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:
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.
Book shows and fairs:
Artist Book dealers:
Retail book stores:
Book Arts Resources:
If you’d like to learn more about Laura Russell, here’s how you can connect with her: