Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

Happy New Year, everyone! 

Art Fair Sourcebook - is it worth the $$? I am really unsure about the quality of the information, and so it seems expensive. If the info is excellent, then I'd really consider it. I've taken the "test drive," but that hasn't really helped me. 

I'd love to hear your opinions. 

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I purchased the midwest edition (since I live smack in the middle of it) when I first started out. It is expensive but it also helped me out a lot. The thing is don't take it as gospel, just a rough guide. The actual rankings don't mean that much to compare one similar show to another, many artists baulk at the accuracy of the numbers. It does give you an idea of what shows to start looking at. If a show has an average sales of 10k an artist, it is probably worth looking into, if it is more like 1k, maybe not.
  It does give some other useful data, like shows that have a difficult load in/out, what kind of crowd the show draws, what stuff seems to sell better, etc.

It's the most complete data source on shows available today that's based on "hard" data. It used to be the only game in town, and Greg worked hard to get all the shows to submit information for each year's issue. Nowadays, with social networking and sites such as this, there are more options. AFSB is still the only source that gathers sales data and compiles it in a usable format. If you are new to shows, and need to do research on a specific area, you can subscribe to one of the regional editions.

I had the entire book for about five years, and found it incredibly useful as I built up my knowledge of what shows and what markets might work for me. Yes, it's overpriced. Greg has tried to ameliorate that issue with monthly and single look-up rates, which may or may not be useful. The best time of year to subscribe is September, when the preview issue is published, and it gives you a full year of show data to work with.

That said, you can get a lot of anecdotal information from sites such as this and the companion site, Art Show Reviews. There is an active Facebook group, Art Fair Review, that has ongoing conversations about shows, and a companion website that is attempting to gather information in a similarly data-driven way. The data gathered is much more complete than what Greg gathers, but the downside is that it doesn't cover as many events.

Sunshine Artist is a good option for filler shows, if that's a need. For $55 yearly, you get vastly editorialized opinions on various shows, and a fairly useless capsulization in the back. FWIW.

Bottom line answer to your question: if you can afford it, AFSB is the quickest path to gather reasonably accurate baseline information on a show. The search function is good. The listings are adequate. Now that Greg is charging shows to be included, its usefulness may be somewhat curtailed.

I've had it for several years and it was invaluable in getting started and when I moved to a new area.  I debated getting it this year because I know pretty much what to expect from the shows around me but I have already saved the subscription fee by not applying to and doing a show I was considering that I realized wouldn't be worth my the money by reading the reviews.  I find the Sunshine Artist audit books helpful in telling me what shows are out there but not necessarily how good they are.

I found it really useful when we branched outside our "comfort zone" and wanted to add some new shows to our schedule outside of the 3 state area we knew pretty well.  I don't subscribe every year, I'll probably subscribe again as we begin to plan 2014 since we plan to expand our travels again in 2014.

I've had the western regional subscription of the sourcebook for about 3 years and have found it useful for finding shows to try. I also find the data on how many applicants each show has and how many returning artists, to be useful. The reviews are helpful, it also has everything in one place, like important dates (but you need to double check these), website links, contact info, whether a show have previous day setup, etc. For me it's been worth the $$ for the limited area I use. A number of shows fell off the list this year, a couple of which I do.

When I started doing shows 4 years ago, I purchased the hard copy book of top National shows. I also have the southern region edition hard copy. I still use them today, if I want to see what shows were like back in 2009. The data does not change all that much - either it was or still is a good or marginal show or it isn't. Greg also has some very useful information on setup, where to ask for booth location, etc., if it's your first time there. The info from artist feedback online usually has some of that kind of info as well. I have subscribed to the regional editions online to get some thoughts as well on particular shows, to fill a gap in travel. You can also purchase as Jim mentioned info on one show for $9.95, which I just did to check out a show in the west I knew nothing about. This site AFI and ArtFairReview on FB are excellent resources.  After awhile you just know, since artists do a fair amount of talking at shows, of what's been good for them, or what to avoid. Ask your booth neighbor, but what works for one medium or price point is what is most important. I quit my subscription to Sunshine Artist magazine after they listed St. James the No. 1 show in the country. Maybe No.1 if you are selling widgets and low priced items to the massive crowds there.

One thing I can say about Greg is he does know shows. I do many of the top shows in the country and I see him there walking the shows, handing out his literature to get customers, but at least his boots are on the ground. His wife is an artist doing many shows around, so he gets feedback and has been around. He talks to artists and gets feedback on the shows first hand. However sometimes that feedback is based upon how the show is going along the way, and not at the end of the show, when many people step up and make purchases. I do see the paid advertisements, and show listings that make you wonder how advertising and editorial really mix, but if you get a repore with him, he can offer good information especially once he knows your work, and fit. 

He is a businessman, and is growing his offerings, you can also signup for a personal consultation with your work, and get feedback form where he thinks your fit will work best. First you have to get into the jury selection, so no matter what shows you want to do, if the the competition edges you out, you need to know where else to look. It may be plan B, but it's better than not exhibiting, if you are a full time show artist. With many of the top shows you end up with a 20-30% chance of gaining acceptance, therefore, it's nice to apply to multiple shows on weekends and see what your options are. Its a process of elimination, and some luck, since juries can be looking at 1500 applications, with 250 spots open. Recently on another list, questions are going around about how many shows people are applying too, and it seems many are upwards of 50 applications a year, and around 50% acceptance rate was posted.

Thanks for the great answers and insights, everyone. I really appreciate the feedback. I use this site, other sites, and mostly doing shows and talking to other artists - but we've moved, and so I am in somewhat new territory. At any rate, good stuff to think about. Thanks! 

Thank you very much for asking this question!  I am a new member of Art Fair Insider.  After a long blank period, I have just re-started doing art fairs and shows, on top of having moved to a completely different region, I desperately need a reliable resources.  Have a great holidays, everyone!

I read this entry this morning and I didn't realize it was an old post and I had already responded but I'd like to expand on my response for the newbies.  I used AFSB from 2005 - 2013 (I think) and I will get it again for the top 200 nationwide once I retire from my day job and can go further.  I found it to be a valuable resource and while there are many more avenues to get reviews these days, no review source has more data.

Pros

Has more valuable data such as percentage of applicants accepted, show maps, and percentage of different media.  You can't always get this information from the show.

I like that the reviews are anonymous.  I think people feel more free to vent about issues when they don't have to fear a show director matching you with a negative review.

It tells me where to find the application.  If a show is not on ZAPP or JAS sometimes that is difficult info to find.

It is invaluable when moving to a new area to find where all the shows are.  

Cons

It is expensive.  It wasn't so bad when I lived in the middle of Florida and could work from only one edition.  Once I moved to Virginia and needed 2 it became quite an expense.

The data on average sales and whether a show is trending up or down is only as good as the data input and with more people depending on online reviews I'm not sure that data is as correct as it used to be.

Shows are now being charged to be in AFSB so some shows are missing.

Thank you, Alison, for the up-date!  

Regarding the "cons" issue, I would imagine/hope Greg is planning on doing something about it. assuming he reads these discussions?! 

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