Marketing 101 for Book Artists with Laura Russell
I had the pleasure of attending the Focus on Book Arts conference last month and one of the highlights was Laura Russell‘s keynote, Marketing 101 for Book Artists. She is not only the owner of 23 Sandy Gallery, which has book arts as the focus of gallery exhibitions, but is also a book artist herself.
Laura gave lots of good advice during her keynote. The point she couldn’t stress enough – be good at shameless self-promotion. The only person you can count on to be your biggest fan is yourself.
Marketing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s necessary if you want to get your name and your work out there. There are a number of ways to gain exposure:
- Submit your work to juried shows: Galleries will often produce an exhibition catalog, which will include your work. The great thing about this is that you gain exposure long after the exhibit closes. In addition, a gallery will advertise their shows and this could have a larger reach than your marketing efforts – they will get your work in front of a new audience.
- Sell to organizations with special collections: This includes public libraries, university libraries, and museums.
- Self-marketing: Use your blog, Email newsletter, listservs, press releases, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc. to announce anything new – new work, events, awards and recognition, important acquisitions – who just purchased your work?
Delving further into self-marketing, if you like writing – share what you know. Your experience and knowledge may be of great value to others in the field. Show others that you’re an “expert” and you’ll gain exposure.
There are several ways to do this:
- Write articles for journals, such as the Bonefolder or the GBW Journal.
- Start a blog.
- Write guest posts for others’ blogs: Not only do you have a presence on the other blog, but you will likely earn traffic for your own website. It’s a win-win proposition for everyone involved. Alyson Stanfield wrote a great blog article about this: Promote Your Art by Writing a Guest Blog Post.
- Write for a trade newsletter, such as the Guild of Book Workers.
- Write for other publications, such as The Crafts Report.
Paid and/or free advertising is another way to get exposure. With print media, you can take out ads in magazines, newsletters, or directories. There are also online directories where you can list your business, such as Google Places. Book arts-related options include Artist Book News, Artist Book Yearbook, Miniature Book Society, Moveable Book Society, or the Book Arts Newsletter.
Laura said something that I’m sure most of us already know:
The book arts world in underpriced for what we have as original art.
Pricing is a sticky issue! She suggested that when you set your prices, take your experience level into account – until you have made a name for yourself, it will be hard to sell your work at high prices. Try checking out work that is similar to yours – what are those books selling for?
Start low and increase your prices as needed – it’s hard to go down and those who have already purchased your work will be angry that they were charged a higher price. For the same reason, you want to keep your pricing consistent across all venues – it’s unfair to undercut your galleries and no one wants to feel like they’ve been overcharged.
Some options on how to sell new edition work:
- Pre-publication discounts: If someone buys your work in advance, they get a special deal. Once the work has been completed, the price goes up. This is a great way to help institutions (universities, libraries) to stretch their budgets.
- Standing order plans: Libraries and other institutions will sometimes get a “subscription” to your work, meaning that they will automatically receive every new piece you produce.
Laura recommended that for every book you create, you write a book information sheet. Librarians find this document useful because it’s used for their cataloging system. This document includes anything relevant to your work, including:
- Artist statement
- Directions on how to set up your book for display
- Colophon/technical details
You can view a pdf sample book information sheet on page 11 of Artists’ Books Creative Production and Marketing by Sarah Bodman.
Laura had some suggestions on how to approach dealers, galleries, and libraries. Be sure to look for submission policies on website, including who to contact, how to contact them, and how to submit your work. Make sure you are sending them everything they ask for – artist statement, resume, slides/jpegs, etc. You don’t want to irritate anyone just because you failed to do your research.
Whenever possible, schedule an appointment, don’t just drop in – be respectful of others’ time. For more information, check out Laura’s great blog article, The Business of Being an Artist: How To Get Your Work Into Art Galleries.
I hope this information has been useful to you. Laura Russell has such a wealth of knowledge that I wanted to share it with you.
Below you will find a number of resources to help you with marketing your work. If you have any other resources you’d like to share, please send me an Email and I’ll write a follow-up post.
- Artist Books 3.0
- Book Arts listserv
- Book-Arts Yahoo group
- College Book Art Yahoo group
- Handmade Books Yahoo group
- Miniature Books Yahoo group
Book shows and fairs:
- Bay Area Book Artists Book Arts Jam
- Codex International Book Fair
- Oak Knoll Fest
- Portland letterpress Printers’ Fair
- Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts Fair
Artist Book dealers:
Retail book stores:
Book Arts Resources:
- Artist Book Marketing Survey by Sarah Bodman
- Artists’ Books: Creative Production and Marketing by Sarah Bodman
- The Blue Notebook by Sarah Bodman
- Photographing Your Artist Books – Part I: What Makes a Good Photograph for Submission to a Juried Show or Gallery by Linda Kiley
- Photographing Your Artist Books – Part II: How to Photograph Your Artist Books by Linda Kiley
- 8 Tips for Stronger Art Show Submissions by Michelle Davis Petelinz
- 9 Reasons Why Every Artist Should Have Their Own Art Blogby Dan Duhrkoop
- Art Biz Blog, blog of Alyson Stanfield
- The Art of Selling Art, book by Zella Jackson
- Art Marketing 101, A Handbook for the Fine Artist, book by Constance Smith
- The Business of Being an Artist, book by Daniel Grant
- How to Get Started Selling Your Art and Promoting and Selling Your Art, book by Carole Katchen
- The Quick and Easy Guide to Photographing Your Artwork, book by Roger Saddington
- Self Promotion for the Creative Person, book by Lee Silber
- Starting an Online Presence for Your Art by Alyson Stanfield
- Tweetable Art: 10 Twitter Tips for Artists by Natasha Wescoat
Note: This post was originally published on the Bookbinding Etsy Street Team blog.
If you’d like to learn more about Laura Russell, here’s how you can connect with her: