by Lynn S. Schwebach
I love the internet, but sometimes I get lost clicking several links as I read, getting off topic and into areas that aren’t relevant. This happens a lot when I am seeking business advice on selling art, because I tend to find artists’ works I admire and then I am totally off subject. So sometimes I end up in bookstores—the old-school way—searching for a book that compiles important information in one sequential place.
Lisa Congdon’s “Art Inc.” provides exactly this type of nonfiction, focused brilliance. This beautiful book measures only 5.5” by 8” so it fits in my purse. I always have it handy to read and reread passages from it when standing in line at the grocery store, post office, or traveling by car or plane. As all books should be, this one just feels good to hold and page through. The publishers, Chronicle Books, used paper stock that is delicious to touch.
But what is more delicious is what this small powerhouse of a book contains on its pages. In only 7 chapters, Congdon addresses almost all art business questions I had and touches on topics I hadn’t yet discovered as an entrepreneur. But I love the first chapter the most, because it dispels the inner critic most artists listen to as they begin their careers—the idea that promoting and selling your art is somehow not the true artist’s way.
As Congdon states early in the book, “being an artist is a viable career choice.” But you first have to wipe out the starving artist mind-set—that making money on what you create somehow degrades your profession.
And what I especially love about this book are the artist profile interviews in each chapter. The book’s designer set off these interviews from the other text by putting them on orange pages and using white text. Each interview touches on the specific business topic that Congdon discusses in that particular section, and she includes a range of visual artists working in a diverse range of media. Inspiration abounds in the wise words of these working artists.
Here are some invaluable tips from this art business guidebook:
- Which mind-set do you possess: that of a starving artist or a thriving artist? (pg. 15)
- Most artists keep journals with both written and visual thoughts, helping work through creative blocks. (pg. 21)
- Make a vision map of where you want your career to be in 3 to 5 years. (pg. 35)
- Develop small actionable tasks to help you achieve your vision map. (pg. 38)
- To protect yourself against copyright infringement, register your artworks with the U.S. Copyright Office. (pg. 45)
- Send out and hand out postcards of your artwork. Galleries often keep files of these cards. (pg. 70)
- Prepare a press kit, and promote yourself to blogs, magazines, and newspapers. (pg. 76)
- Understand the pros and cons of sending your work to a commercial printer or investing in a high-end printer and making your own prints. (pg. 92)
- To build your resume, apply to juried shows by following certain guidelines. (pg. 112)
- How to introduce yourself to a gallery. (pg. 121)
- The ins and outs of illustration and licensing contracts. (all of chaper 6).
- Take time off to prevent burnout. (pg. 176)
This book was published 3 years ago in 2014. In the techie world, 3 years is a lifetime and for that reason, I felt the social media information in chapter 3, “Promoting Your Work,” to be a bit light. The opportunities for using social media to promote art has exploded, especially using Instagram. See my article,“Six Marketing Tips for Using Instagram,” and my Twitter articles: “Twitter is for Creatives—6 Easy Steps,” and “Tweet Your Way to a Personal Brand.”
All artists are entrepreneurs. We must accept this fact and get on with the concept of marketing our artworks. If you are at any stage of your art career, and want to go old school and have an invaluable reference book, I suggest “Art Inc.”
For art business advice, I also recommend the online magazine Handmade Seller.