Parts of the following text were previously published in the books ‘Shareware’ and ‘Small Scale Photography’ (Brain Press). The point is to survive and prosper as an artist or craftsperson. This means that one has to deal with the basics of running a small business, independent contracting, contracts and marketing.
It is the marketing that feeds one as no amount of wonderful art work will pay the rent and purchase materials unless it has a market. This does not mean one panders to taste-on the contrary one is as true to oneself and one’s art as possible and only has to find the correct audience for it that will pay to allow one to do what one wants. This is true whether one is applying for grants, making wildly esoteric conceptual art, landscape painting or creating sculpture and objects in a so-called craft media. This means that you have to document by creating images, generate photographs and text about what you do.
To generate written documents in support of your professional activity it is important to have and use a computer-I recommend a Macintosh as easiest to learn. A computer turns information into chunks you can copy, blend and recombine easily to create different kinds of documents to support your marketing efforts. It is very important to have a fax machine. They are less than $200.00 now and expand your ability to interact with the rest of the world in very interesting ways. The time saved by not having to run around taking things to fax is worth a lot, the perceived professionalism on your part and the copy function that most machines have is useful too. I recommend a separate fax line on which you also have your internet connection to your computer (yes I think these things are useful). A fax machine hooked to your fax line like this also lets you fax things into your computer as a crude sort of scanner.
To publish and send out press releases and appear in magazines is not an ego trip or arrogant behavior-it is a method of communications, of sharing information and views, of discourse. According to national surveys in the arts and crafts a lack of business and marketing skills is the number one problem cited by artists and craftspeople as hindering their careers.
Remember too that no one does this stuff for you-you have to do it for yourself (or subcontract it).
From what I’ve observed among ‘successful’ artists it seems that to document yourself thoroughly and frequently in the culture has some interesting potential effects. One does not have to compromise the work, merely document what you are doing anyway. Documentation gives people the ‘cultural handles’ they can use to make money on you, then you get to go along for the ride busily making whatever it is you want to and earning a living from the people in the art business who are making money on you and your cultural image. Give the people who are disposed to making money the tools to do it with you. This means a commitment of time to one’s own PR project, probably the equivalent of an hour a week but often seems to occur in several day bursts during the year. I should also point out that I am no paragon of virtue with proper use of PR opportunities, merely that the comments here reflect my observations of what seems to work as well as my experience.
There are some things one sends out constantly, Biographies of various lengths, statements on one’s work of various lengths, black and white photos, slides and a resume. Photocopies of articles or catalogues are good. Post cards or color prints of work can be useful.
The main principle in dealing with PR materials is to do as much work for the recipient as possible so they don’t have to struggle to deal with you or your supplied materials and you thus fit easily into their lives and what they are doing. Give them the tools to sell you in their own self interest and they will do so. Do the work for people and they will value you. Be available on an instant to supply people with information and images. This means keeping current press kits and photographic documentation. It means acting professionally and carrying out most of what you begin.
Participation Simply participating by having images available is probably 80% of getting published. A friend of mine once had a piece appear on the cover of American Craft. Various people mentioned to him his supposed influence with editors, when he hadn’t done anything special to get it on the cover. So he called them up and asked why they had chosen his piece. They said ‘You’re the only one who sent a picture’. I’ve heard variations on this theme a number of times. You would be surprised how few people actually get down to taking care of their PR project and having images available to share with their field. Just being available and accommodating is often enough.
A good one is hard to do. The most difficult thing to learn is to distance yourself so you can talk about yourself in the third person and objectively look at yourself. avoiding all the small internal put downs one may have and noticing that you (and everyone) has accomplishments or experiences that are unique and interesting. With Bios and statements the writing should be interesting so that if you were reading it as someone else’s that you would want to keep on reading, want to read to the end. It is a story about someone-and a good one. Different lengths are necessary. In general start with a big one of a page and a half or so and then boil down to different sized paragraphs on down to a two or three sentence one. I put all mine on one sheet, some people keep them separate. You will need to review and revise your biographies once every two years or so.
Sometimes people will write a biography as if it is a statement so check your earlier biographies for clues as to what may belong in your statement. A statement is about what you believe in, what is important to you, what positions you take, what drives your art work, what your stand is in the world and on your art. A one paragraph statement, a half a page and a full page one will suffice. To write one check your sketch books for notes you have written to yourself about your beliefs or spend some time with a friend talking about what you believe in and what is important to you-and take notes. Review/revise statements once a year.
A resume may be one page and is a maximum of two pages. Usually organized in point form with a reverse chronology (latest date first). It lists accomplishments, recognition’s and is evidence of professional activity such as an exhibition record. Update once a year. More detail on writing a resume appears later.
You need black and white photos of your work because they lend validity to your work and get published. Color slides and photos almost never get published-black and white does. If you really turn someone on with your work they will come after you for color shots or send their own photographer. If you send a B/W of work out with every press release you should get published about one out of five times simply because no one else will have done it and they need filler for the newspaper. Of course your work could be brilliant enough to make it on it’s own merits but my experience is that it is not validity that makes for publication but mere willingness to participate on this level-and have your photos there when they need them. I think it is important to know how to do black and white printing to keep your overhead costs down.
Digital cameras and photography will make that computer of yours into your own darkroom system pretty soon, so that black and whites will be generated (already half-toned for printing) from a computer. I have color post cards made of my work regularly. Post cards have the advantage of being already half-tone screened so that they serve admirably for publication in newspapers as black and white images-a fact that may need pointing out to the recipient. I suggest making 6-10 prints of every image you produce. This means choose your images carefully for maximum use and application. I always print onto 8×10 paper cut in two to make two 4×5 prints. I print so as to leave a thick white border in one place on the paper. This is because I then type my last name and the description of the photo on the back of the photo behind the white space around the edges.
If you have written behind the picture area this can interfere with reproducing the photo. Some people use a pencil instead to allow removal of the text and keep ink from rubbing off onto other photographs in a pile. Indicate the top of the photo with an arrow on the back and write ‘up’ next to the arrow to make sure. Remember to make things as easy as possible for the recipient. I usually place each black and white in a folded 8×10 sheet of paper as a sleeve to keep it clean and nice. Of course always ship photos in a sturdy envelope (I like the rip-stop stuff) with a cardboard stiffener in it to keep the photos from being bent.
Address and write on the envelope before putting the photographs in-this will keep you from accidentally damaging the photo inside (Meltzer, p 90). Label the envelope ‘PHOTOS-DO NOT BEND’ as validations and to keep them more intact. Never expect to get photos-or anything you mail out-back. Including stamped self addressed envelopes is a good insurance policy but assume you will never see them again and you won’t be disappointed, just happy when some do come back. Black and whites can be made from color slides though there is an increase in contrast. Black and white film can also be used to copy from color prints. It is important to have black and white self portraits of yourself, like a portrait or of you working at your art. print a ton of these, my experience is that it is a long time until you get around to this job again. A new option is to use Ilford XP2 400 ASA film which produces black and white prints with the standard C41 color printing process used everywhere for making color prints.
Color images lend an odd validity to an image, more so than black and white. Slides should be properly labeled. Color prints are sometimes useful and are inexpensive. Slides can be taken from color prints on a copy stand. Color stickers of photographs can be made (Photolabels USA). Color photocopies offer good opportunities and can be made from slides or prints. Post cards are very cost effective per unit to give away. European galleries apparently like to see portfolios of color prints rather than slides. A new option is a desktop photo printer for a computer when you need them. These let you print good quality color ‘photographs’ from images you have digitized. Currently about $400.00 the price on these will sink rapidly.
If you are having something printed, say a page in a catalog or a whole catalog for a show, an invitation, an article in a magazine, whatever is being printed always ask for an overrun. Once the press is set to print the item anyway it is only pennies to keep on printing to make extras in high quality for far less than you could ever have them done on your own. I usually ask for an overrun of 250 which lasts about ten years of careful dispensing. My experience is that one is often not charged for it simply because so few people ask for an overrun.
Experienced artists may keep several versions of a press kits ready to go at any time. A friend of mine has several levels of press kit. A simple introduction kit has some photocopies of articles about him, post cards and bio. A second level has more information, a black and white or so, color images, more photocopies of articles, reviews and so on. There are up to twenty of these ready to go at any time. They are reviewed and revised once every three months. Another level has in addition a catalog, quality color images and black and whites, quality reproductions-tins and attractive special inserts. Only 3 or so sets of the top level are kept and they are reviewed and revised monthly. This readiness has paid off for him a number of times. A press kit should contain items from the foregoing categories.
There must be a ‘hook’, a reason why it should be published, you got in an exhibition, won a prize, did this or that of interest and currency. It must be readable and interesting-whatever you would want to keep reading. There should be a intriguing head line to the dated release. The first paragraph should contain the traditional ‘Who, What, When Where, Why’. Subsequent paragraphs should be separated by white space from the first and be in descending order of information ending with biographical information about you and an exhortation to contact you for further information. The paragraphs are designed to read well and also be usable in additive chunks so that at the end of the day the newspaper or magazine wanting to fill holes in the body text can do so easily and in a modular way adding any paragraph in order still making sense) up to the whole press release. Again-you are doing the work for the recipient so they can easily use it to solve their problems of space to fill or information to pass on. Sending out B/Ws is not a bad idea if your ‘hook’ is good enough. Up to half may make it into magazines and newspapers which is a lot better than when one just sends a press release out.
This is all kinds of things, from keeping up with magazines in your field to writing letters, going to conferences and meetings, contributing artistically in a volunteer manner to your community, exhibiting in group shows, going to openings and so on. It is about putting yourself in the way of information, of being well informed about your field and the arts. It results in connections-people are social and they look for patterns, they look for connections around one. Being available and a part of things makes it more likely that one of the people one comes in contact with can make a connection involving you. As an artist this results in new and varied options.
Persistence and hard work is worth more than raw talent as an artist. I’ve seen brilliant stars burn out and leave the field or be unable to function as an artist and make their living from it. I’ve also seen artists who got there by sheer practice and hard work, whose early work was problematic but who became really good artists given time and persistence. Research and ongoing learning are part of this as well. A commitment to the field will usually result in personal success. Creating ripples in your culture; documenting ones activity in this life is however part of financial success in the field.
This section deals with some of the issues involved in writing a resume and in contacting a gallery about carrying your work. The first questions to ask yourself when preparing a resume are: For whom is it intended? What do I want it to represent? Applying for a zoo keepers job you might put down your experience carrying llamas across the Andes but you would probably leave it out when apply for a position as a welder. For galleries you should have information they will be interested in: previous exhibitions; articles on your work and so on that serve to establish you as a serious artist/craftsperson in their eyes.
There are various ways of organizing the information to be presented. When initially contacting a gallery the resume should ideally be one page for ease of reading. Therefore only the most relevant information to the gallery owner is used. It is usual to have information listed in reverse chronological order, that is with the most recent item first. One would thus have several lines on education, exhibitions, awards, articles on your work and if there is any room left a line or so on work experience if necessary. Point form is an approach which lists your strong points first, followed by the events that back up the strong points you have listed.
The resume, photocopies etc. serve as an accompaniment to the carefully done letter of inquiry personally addressed to the art gallery director or owner. (No “Dear Sirs” letters). It may touch on one’s intentions in the work, reasons for seeking representation at that particular gallery or more pragmatically one’s prices for work. It may be useful to mention benefits both to the gallery and to yourself at some point in the letter.
This might be accompanied by photocopies of important articles about you or your work. If you have post cards of your work, or exhibition catalogs available they should be included.
The package is a “throwaway” and serves as an introduction to the gallery. If the gallery is interested in seeing slides they will contact you using a stamped self addressed post card which you included that has a check box for ‘would like to see slides’. By keeping the packages weight down one saves money in the long run by sending slides out only to those galleries really interested in seeing your work. If asked to (or if you like, even on the initial contact to the gallery) you can send an entire presentation package to the gallery.
The labeled slides, together with a page of numbered slide descriptions, goes in another polypropylene or vinyl binder. All this looks slick, lets you put less cramped information about each slide on the accompanying sheet and allows the viewer to read about the slides while using a projector.
If you don’t have a computer and a laser printer or access to one it is a very good idea to pay for a professional typist to type your resume as they are familiar with print conventions, make few mistakes and have a professional quality word processor and laser printer which lends an air of respectability to even a small resume. Any photocopies made of it should be done on the best quality copier available as the grainy, smeared copies so often produced from over-used equipment detract from a resume. The resume should be in an acetate or vinyl report binder to protect it and add to the presentation. Any time I put a presentation involving more than about ten pages together I start using tabs to help the reader find parts more easily.
Photocopies of important articles may be included as may some black and white glossy prints (5″ x 4″ min.) for the gallery to use in publicity should they decide to use your work. I have color post cards of my work made every year and because they are cheap per unit I can include color pictures of my work in every package. Color lends a curious validity to one’s work. Post cards have the advantage of being already half-tone screened so that they serve admirably for publication in newspapers-a fact that may need pointing out to the recipient. If one makes post cards regularly then one can offer 500 or a thousand cards free to a gallery as exhibition announcements as an incentive. Of course maybe you will get them done by the gallery for free or be able to go halves on a card for a specific show. Always ask for an overrun with such printings.
Finally, you should include return postage. This gives a professional effect (you often get the stamps back) and is a bit of insurance for getting your slides back.
All this is a guide, not the only way to do things. However, the better your presentation the more seriously galleries will take you and the better your results. This holds especially true when applying for an exhibition in a gallery.
This is a list of addresses I have found useful for ‘PR tools’, printing, slide duplication, photo stickers, archival slide pages and so on. Each address is followed by a short comment on their services. Note that this list by no means covers all the possible sources. More sources are given at the end of the book.
There are many books and publications available which can assist in learning how to go about promotion. Check with your local business and journalism faculties for information. Craft organizations and publications are also sources for this information. Thomas Mann and Libby Platus among others offer superb workshops on professionalism and use of PR tools. Jay Levinson and Seth Godin’s Guerrilla Marketing Handbook is excellent.
Publications worth mentioning are the Advertising Rates and Data books. Versions of this should be available for any country or area. Contact an advertising agency for the name of your version. The Canadian Advertising Rates and Data book lists every media outlet in Canada by subject area and location; from small photocopied community newsletters to multinational publications with branches in Canada. It details what the readership is, the editorial bent, how many subscribers, so on and so forth. And it does the same for every radio and television station in the country. This resource may also be available at libraries, journalism program offices and may be bought at some expense from it’s publishers. Most universities, large companies and places that deal with advertising will have a copy. Although expensive an agency will often give you an out of date copy or the publisher will happily send you a sample of last year’s version for free if you write and ask.
There are several reference sources around to help you find a supplier of specific products or services. Thomas’s Register is a US publication that lists what seems like most companies in the United States by product. It is in every public library, all University libraries and most large company purchasing departments. Their web site lets you have access to their database as an individual for free (http://www.thomasregister.com:8000/home.html). The Canadian version is Fraser’s Directory of Canadian Trade. Thomas’s is some 30 hard bound volumes and costs about $275.00 a year. Because it is an annual one can often get last years set for $25.00 or so from someone who replaces it annually. Remember that if you just want a small amount of information one can call the reference desk of most libraries and they will willingly do the work of finding it for you. Librarians are actually fulfilled by this kind of thing, and it is not an imposition to ask them to find information for you. Check out photographic, arts and crafts magazines for more of these kind of addresses.
Sunset Color Lab
P.O. Box 46145
Los Angeles, California
This company does slide duplication at about 35 cents per dupe for 5 and less, a very good price. Their quality is excellent and they are used by a number of artists I know who require good results. They honor personal cheques in U.S. funds and the only drawback seems to be that they apparently have no telephone-which has driven a friend of mine a little crazy once trying to deal with an order in a hurry. He still uses them. When I have ordered from them they sent slides in cardboard mounts which I do not personally like. One can order plastic mounts from them. Juries for shows sometimes request cardboard mounts.
180 Metro Park
Rochester, New York
Multiplex Display Fixture Company
1555 Larkin Williams Road
Fenton, MO, 63026-3008
Once you have slides you will need to store them, ship them and label them. These two companies are among many that offer supplies and equipment for this. While Visual Horizons slide duplication services are not cheap their catalog has a very wide range of slide handling, labeling, storing and presentation options. Multiplex has slide handling, shipping and storage options as well as Polaroid printers for slides and text printers for slide mounts. Both are good starting points for this type of information.
Photolabels (USA) Inc.
419 Eisenhower Lane South
Lombard, Ill, 60148, USA
This company has it’s main branch in England and started a US operation a number of years ago. The produce photo-labels from color negatives. These photographs are printed on a plastic sheet material that when peeled off the backing will literally stick to anything and not come off. The sizes are 39 x 26 mm, 50 x 39 mm, 81 x 54 mm, and 121 x 81 mm (postcard size). Quality is good and the turn-around time is supposed to be 72 hours. If you send them a slide an inter-negative is made for about $10.00 and that is used. In practice I have found less control with this method. Graphics and text can be added to the images with a charge. Color proofing is $25.00.
Their minimum orders are very low, 25 in the larger sizes and 50 in the smaller. Prices range from about 16 cents up in the smaller sizes and 23 cents and more for the larger ones.
These are extremely useful for small runs of catalogues, for illustrations and for packaging. The larger sizes are better quality than post cards and about as cheap (for smaller numbers) without the need for a large run. I have used them at craft shows in the small sizes as a kind of instant jewelry with a picture of my work on it. These were slapped on customers who carried them with them and when asked where they came from could direct visitors to me. I currently use them as illustrations for technical papers that I sell while on workshops and through the mail.
Sechelt, BC, V0N 3A0,
This company is run by a woman named Anna Banana whose business card says “A company with a Peel”. They provide several services such as a subscription to an inexpensive mail art newsletter which lists mail art competitions and exhibitions internationally. Their unique specialty is postage stamps of one’s images and for postage stamp aficionados they are done properly with perfect little round holes between the stamps. This last means little to me but is apparently very meaningful for those who are into it. Prices are good, at about $150.00 for 500 stamps and if one asks one gets a wonderful assortment of sample stamps. I’ve heard of at least one graduating art school class doing their poster as a sheet of stamps, one image per person. One could of course tear individual stamps off and use them. One can include text on the original sent in to be made into stamps.
I have found post cards a unique and very effective tool for the promotion of my work and myself. They have the advantage of serving easily as exhibition announcements and a type of permanent image-spreading tool if the picture chosen is good enough to go up on a studio or store wall. It is important to choose an image which will not be discarded; one which is interesting enough to be retained by the recipient. This means good photography and understanding that the point of the card is the image on it and not necessarily the object depicted. When given away people send them out for you, usually contacting other people who might be interested in your work. They can also often be sold through public art gallery gift shops and as it in the interest of the shop to display them prominently and sell them one gets a lot of mileage from them. At a unit cost of less than 10 cents each and with other people mailing and distributing them for you they can work well towards establishing a position in the culture. A hint: put at the very least your phone number on the back.
There are many companies that print post cards and an inexpensive local method of obtaining them is to do a ‘gang run’ with a group of colleagues. Usually this requires at least 8 cards (sometimes 16) done at once to obtain a discount. I am referring here to color cards as black and white do not do justice to work and are too easily discarded. If you pick an image that has a gray or mid-toned background and is not too contrasty this often improves results when a post card is done as part of a gang run. Note that a color image of your work (even a poor one) has a peculiar kind of validity to it which a black and white print or a photo-copied article on it does not possess. Photography galleries, arts and craft organizations often have an interest in organizing such gang runs. I believe that post card production is an excellent way of gently flooding the culture with artwork and raising the profile of the arts. One can set up multiple images on the same card. Cited here are companies that produce images at reasonable prices.
982 Queen St. West
Toronto, Ontario, M6J 1H1,
ADFACTOR prints post cards at about $395 for 2500 cards with text on the back and an automatic ‘bleed’ (when the image are runs to the edge of the card surface). Their turn around time is about 4-6 weeks; standard in the printing industry. Any variations from their format incurs added (and high) costs. They do many cards for rock groups and advertising and when I used them I found their color trueness not very high. However, any image is a good image and their price is great. One can request a color proof at added cost. They use a 4″ x 6″ non-glossy color print and cards are ‘ganged’ with 10 other ones so lower or higher numbered runs incur higher costs. One can, however, buy multiple spaces in the run and so print catalogues or combination images. Some people really like their results but my experience with them was not as thrilling as I would have liked. Still their price is great and for Canadians there is no hassle with the border or duties.
Alberta Crafts Council (Postcard project),
10106-124 St., Edmonton, Alberta, T5N 1P6,
This project consists of a managed gang run at a great price of $250.00 Can for 2500 cards. If you are not a member of the crafts council the run costs $280.00 (This is a very approximate $220.00 in US funds). This is absolutely the best Canadian (or US) price I’ve seen for color cards from a 35 mm slide. They will do a run anytime they have 16 people lined up so unless you want a lot of post cards done for yourself you may have to convince some other people they really need post cards or wait a little while. They have done my last five or six cards and I am very happy with the quality.
Patrick Grace Photo
York Harbor, Maine,
Though a more expensive than the latter when I want best quality for lowest price from another source so far he is my favorite. The cards are done from a 35mm slide which I feel allows better color reproduction without using a color proof and it’s added cost. Prices are currently about (US funds) $280/500; $300/1000; $365/2500; $425/5000 (including shipping). The amount of text used is limited without incurring extra costs but it is certainly adequate. Service and quality is in my opinion very good-rush printing is possible at a slight extra cost. The printing is done in Florida at Dyna-Color Co. which actually charges more than Patrick Grace to do the same thing. While he deals with many commercial cards for motels and so one he has an ever increasing number of artists using his services and therefore has some pressure to keep quality up. He also does 4-color business cards as low as 3 cents each and offers other printing services. I have used him six times and will again. He is very good in paper quality, printing and color trueness to the slide image sent.
1-800-959-8365 (USA only)
Modern Postcards offer 500 post cards for $95.00. While I think that this is not enough images for the effort involved in having them done the price is low enough to encourage people to start creating post cards. I have not used them but the quality I’ve seen is very good.
1260 16th Ave. W.,
P.O. Box 34056,
This company has a good reputation for slide services. They also offer slide, photo and negative digitization and manipulation (scanning, repair and changing) services. They apparently offer free ‘Photo Works’ floppy disks that you can show and print from your computer. They send free film back with each processing. I have not used them personally.
PatÃ© Poste Adcards
43 Charles Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02114
Tel: (617) 720-2855
They use a color 35mm slide or larger transparency. A number of different qualities and sizes of cards are offered and there is no extra charge for a white border or a bleed. Their basic price is about (US funds) $405/500; $432/1000; $486/2500; $567/5000; $738/10 000; $904/ 15 000; $1251/ 25 000; $2038/50 000 cards. These are the ‘express’ prices, for work done in 10 business days; if you can wait 5 more days, the price drops by 10 percent. The quality seems to be quite high although I have not used them myself.
352 West Paxton Ave.
Salt Lake City, Utah
1000 4×6″ cards for $310, includes up to 75 words black copy. Prices vary by size, so anything over 4×6″ (up to 5×7″) is $466 for 1000, and over 5×7″ (to 6×9″) is $540 for 1000.
2710 Dryden Road
This company has a very impressive sample pack and price list. Their post cards are available in a wide range of surfaces, acid free papers, textures, quantities and typefaces. Examples are (for 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches) 300/$170.00, 500/$190.00, 1000/$240.00, 2000/$300.00, 3000/$360.00. They specialize in marketing tools for 2-D artists and offer art marketing tips, posters, books and seminars as well as numerous printing options for artists such as short run introduction brochures. The person who recommended them to me praised their service and willingness to work towards a best image. Hmm, they sound pretty good. haven’t tried them yet but will at some point.
New World Books
2 Canes Road, P.O. Box 89
Suffern, New York
New World Books offers discounts of 10-30% on books ordered from them. Any book in print in North America can be had from them. Several users have told me what they paid for books through this company and the prices are often what a bookstore will pay wholesale. The process of ordering and getting the book takes about six weeks.
I hope that this section has proven interesting-good luck in your PR and in raising the level of professionalism in your field. There are of course many similar useful addresses around and if you have one that you think would be good to pass on I would appreciate receiving it. Some other sources to consider that I have not reviewed here are given in the appendix.