Jeffrey Yamaguchi edited and wrote for the zine Working for the Man, which basically was a collection of stories that found the humor in the ridiculous, soul-sucking corporate workplace. After putting out a few issues of the zine, Yamaguchi took the best of those stories and compiled them into a hilarious book called Working for the Man: Stories from behind the Cubicle Wall. Yamaguchi then started Stroboscope Productions, published his book, and started on a series of adventures in promoting the fruits of his DIY labor. He established a series of web pages dedicated to DIY books and indie culture, he wrote articles on it for various different zines, magazines, and ezines, and he did everything he could to let the world know that he published a book. He learned the hard way that the toughest thing about doing it yourself is the promotion aspect of it. Everything seems to be stacked against the DIY culture when it comes to letting people know that you’ve released a book, a zine, a CD, etc. But Yamaguchi fought that uphill battle and, surprisingly, the battle is making him more optimistic and enthusiastic.
If you’ve ever started a zine, put out an album, published a book, or otherwise unleashed some creative project on the world, you know that the toughest obstacle is the last one. You can write the zine or book yourself, or record the songs, or whatever, and you can figure out how to create and manufacture your product, and you can actually come up with the money or the scheme to produce your product. And you can do all of that essentially on your own. You control your own destiny there. But once you’ve made the zine or the book or the album or whatever, you have to rely on others (other zines, magazines, newspapers, web sites, venues, etc.) to help you let the world know that you’ve done something. And the first thing you find out is that very few people actually want to help out in any way at all. It’s a tough realization. But there’s hope. There’s Get the Word Out by Jeffrey Yamaguchi. It’s basically a book that explains how you can promote an independent project.
Get the Word Out starts off with a few pages of inspiration: stories that make you want to create something and unleash it. Then, Yamaguchi gives you a detailed, 27-point plan that explains various ways in which you can promote your independent project. It was funny for me to read this 27-point plan because, as you may or may not know, I’m always ass-deep in independent projects. I’m the co-publisher of Razorcake and I publish books through Gorsky Press, so I’m always eager to find more ways to promote this zine and the books. As I read through Yamaguchi’s 27-point plan, I realized that I’d tried everything that he suggests. And, in my experience, those really are the best 27 ways to promote your stuff. I just wish that I’d had this book and these ideas when I started putting out zines, instead of having to figure all this shit out for myself through a long and costly process of trial and error. So really, this part of the book is invaluable for any zinester, indie publisher, indie record label, indie band, indie photographer, etc.
After detailing all the promotional ideas, Yamaguchi attacks corporations for their wasteful and singular mentality – which may seem like straying from the point of the book, but if you’re going to go through all the trouble of producing something independently, it’s good to know what you’re up against and why you’re battling the status quo.
Then, Yamaguchi gives advice on how to live inexpensively. This is something that everyone should learn to do. We’d be so much more relaxed as a society if we all worked less, spent less, ate more toast or rice or potatoes, and spent the rest of our time doing things we love to do. Yamaguchi follows this section with stories on how he produced his zine and book. He also gives a convincing argument about why college students have the easiest path into the indie community, and he follows all of this up with a series of interviews with various people who’ve had success by doing it themselves.
All in all, this is a very worthwhile read. I find myself agreeing with most of what he says. I do get a little bothered when he talks about using, say, a self-published book as a way to get an agent or into a big publishing house, because this kind of act is antithetical to the book. I don’t like the idea of using the DIY community as a stepping stone into the corporate world. The DIY community should be the stone you throw through the window of the corporate world. Also, one caveat that I think this book forgets to point out is this: start out small. Don’t release a book until you’ve done a few zines. Don’t release an album before releasing a seven inch or EP. Take time to make your mistakes on a small scale first. It’s a lot less disheartening and costly. Other than that, though, Get the Word Out is a really useful guidebook, and it’s very recommended. –Sean Carswell (Stroboscope Productions, PO Box 20403, Brooklyn, NY11202)