I haven’t had a lot of luck using professional agents or web site sponsored promotions to help me sell my art. I am going to avoid mentioning either of the two sites I talk about in this blog by name because I am not really interested in slamming them. I used them only to illustrate the pitfalls of not really knowing much about marketing or how artists’ agents work, and especially not doing your research ahead of time. I freely admit to my ignorance in these matters when I first started attempting to sell my art; I’m not sure now that I really understand it either, but I hope my unsuccessful experiences will keep other beginning artists from making these mistakes.
When I first started out, I was thrilled when a company based in AK called me to ask if I wanted to be a part of their multi-artist web site. For $300, plus a commission on anything sold, they would allow me lifetime privileges, 20 images which I could change (for a fee) periodically. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good site with nice features, but it runs over 1500 artists so it is easy to get lost on it. Lesson 1: For the price I paid, I could have developed my personal website and had money left over. My Personal website might not get as much traffic, but it would have only my stuff so there was no possibility of me getting lost in the shuffle.
I didn’t make many sales with them. After about two years, this web site contacted me with another “deal”; for $150, they were going to run an ad in International Artist Magazine and did I want to be a part of it? Well, of course I did. Disappointingly, the ad did not contain a single photo of any artist’s work from their site, or any artist’s names (even those of us who had paid $150 for the privilege!), only the name of the web site and its contact information appeared in the ad. Lesson 2: if you are going to pay for an ad, make sure it advertises your art or website!
Just like clockwork, two years later, this same website called me with another “deal”. They were going to be a part of a decorator convention in Chicago. Their booth was going to feature a large projection screen to showcase some of their artists’ work; afterwards the participating artists would get a copy of the DVD used at the convention so they could copy it and market to their local decorator market. The cost this time was about $245. Well, of course, I couldn’t travel to Chicago, so I never saw the actual booth, but sadly the DVD was pretty similar to the magazine ad they had suckered me for two years ago; it had a lot of stuff about their website, but none of my paintings were on it. In fact, only about 4 or 5 paintings were present. Again, it was all about them. Apparently, the site didn’t want to take the chance that the artists’ local decorator market might contact the artist directly. Lesson 3: For the same price, I could have paid someone to make a power-point presentation with my stuff that I could have mailed to every Home and Business Decorator in Fresno County, which is where I live!
The 4th time the web site called with a “deal” I told the snake oil salesman “thanks, but no thanks”. However, I was still looking for a “professional” to help me market my art. In the back of Artists Magazine was an ad for art representatives. This one was really costly; for $3,000 (which I foolishly put on a credit card) they made me 1,500 colored brochures on cardstock which were sent out to their contacts at department stores, catalog companies, and book sellers (of course they didn’t share their contact names, so I couldn’t do follow-ups…). It wasn’t a bad looking brochure (I got about 50 of them for personal use). When I never heard from any of these companies, I did some research and found out that a 1% return from a directed mail campaign is considered excellent. 1%? In case you didn’t major in math that is 15 responses out of 1,500!. Ouch! The percentage does increase if you follow up the direct mail campaign with a phone contact. Lesson: 4 I could have made my own brochure and marketed it locally for a lot less money and I would have had the names of the people to whom it was sent so I could follow up with them.
Please understand that neither of these sites lied to me. In fact, they told me the exact truth about what they were going to do. My error if you will, was in assuming there would be more to these promotional items than there actually was. If I had insisted on seeing a copy of the first ad or the DVD, or if I had asked Mr. Snake Oil how he planned to post twenty or thirty photos of art on a single page ad before I shelled out money, I would have realized my name and my art weren’t going to be seen in the ad. If I asked for this information and they refused to give me that information or send me a sample DVD that would have been a warning not to participate. The fiasco with the brochures could have been avoided also if I had done my research ahead of time and found out what was considered a good return on direct mail advertising. The information was out there; it is on me that I didn’t do my research carefully enough.
This doesn’t mean that these types of marketing should always be avoided. However, you must be able to use them to your advantage. As far as getting an agent, or the types of promotion I experienced, I can’t say that I would personally recommend either one. If you are going to use an agent, make sure that agent works on a commission or consignment and doesn’t charge you up front for promotional items. For myself, I now do my own local promoting and advertising. It’s true that I don’t have the clout to reach national markets, but on the other hand, I am on a pay-as-you-go basis with myself and I am not going into debt. I hope you can do the same
In : Business Development
Tags: agents selling art marketing art artist art gallery web sites