Friday, 29 July 2011

Craft Show Confidential: Handling of Work

Image by TheSeafarer

Most artists share the worry of how to deal with people touching their work. With regards to this issue, there are concerns that are particular to the book artist.

If your book has content, you want to allow people the opportunity to touch, see, and read it. It makes sense that someone would want to do that in order to make an informed decision before making a purchase. As I mentioned in this post, artist consultant Bruce Baker advises that people are 4x more likely to purchase work that they have held in their hands.

So you want to allow handling, but you don’t want your work to get damaged. This is of even greater concern for those who make limited editions or one-of-a-kind pieces. Their work isn’t as replaceable as production work.

Many craft shows have food vendors, which increases the possibility for damage. The oils from one’s hands are also a danger. Delicate papers are easily worn and/or torn.

You may think that the answer is requiring that your customers wear gloves. Unfortunately, your customers can’t have the full experience of your work if they have a barrier between them and your work.

In addition, cotton gloves can abrade the surface of paper. I learned this during a visit to the Special Collections department at the University of Vermont. For this reason, the library decided to discontinue their use of gloves.

In Helen Cole’s 2004 paper, TO [G]LOVE AND TO HOLD: Artists' Books in Australian Libraries, the concern is captured perfectly:
Strategies which are used to preserve the works, such as the use of gloves for holding and handling the books, and the use of protective interleaving to stop inks migrating from page to page, can put up barriers between the reader and the experience of the book as the artist intended. Books by their very nature are more than just visual. They are three dimensional objects with height, depth and length, the materials from which they are made have thickness, weight (or lack of it), texture and smell. We would like to facilitate an experience of the book for all the senses, as close as possible to what the artist intended.
So what do you do?

Ask a dozen artists this question and you’ll probably get a dozen different answers.

When I attended a workshop with Julie Chen a few years ago, I learned how she dealt with editions. She said that she kept three pieces from every edition she made. One she kept for herself, one she used for marketing purposes, and the last she gave to her mother “just in case” (a.k.a. Julie’s insurance policy).

Whatever you do, make sure customers are clear on whether or not your work handled. If you prefer to hold one-of-a-kind books when folks want a closer look, use signage to inform people on your policy. A sign saying “Please touch!” can go a long way both in putting customers at ease and in eliminating the inevitable, repetitive questions.

Personally, I have decided to allow people to touch my work. One of the reasons I love making books so much is that I appreciate the interaction it inspires. I know there are risks involved. If I see that there’s an issue of dirty hands, I offer the customer a wet wipe (I keep a canister behind the counter). If someone asks to see one of my one-of-a-kind pieces, I usually offer to hold it for them while I talk about it.

What is your policy on letting people touch your work? I’d love to hear about it! Share your experiences with the B.E.S.T. team by sending me an Email and I'll include them in a follow-up post next week. Be sure to include your name and a link to your Etsy shop.

Many thanks to Hilke for suggesting this week’s topic.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, tip 9

This series includes weekly tips on hand-selling homemade work without losing your soul or compromising your integrity. See the original introductory post here, tip #2 here, tip #3 here, tip #4 here, tip #5 here, tip #6 here, tip #7 here and tip #8 here

Tip #9: Believe in your product.

When you believe in your product, it is easier and more delightful to sell. In fact, if you want to be a sales-person and maintain your integrity, it’s essential to believe in your product. If you love something, and you are willing to share that love with others, they will be more likely to love that something too. It is easier to come up with selling points and pitches for why someone might want to buy something if you think it’s a good thing to buy.

This may all seem obvious, but all too often, reluctant artist-turned-salespeople-at-craft-shows are WAY too self-deprecating. They act as if someone is doing them a favor by buying their work; they act as though they should probably just be checking themselves into a funny farm somewhere for daring to try to sell their work. How ridiculous that their little creations could be worth anything.

But I truly believe that the world is a better place for crafty goodness and art being in it. Do you? It’s not always a cake-walk to be an artist, especially if you venture into making it a career of any sort, but those who do venture towards professionalism generally bring better crafty goodness and art into the world because they practice their craft regularly. I solidly believe that. So thank goodness to all out there who do so! Thank you! The world is a better place because people bother to try to do what you do.

So, all that being said, when you switch into sales-person mode, don’t apologize for bringing heart to the world. Stand up tall and honor that what you do is valuable, even if imperfect at times.

    "No woman should be shamefaced in attempting through her work to give back to the world a portion of it's lost heart." -- Louise Bogan, American Poet

Believe in your work. It will be easier for others to find the door into your work, the door towards that heart, if you do.

The best sales transactions are win-win. You are getting paid to make something lovely that you are adding to the world, and your buyers are getting to take something lovely away with them into the world. Perhaps you are meeting a need of theirs. For example, maybe a buyer is an avid journaler and she wants to ditch the boring journals, be bold, and add some color to her journaling life. She wants a journal that she can play in, she can scribble in, but it won’t matter, the book will still be pretty and playful, even with ugly scribbles and cross-outs because the pages are colorful and delightful to page through, no matter the color of ink on them. Or maybe the buyer has a dear friend that just got pregnant and has been looking for a pregnancy journal that sets a bright mood. Voila! In either example above, I have met a buyer’s need and she has met mine. Get it? Win-win.

One area where sales people sometimes get a bad rap is that there’s an impression that a sales person is talking you into something you wouldn’t otherwise do. Yes. That’s not so good. But at it’s best, sales is actually doing no such thing. A good sales person is a facilitator of sorts. They are helping gift-givers to find gifts, lovely-seekers to find lovely, and treasure-seekers to find treasure. I would even go so far as to say that at a sales person’s very best she is bringing a little more heart into the world. That is – if she believes what she is selling has heart.

In my personal examples a minute ago, I mentioned the journaler who wanted a playful space to journal in. Most likely she hadn't thought about the effect of writing on colorful pages. But once I introduce the notion to her, mention why others have liked it. She may think, YES! That's it! I want to be a part of that. Does that make sense? I filled a need she had (finding a new journal) but I filled a further need that she maybe hadn't put to words (for her journaling life to be richer) by introducing the parts of my journals I believe most in and talking to her about them. We've also gone a long way towards a nice relationship towards buyer and seller. Talking about things that make us both happy. Win-win.

I don’t feel bad when I talk to a customer for a long time and they buy four books from me. I feel happy that we found each other. I know that sounds extremely cheesy. But think about it. If you are a crafty sort, you’ve likely gone to a craft show because you like crafty things. You want to find treasure.  When you find crafty treasure, that’s good right? As an artist, selling your wares at a craft show, you are most-likely selling to an extremely hospitable crowd. If you have product worth believing in, you have what your buyers are looking for. It is your job to help them find it.

Think about times you, personally, have gone to a craft show and bought something you deem as real treasure. Maybe you even met the artist and felt inspired afterward. Isn’t whatever you bought, most likely something that goes beyond materialism a bit? I’m sure people buying at craft shows still have buyer’s remorse, but somehow I’d suspect that they have it way less frequently than they have it after shopping at a strip-mall. People are thrilled when they find treasure at a craft show. Handmade stuff has heart to it. Especially when a buyer can meet the artist, learn the story, and root out that much more heart to something already lovely.

So I’d argue that it’s likely that customers are exceedingly inspired and happy when they find a booth that they buy stuff in. They have found product with heart, and that brings more heart into their lives, and that’s a beautiful thing.

If you believe in your work, you can honestly sell it. Because you believe when someone takes it home, it adds to their lives in a positive way.

So, make product you believe in. Don’t waste your time with something that doesn’t capture your own heart or imagination, because it won’t capture that of your buyers either. Even if your product isn’t perfect, or could be better, or be improved, if there is something about it you believe in, I guarantee that it will be easier to take the leap towards talking about in such a way that allows others to see the beauty in it too, to believe in it too. And buy it.


Moving on...

This is my last post in this series.  If you've enjoyed the series, there are a few places I'm happy to direct you for more information. 

As I mentioned in the first post, I highly recommend checking out products or workshops by Bruce Baker, a jeweler who has been mentioned on this blog before who conducts workshops and sells audio “workshops” of sorts on all sorts of craft-sales related advice. I bought a cassette tape about “being a dynamic craft-seller” from a decade ago. I listened to that tape several times in the car on my way to some of my earliest craft shows, and even though it’s been nearly a decade since I listened to that tape, I know that if there is a Bruce Baker school of thought on sales, I’d be in it. Many echoes of what I remember learning from him can be found in what I’ve written in this series; I’d like people to know that and look up Bruce’s products if they found SELL OUT helpful.

Another place I can direct you to is the Art Fair Sourcebook. There are many guides to finding and choosing shows that are a match for your work, and although it's been a few years since I was making the rounds in any craft show circuits (I took an extended break when I had my son and moved abroad), I remember the Sourcebook as being the most helpful guide of it's kind. It's not the cheapest guide, but it's well worth the money spent.

Also, after I finished this series on my own blog, I realized that I probably had a bit more, here or there to offer on this front, if not time to keep the posts coming so regularly. Since the series finished I’ve posted one bonus tip you can check out at this link if interested (on the dreaded and oft-repeated phrase, “no problem”) and another is scheduled to go up on my own blog on Thursday the 4th (that one will be regarding sales pitches). 

Thanks BEST for hosting this series, I hope everyone has enjoyed it and I wish you all many happy craft shows to come.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Craft Show Confidential: Where to next?

I've been struggling with developing new blog posts about craft shows from a book artist's perspective. I'm wondering if I've reached the end of the series.

I'm more than happy to talk about craft shows in general, like where to get lights, a tent/booth, shelves, etc. - these posts wouldn't really focus on anything bookish.

I'm also taking over the BEST member interviews, so eventually I'll be phasing out the craft show posts (handling both is too much for me). I want to make sure that I've tackled everything you'd like to see before I conclude the series.

I'd love feedback on what folks are interested in. Tell me what to do!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, tip 8

This series includes weekly tips on hand-selling homemade work without losing your soul or compromising your integrity. See the original introductory post here, tip #2 here, tip #3 here, tip #4 here, tip #5 here, tip #6 here and tip #7 here.

Tip #8: Positive sells; search within for the bright side and focus on it.

Let’s face a truth. There are times when being an artist is challenging in a harsh way. I don’t want to suggest that all artists are prone towards a melodramatic stereotype of being brooding, depressed or angst ridden. Hardly. All I mean to acknowledge is that sometimes the going gets tough when you are an artist. And unless you’ve barely tried to sell your wares, you probably already know that one of the riskiest places for the going to get tough is in the sales department.

Actually, if you haven’t tried to sell your wares it could very well be because you are afraid of that aspect of sales: the tough part. What if I don’t sell enough? What if I spend lots of time and money investing in this and no one buys my work? What if, what if, what if. And to be honest, your what-ifs aren’t even figments of your imagination.

I truthfully will tell you that the going will most likely get rough at some point after you enter into the world of selling your work. There. You can stop asking what if. You know the truth now. At some point something will suck. It’s not all going to be roses all the time. You can stop worrying about it now and go forth seeking out the roses. I promise they are there too. If you learn how to sell your work properly, you will almost certainly find them if you look. But you won’t find them if you are too caught up fretting with where they aren’t.

I guess my point here (at the risk of moving toward Pollyanna territory) is don’t dwell on the suck. You’ve heard the term “think positively.” Well, thinking positively is a necessity if you want to be a good sales person. Hear me out to the end here – I mean this in a really concrete dollars-and-cents sort of way.

One of the biggest drags on sales at a craft show is an artist who has a negative attitude. Someone who is pessimistic, whining, blaming the organizers of a show, cursing herself for not researching the market better, worrying and fretting with breaking even or paying bills (which can be painfully real worries!), fussing about the fact that she misjudged how much product to bring, obsessing about the opportunity cost of doing a show that sucks, or fretting or fussing about whatever demons are at hand is a sales person who has knotted eye-brows, a distracted demeanor, and a grouchy face.

No one wants to talk to a sales person like that. No one wants to buy art that’s polluted with dour air. We want our art, our crafty goodness, and our handmade lovelies to be just that: lovely, inspiring, and full of goodness. And someone who is focusing on the negative is pulling a dark blanket of dourness over all of his or her work, at best only during that show, and at worst, even while they create their work.

There is hardly a single tip I could offer you that is more valuable than the simple piece of advice at the heart of this post: search your heart, your situation, your work, your potential, your past, your dreams and anywhere else you can search to find the positive, especially when the going gets tough. I mean this in general, but I also mean this for those times when something tries to drag you down at a craft show. It is part of your job as a sales person to stay “on.” Staying on means you have to let go of the negative in a heartbeat. You owe your work an aura of lovely. You owe the muse within an aura of lovely. You are only hurting yourself if you turn to the dark side of your attitude while you are selling at a show. Like I said before, I mean it in real dollars and cents. There is no better way to make a bad show worse than by turning into a sourpuss. And by contrast, there’s no better way to make a bad show kinda okay (even financially) than by tossing aside your angst and looking for a silver lining for your cloud.

Say I go to an outdoor show and there’s bad weather (literal clouds). Rain rain rain. No one is there. My product is at risk for getting wet so I’m at risk for getting nervous. I’ve done the show before and had expected to do well because I had in the past, but the rain is going to certainly put a dent in sales. Crap. What do I do?

I buck up and deal:
Sadness, you’ll have to come back later, I’m in sales-person mode. I’m focusing on the moment, and in the moment my priority is to keep a good attitude so I can do the best job that I can with the situation at hand. Maybe I’ll focus on keeping a good attitude for the people who did come out in the rain (even if crowds are thinner than they would be otherwise), those people are probably the hardcore craft lovers if they showed up in the rain, so if I stay positive, maybe I’ll make their beloved show better too. I’ll beat out the grumps around me and offer my booth as a sanctuary. Keep a happy face. Maybe I’ll say something encouraging to the artist who looks down and out next to me (unless they want to commiserate, then I’m outta there – no one is dragging me down). Maybe I’ll mentally focus on how much fun it was to make the work around me. Wow, that piece is one of my favorites; I should rearrange to make it stand out more in my booth. I should put the yellow and orange pieces out front to contrast with the grey sky. I’m lucky, so lucky, to be here at all. To have the time and energy to do this work. To have a muse within who works with me to create such fun crafty goodness. I will let go of the rainy day and worry about all the worries later (if I must), but for now, I’m a sales-person. In this moment I am a sales person and it is my job to find the silver lining and to keep being a good sales person.

I bother with the inner monologue stuff here because I can’t tell you how many shows I’ve been at where, when circumstances made selling less than ideal -- too few shoppers, bad weather, change in venue that led to fewer repeat shoppers, etc, etc, etc – I bucked up and dealt and reaped reward because of it. There is nothing more satisfying than selling a bunch of your own crafty goodness when the going was tough around you.

 It’s easy at a killer show. It’s harder at a not-so-killer show. But isn’t it satisfying to do a good job in the face of long odds? To do you’re best with a hand of cards that’s less than ideal? Celebrate those successes. A show where you made half of what you expected can be a success in that it might have been a show where you made a tenth of what you expected if you turned toward the dark side. You worked hard for what you sold. Celebrate it.

So, to sum up, don’t drag yourself down when circumstances are somehow less than ideal at a show. Search for the positive, focus on it, and make the very best you can with the cards at hand.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, tip 7

This series includes weekly tips on hand-selling homemade work without losing your soul or compromising your integrity. See the original introductory post here, tip #2 here, tip #3 here, tip #4 here, tip #5 here, and tip #6 here.

Tip #7: Don’t cross your arms or make similar closed-body gestures while selling your work. Also, look out for closed body gestures in your customers – such gestures send a signal worth listening to.

Open gestures suggest a touch of vulnerability – just enough so that you show you can be trusted. Closed gestures suggest you are feeling intimidated or that you don’t want to talk. They say “go away!” If you are crossing your arms or folded all over yourself in the back of your booth, you are telling your customers to go away. If you are consciously keeping your arms open, perhaps even showing your open hand when you show people your work, you are sending signals that you have nothing to hide. Try it. You may find it’s a bit difficult to let go and leave your arms open. It feels vulnerable. Vulnerability is a necessary part of being a sales person. You have to open yourself up to rejection. It’s important to become comfortable with this vulnerability, to remain confident while still vulnerable. So practice the open gestures.  They will help you stay honest and help your customers trust you and know you are open to talking with them.

Similarly, if a customer is making a closed gesture (crossing their arms), try something to put them more at ease – hand them an item you are especially proud of or a photo of your process (uncrossing their arms). Or make a comment that has nothing to do with your booth that might make them smile. Or just step back, and give them space. Sometimes people cross their arms because they don’t know what else to do. Or they don’t know the person they’re talking to and so they are a touch out-of-ease. This is not a time to launch into hard sales. If someone had their arms open but then crosses their arms after they’ve been talking to you for a bit, it may be a subconscious thing they’re doing because you’ve crossed a line. Back off then. Stop talking about your work. Or try putting the situation at ease by asking them a question and listening to the answer. Pay attention to that signal – it’s just as valid of a way to listen to your customer as it would be to hear their stories.

Another gesture to avoid is the gesture of hiding ones hands. Hiding your hands subconsciously sends a signal that you have something to hide or you aren’t willing to open up with your customers just as much as arm crossing does. It's my opinion that over-eager sales people often put their hands behind their backs the most – I think it’s because they are trying desperately to open up to their customers (so they open up their shoulders) but they are still overly nervous and don’t know how to be open, so they can’t help but subconsciously still hide part of themselves (their hands behind their backs or in their pockets). Relaxing can help all of this. And practicing open gestures can actually help one to relax. Just as deep breathing does in yoga.

The point here is to pay attention to your body and the subtle signals you are sending. Try to align those signals with the ideas behind tips 1-6 (stay confident and available but not overly eager) and you’ll put yourself and your customers more physically at ease.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Craft Show Confidential: Large Format Photography

When designing your display for craft shows, you might not think about what to do with your walls. You’re probably already using the back of your booth to hang a sign with your name and/or your business name on it.

Something you may not consider is hanging large photos of your work. In Larry Berman's article A Conversation with Bruce Baker, nationally-known expert and speaker on booth design Bruce had the following to say:
Large format photography displayed on the walls of your booth does more to pull people in than just about any method you can use to attract customers attention.
When people pass by your booth, they might not be able to focus on your work because of the scale or maybe because there are people blocking your tables. If you hang large photos of your work on your walls, you are more likely to catch someone’s gaze and subsequently pull them into your booth.

Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy, supports Bruce’s thoughts by saying this:
Windows are the new billboard.
The walls of your booth are essentially your store windows – use them to your advantage. Don’t make your images too complex – they should be eye-catching and memorable. Get your message across quickly.

So what might you do with your photos? An obvious choice is a close-up of one of your pieces or maybe a grouping.

Something else to consider is to set the scene for how your work might be used. Not everyone understands that a photo album can be used for more than just special occasions or that a journal can be used in ways other than as a diary.

More from Bruce Baker:
It’s about who you will become when you wear the product or how it will make you feel if you own this object. Never underestimate the lack of imagination on the part of your customers, they need these images to show them how something will look on the body or displayed in a kitchen.
Look at the photo on the back left side of my booth:

I set up one of my journals on a table with a pen and a cup of coffee. I wanted people to think that by owning one of my journals, they could have a moment to themselves to reflect on their daily lives. I wanted to show how they could own a journal and that it wasn’t just a gift item – it fit into their lives. I used the photo to create a story and to invite customers to be part of it.

Here are some more ideas to get you thinking:
  • Show one of your open guest books on a table, surrounded by gifts.
  • Position your travel journal next to an airline ticket or a stack of suitcases.
  • Open up a photo album and put party pictures into it, along with a copy of the party invitation.
  • Focus on a page of one of your journals with “Gratitude Journal” written across the top and show the start of a list.
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other needs. Needs that need to be addressed first include physiological and safety needs. The third level includes social needs - people crave connection with others and this includes family, friends, and romantic relationships.

Everyone already has lots of material possessions and at a basic level, your work is just going to add to the pile. People treasure experiences and memories created with their loved ones much more than things. If you can tap into the need for companionship through your photos, you can improve your odds of making a sale.

Take a look at the photo on the back right side of my booth. I created a scene where a mother and daughter were sharing a moment by looking through one of my photo albums. My goal was to help customers make an association between family and my work – if you own one of my photo albums, you’ll have the opportunity to spend time with family and share stories with them.

Stage your photos so that they appeal to your target customer. More from Bruce Baker:
Any photo is better than no photo but the image should focus on lifestyle and image. These photos should speak to your target demographic. When they do they get pulled into your space.
Using large format photography is like staging a house for sale – if people can’t imagine themselves in your home, then they probably won’t buy it. Use photos to help transport customers into a space where they exist with your work.

Some possibilities:
  • Show an image of a mother and child putting vacation photos into an album.
  • A picture of a parent and child reading a journal together, with a title on the front to indicate the journal contents - perhaps Our Family or Our Summer Vacation.
  • A grandparent and child cooking a meal while referring to a handmade book with the title Family Recipes.
Do you use large photos in your booth? How do you use them? Do you have any additional photo concepts to share? Send me an Email with photos and I'll include them in a follow-up post next week. Be sure to include your name and a link to your Etsy shop.


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, tip 6

This series includes weekly tips on hand-selling homemade work without losing your soul or compromising your integrity. See the original introductory post here, tip #2 here, tip #3 here, tip #4 here and tip #5 here.

Tip #6: Stand up! Or if you must sit, get a stool that’s high off the ground. Or else at least sit up straight and act interested. There are exceptions to the rule of standing, but the general idea – stay available and on the same level your customers are on, physically (without being intimidating), is what you want to keep in mind.

Not everyone will tell you to stay standing in your booth. Some will even suggest you are intimidating if you do so. I have to respectfully disagree. If you do not have the foggiest notion on how to engage with people, standing is a bad idea. If all you do is hover in the background with your hands behind your back, eagerly awaiting your next customer, standing is a bad idea. Of course you don’t want to come off as too eager or intimidating.

But too many artists take this as a welcome invitation to sit and disengage, hide in a corner. I find that if I stay standing as much as possible, but don’t hover, I’m at my most available when natural conversation with customers takes place. I think it’s best to stay active, dust or rearrange or sort things behind my small “desk,” so that when conversation starts, I can easily part with what I’m doing, but I’m not dragging myself out of some dormant and checked-out position to engage with people. If you sit during an entire show, when the inevitable happens and you need to stand to help a customer, it comes across as way more confrontational and intimidating than a gentle setting down of the product you were rearranging. The act of moving from sitting to standing is like making a big announcement: “Okay, now we’re serious, you’ve disrupted me enough to make me stand, you better buy something!” It’s subconsciously an intimidating gesture to someone who is leisurely shopping and doesn’t want to be pressured into buying anything but still wants artists available to chat with them about their work.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t stand during entire shows, but I try to stand a lot. And when I am sitting when a customer comes in my booth, I’m sitting and doing something active, but that lets me still be available (see tip 5). I also try to subtly stand up to start to rearrange or dust or whatever, rather than stand to engage. Does that make sense? If I find that I’m sitting when it would be better to stand, I stand and start rearranging or doing something booth-related before I engage in sales. Then when I do engage in sales, I’m not doubling the interaction so that it seems confrontational rather than engaging.

Some artists who have limited abilities buy tall stools. This is a great idea. You can stay active while sitting, but when you go to stand it’s not quite the production that it is if you are sitting low and raising to full height. You are already at full height, so it’s just a small move to stand. If you do have the ability to stand though, don’t use the tall stool as an excuse to sit and disengage. Stay lively and active, as much as possible while sitting. Don’t resort to reading or staring off into space, arms folded.

I did two of the biggest craft shows I’ve participated in while I was pregnant, and while I stood a lot, it obviously wasn’t practical for my health for me to stand the entire time.  So I kept the basic ideas in mind, sitting up straight, not hovering, but staying available. I sewed more covers during those shows. I found that it was actually more effort to stay interesting-looking and not bored while sitting, but it was possible.

There are a few definite exceptions to the standing rule. One is if your booth space is extremely limited (like only one table or something like that). Standing in such a small space I think is too intimidating. I tend to sit in extremely small spaces and find other ways to stay active. I also think that if your product is fine art or really large and you have a limited amount of product in your booth (large paintings for example, or giant metal sculptures or something), if you stand the whole time you are just going to look too eager. There’s not enough for you to do naturally to make standing a good idea. Buy a tall stool in that case and brainstorm ways to make yourself busy but still available. For book artists, this usually shouldn’t be a problem.

Standing or staying up tall (like on a tall stool) is preferable because you are at eye level with your customers. You can engage them more naturally and you signal that you are available and lively. You can engage people while sitting low, but I think it’s far easier to be effective if you stand, which is why I recommend doing so as often as possible during a craft show, particularly if the show is busy. But don’t take my advice point blank and word-for-word. Apply it to your own situation and see how it works.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Marketing 101 for Book Artists with Laura Russell

I had the pleasure of attending the Focus on Book Arts conference last week 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
  • Biography
  • Directions on how to set up your book for display
  • Colophon/technical details
  • Photograph
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:
Art Galleries:
Book Arts Resources:
General Resources:

If you'd like to learn more about Laura Russell, here's how you can connect with her: