 self-help books.

    Now, they will also be publishing a third… and each of these books has been an elaboration on the information in the first. The technique I teach is basic and has remained the same but the more I mentor others and the more I use it myself, the more I learn… hence the second book and now a third… all on the exact same subject… but differently nuanced and taking my readers deeper into themselves.

    It might be worth your while, as your existing book has been so useful, simply to re-read it with an eye to how it might be elaborated, go deeper. My first book (of the 3 self-help series) is still selling well because it’s “The Basics.” Just a thought (albeit a really lengthy one!)

  • Jackie

    Hi, Alyson
    I’m going to give you the answer you don’t want. What book do you want to write? You’re always telling artists to do what feels right and authentic, so why wouldn’t you give yourself the same advice? If you are sure you want to write a book (not need to, but want to), but don’t quite know what it is, you need to give yourself the time to figure it out. Asking for ideas is lovely, but if the spark isn’t there all of the ideas in the world won’t help. When (and if) you’re ready to do another book, it will come. Just do the authentic stuff that’s working and let it be for a while.

    • Jackie: Yes, I know this. And I love that you threw it back at me. Bottom line is that most people don’t know yet what they’re missing. But Curious Monday is for fun and I thought it would be fun to see what is on others’ minds. (I was right.)

      Thank you!

  • How about finding collectors you’ll love without working yourself into the ground?

    • Good one, Linda! And what about hearing from collectors about what they look for in an artist before they make the decision to buy – what information do they like to have, how do they shop for or research an artist? How does the artist build a level of trust, and get from interest in the work to purchase of the work? How can the artist and collector continue the relationship so that there is a mutual interest in building a collection?

  • Hi Allyson,
    How about a book for artists who have taken a break, for various reasons from their art career and need help navigating this new world of art, from social media to best practices to motivation and distinguishing yourself from the hundreds of thousands of talented artists putting their work out there now.

  • Keeping your creative self alive in the era of information overload

  • Thank you for asking this question. I find all of your information extremely helpful – thank you for sharing such great content! I would love to see a book about how to manage your art career when you have another day job. It is quite difficult juggling the two and having a life on top of it. I suspect that there are a number of other artists who must make their living in other ways beyond their art careers as well. It would also be nice to read profiles of working artists that you work with to see how they do it – sprinkling these profiles throughout the book would be great.

    • Cindy: Indeed. You are not alone!

      Thanks for the idea.

      • I’d be interested in this as well — examples of how people who work part or full-time in completely different fields work art-making (and selling?) well into their lives. I get it that some people only need 5 or 6 hours of sleep, but then there’s the rest of us! You’re a great storyteller (I agree about that docent piece) and it would be interesting to read more stories of successful and also struggling artists’ real lives. Inspiration and ideas!

  • I don’t know if this idea is “book” worthy, but I love reading interviews/stories about artists’ lives. Maybe you could interview your favorite artists and add reflections on their successes, pitfalls, dreams, etc.

    By the way, I applaud your decision not to rewrite IRBITS. I was recently faced with a similar decision for freshening up a book I wrote. I used Martha Beck’s criteria of : Is this a shackles on or shackles off project? It felt too much like shackles on, and I’m so glad I moved forward rather than revisiting past material.

  • Starting from Zero.
    Once you’ve got your artwork up to par to present it, how to proceed with little or no financial resources

  • I think a book about the mindset in being an artist would be great. Why do some artists succeed and some don’t? And yes, understanding WHY you make art and WHO you make art for. I know so many artists who never think about those things… It made a huge difference in my career when I started paying attention to that.

    I think there are plenty of business of art advisors out there now. I am much more interested in the philosophy and perhaps, psychology of being an artist…

  • I think a lot about where I am in the present moment as an artist. All the helpful info you have given is catalogued and researchable. Do you have insight into the stages of being an artist…when technique and all we have learned is in our heads, and we hopefully are making the best art of our life, but the energy and skills needed to continue marketing aren’t as much a main focus. Things we want to spend time and money on change – and we all still want and need a place to show and sell. The traditional opportunities don’t hold the fascination they once did (i.e. buying a tent and traveling in the summer heat to outdoor shows). Learning online marketing seems our primary challenge. Any other thoughts and ideas would be appreciated. Entering national shows…and staying in the studio for now!

  • The issues of time management and conflicting demands of the modern world on artists: IE: all that needs to be done not only business-wise, but LIFE-wise…vis-à-vis the time out of time, contemplative mindset of the studio….I recently read that an associate of mine, a noted therapist, recently gave a talk on the conflict between maternal urges and professional desires. I had no idea she ever felt a conflict@! e can share about this..motherhood is one, but there are Many others…even the total immersion needed to create, vis-à-vis the love and commitment to one’s spouse/partner, and the desire to spend maximum time and energy on and with both…at the same time!!!!

  • Hi Alyson,
    I love IRBITS and wouldn’t change it, but perhaps add a second book, IRBITS Revisited?
    Maybe a book that tackles the difficult issues? The real issues?
    The art world has change in many ways over the past ten years particularly for those of us who work full time as an artist. Things like how hard it now is getting gallery representation, difficulty making regular sales, competitive pricing etc.
    I talk to many artists who have been around a long time. They are being pressured by galleries and dealers to lower their prices. They no longer have sell out exhibitions or make the sales they used to.
    I think we are all feeling these things but don’t know really what to do.
    Does there need to be a new approach to these issues?

  • I haven’t read all the suggestions so I might be repeating what someone else has said. In the past, you’ve gone through all the how-to’s of your art business. But it seems like you still get a lot of questions about how to handle what happens in the studio – from the more mundane time management issues of getting in there – to the deeper issues of how do you find your unique voice, what do you want your work to say to the world and how do you want it to influence others. I guess that would be more about discovering the “why” of making art. I’d be interested in that.

  • kate moon

    And thanks again for IRBITS, it’s how I heard of you, I came to your site looking for the update, and stayed for you and the community.
    Right off the top of my head, the subject that is most alive would be exactly what makes this time in an artist’s life so unique it couldn’t be covered by an update 10 years later. It is the interface between “IRL” and the internet you use, warmly, to share art, analog and digital media, digital as art and statement in itself, and whatever might arise. For me, the range of things I can find out, my reference material, art blogs about pigments, intellectual property, economic uses and apps like crowdfunding and Patreon…alll this has to do with the computer even as I move back into physical media because of changes in my eyesight and the way I think with a pencil…one of my fave art books is Austin Kleon’s Steal like an Artist. It is instructive without being tutorial and must have been fun to write. Just do what you want, we are here.
    Just riffing here. whatever it is, I’ll buy it. Have fun.

  • So…When I embarked on the journey of book writing, I also sought out as much advice about the process as possible…

    The Createspace people were incredibly helpful…

    They said that to develop authority in the book world, you need a whole bunch of books…

    Kinda like an art show- you need 20-25 paintings usually…

    From successful authors, I was told that you write a whole bunch of books, then the next one is the best seller…

    It takes a while to develop a following, bookwise, but also, it takes a while to hone the skill…

    So…

    I’d say just write & write & write, & don’t fixate so much on each work…

    Just produce & produce, & have fun with it…

    Move forward…

    Write all the books you want to write…

    Some might be good, some ok, some fantastic…

    With a whole bunch of books , you get a whole section in the store…

    I always read in series…I read a book, then I hope the author has a series, so I can go through them all…

    As well…

    Slurp this blog up…That is a few books right there…This is fabulous stuff…Needs to be documented on paper…

    Hire someone to do the slurps & put them out as slurps…

    Maybe even call them “Art Biz Blog Slurps” Volume I, II, III, IV…

    Artists want this…It is precious…

    Get permissions for the art…To put in the books…Pictures are awesome…

    Don’t write one book…Write 10!!!

    Next subject:(but on topic)…I invented a way for people to do their own diagnostic imaging…That’s what I have been doing…

    I teach people how to do it, & I do it for them too…

    I am an artist…Doing something really cool in the field of medicine…

    There are many artists out there doing cool things in weird fields…

    I think many people feel that artists must either paint or sculpt or do photography…Or variations within that prison of context…

    Book 11 could be about all the cool things that artists are doing that you might not expect them to be able to do…The Prime Minister of our country was a drama teacher…You wouldn’t a thunk a drama teacher could run a country…

    So a book about artists taking their blinders off a bit & exploring greener pastures…

    Money is tight in traditional art because it isn’t so creative to be doing that anymore…

    Art is about being original, even in how you express it…

    Ok…

    Hugs…Kisses…

    & still thank you…

    I have been wearing grown up pants, all because you brought me up so well…

    ps. those who want or need free imaging, come to my blog & learn for free or ask me to do it for you…It is very very cool…(I am free too)

  • I have to admit that I’m relieved you are not rewriting your book that I’ve earmarked, tagged and written notes in the margins.The thought of redoing all my notes in an updated book (because I would have bought it again!) sort of filled me with dread as well! What I’d like to read is art as way of life. Creativity, not just in segmented time, but in everything you do. I’d love to hear case studies of normal human beings who manage to do it and how they are able to incorporate it in their busy lives with family. I know many of us are not just Interested in how to make it work but are in it for the long haul. But what does the long haul look like?? Can’t wait to see what you come up with, Allyson!!

  • I’m currently reading “eat pray love made me do it”

    Irbits made me do it?

  • Wow! What an exciting question! There are two ideas that come to mind. Both would really highlight your story telling abilities.

    For the past year I have been looking for a book on what it means to live life as an artist. There are some that explore aspects like Art and Fear, The View from the Studio Door, but none that I’ve found that explores the meaning of being an artist ( there are many on the meaning if art that I read for my doctoral work). A good example of a book that comes close even though it’s mainly about retirement, is Julia Cameron’s, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again. The idea of sharing your stories about the meaning of living an artist’s life would really interest me. I know many of the blog responses dwell on this. I would especially love to read about the intersection of creativity, spirituality, seeing and making, but I can also imagine a book about how artists respond to the chores of the business of art making that you’ve is discovered through all of your many interactions with all kinds of visual artists.

    Secondly, there are a few research techniques you may be familiar with that provide a way of analyzing complex ideas from many sources into themes. I love the idea of analyzing your blogs for an overarching framework and then sorting the content to explore the ideas expressed by the framework. This would be a lot more than just collecting the blogs into a single source, but imagine what you might discover in the process! Wow!

  • PS That second idea is a lot of work! A dissertation, really. 😏

  • PSS The idea in a recent past about the top things artists do to sabotage themselves is terrific! And probably already half written in your head.😉

  • Bug

    There are a lot of post-retirement artists and they have even more trouble than usual breaking into the market. Some devolve into seeing sales as a distribution method and a way to cover costs rather than a new income stream. (And, candidly, I think there’s nothing wrong with that, if you can afford it.) But almost everything is written for the person who has art as a primary or secondary occupation, but in the bloom of (relative) youth. I think the older artist needs some help as well. Perhaps, Alyson, you might at least do a slim tome, maybe a pamphlet, for them.

  • How to self-coach your Inner Art Entrepreneur

  • Alyson, you say you are not the same person. Who are you now? What is different about you now that you have to offer that you didn’t before? I’d start there. And I am intrigued as a follower to read about this.

  • I realize this is ridiculously late – but I like biographies and would love to hear about real life applications of your principles.

    Perhaps several artists woven through a book so that each principle of art business can be illustrated with two or so examples that show how the same principle is applied to different situations.

    I’ll be watching to see what you do.

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