Book Review: Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

Book Review: Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon
Show Your Work - Austin Kleon

The Book In 3 Sentences

Show Your Work highlights the importance of promoting your work to build an audience by sharing your process and releasing small items on a regular cadence. An artist should be able to tell stories well, learn to know what work to put out and also learn to take a punch. Finally, for an artist, selling out by charging for your work, giving up the notion of the starving artist and sticking around long enough to let success ensue is of paramount importance.

My 411

My second read of this book was equally as worthwhile as the first. This book is colloquially written with some incredibly encouraging advice for any artist, an umbrella term for one who does creative work, to start showing their work.

I truly enjoyed the choice of quotations that preceded each chapter and found that the anecdotes and analogies sprinkled across the book to be apt and interesting.

I took the main advice of this book to heart and purchased a domain name and started this blog and therefore, found it fitting to include this book summary as the first one for this blog.


1. You Don’t Have to Be a Genius.

  1. The lone genius myth is exactly that - a myth and therefore, good work isn't created in a vacuum but rather as a collective effort by many minds working towards a similar goal.
  2. Be an amateur at anything you do because an amateur is always open to trying new ideas, making mistakes without being afraid and explain difficulties as you more recently faced them.
  3. Sceniuses are places where people talk about things they care about. Examples of sceniuses include blogs, social media sites, web groups and forums. Find your scenius and share your work.

2. Think Process, Not Product.

  1. People want to see how the sausage is made and learn about how the person making the sausage ticks so that they can learn about what it takes to make sausages.
  2. Become a documentarian of your work by keeping some form of journal whether it's a scrapbook or videos of you working. With the journal you'll see yourself making progress more clearly.
  3. Turn your process into interesting bits you can share by referencing your journal.

3. Share Something Small Everyday.  

  1. Sharing A Daily Dispatch of your work or one little piece of your process that you can share every day is a good way to keep your audience engaged. Don't worry about getting things perfect but get them in front of people to see how they react.
  2. Pass the "So What?" test by asking why would an audience member care about reading what you shared.
  3. Stock and Flow - Turn your stock into flow.

 1. Your stock is the durable items that spreads slowly and builds a fan base over time.

   2. Your flow is your feed, tweets, blog posts.

4. Open Up Your Cabinet of Curiosities.

  1. Before sharing your work, share the work of others because they clue people in to who you are and what you do.
  2. Search for inspiration in places where people aren't willing to go.
  3. Give credit where credit is due by linking the original work.

5. Tell Good Stories

  1. The way and what stories you tell your audience have a huge effect on how people feel and how they value your work.
  2. A simple story structure includes:

 1. The Initial Problem

 2. The Work Done To Solve the Problem

 3. The Solution

3. A good pitch consists of:

 1. The First Act or the Past: Where you have been, what have you done, what you want, how have you come where you have come?

 2. The Second Act or the Present: Where you are in your work now?

 3. The Third Act or the Future: Where you want to be? Where are you going?

6. Teach What You Know

  1. Teach things you learn to others.
  2. Knowledge only multiplies by spreading. It's not a zero-sum game like money.

7. Don't Turn Into Human Spam

  1. If you want to be noticed, you have to notice.
  2. Stop worrying about about how many people follow you and start worrying about the quality of people who follow you.
  3. Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you'll attract people who love that kind of stuff.

8. Learn to Take a Punch

  1. The more criticism you take, the more you realize it can't hurt you.
  2. Your work is something you do, not who you are.
  3. Don't feed the troll.

9. Sell Out

  1. When people are asked to get out their wallets, you find out how much they really value what you do.
  2. When you feel confident that you’re putting work out into the world that you think is truly worth something. Don’t be afraid to charge for your work, but put a price on it that you think is fair.
  3. If an opportunity comes along that would mean more money, but less of the kind of work you want to do, say No.

10. Stick Around

  1. Use the end of one project to light up the next one.
  2. Walk away from your work completely. Have the courage to get rid of work and rethink things completely.
  3. You can’t be content with mastery; you have to push yourself to become a student again. Become an amateur again.