Art Fair Insiders

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

A Good Read...For Beginners and Others Alike!

I've been doing shows for a good number of years but it never hurts to get a reality check once-in-a-while and make sure the rudder is heading in the right direction. I saw a reference to a new book called Death To the Starving Artist by Nikolas Allen and feeling as though I were a starving artist after the shows in 2013 I thought I would look into it, see what he had to say and see if I missed anything important. I requested the book from the local library (hey! I'm starving I can't afford to buy every book I see!) and they bought it so I could read it.

What were some of the take-aways that I got from reading this newest entry to the artist self-promotion jungle? The book has some of the usual gibberish that I've run into before (see my list of books to consider at the end of this discussion) like pursuing other venues such as coffee houses, hair salons, empty buildings, what-evah. What he has done differently with that information is conceptualize it in terms of where you are in your art career, where do you want to be and who do you want as an audience? He compares your art career to a ladder and suggests that certain venues are more appropriate to certain stages of your career. I've certainly done my share of going up and down the rungs as I've done a lot of that alternative space stuff but never stopped to think of it in those terms before, it was worth some self-reflection. What may have (or not) served me in the past may not serve me in the present or on into the future and besides which, where is it that I want to go?

Another important point he made, which was well served, was crafting a meaningful marketing message. How do you talk to people, do you hem and haw or do you have a concise concept of what you do that you can deliver within the first few seconds of contact. And speaking of contact, do you hide out or do you engage? The new form of reading a book in the back of your tent is now perusing your Smart whatever device and hiding out in the back! When it comes to naming your business which way do you go? Do you use your name only or a catchy phrase or some combination of the two?  I just saw a post on this site over that very issue. We've all heard this, and most of us do it, the mailing list! You need to remind your patrons that you still exist! But beyond that how do you maintain active contact with your patrons? What kind of contact do you maintain and how do you do it in this world of social media and other frippery. I thought he made several good points in this particular chapter. Well worth consideration for the beginner or veteran artist.

In the third section of his book he talks about the "tools" needed to reach your audience. I've struggled with bio's and artists statements and I feel his treatment of the subject was concise and finally made some sense to me, or was it because after the third go round it finally sunk in? If you've struggled with this subject, or are about to, it's worth the read. He takes on websites and social media concepts as well. I think he overemphasized self-made websites as there are a ton of ready-made templates and services out there for the faint of heart.

At one point I thought he was a little dismissive, or at the very least, minimally mentioned, Art Fair Artist, as a means to an end before he went on to the Galleries section. But in his defense he is looking a the overall picture of artists not just one avenue. If your looking specifically at running your business in the artfair realm you'd be better off reading Maria Arango's book (see below).

The last part of the book is a good overall look at the different tools an artist can enlist to forward their goals and one should consider which, if any, are appropriate to your level as well as your end game. All-in all I found it an easy read and I came away with a few new tips, a few "I hadn't thought of that befores" and some insights on doing what I do a little differently next time around. 

Further Reading:

By the way there is a nice freebie on his website that can help you move forward in terms of marketing yourself at:

One of the most enjoyable reads and a great primer to this whole art fair thing is: Arango, Maria, Art Festival Guide, The Artist's Guide to Selling in Art Festivals. Her book goes into many of the details of the artfair artist.

Bhandari, Heather Darcy, and Melber, Jonathan, Art/Work ___Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career.

Stanfield, Alyson B., I'd Rather be in the Studio.

Lang, Cay, Taking the Leap, Building a Career as a Visual Artist.

Grant, Daniel, Selling Art Without Galleries.

Michels, Caroll, How To Survive & Prosper as an Artist.

Grant, Daniel, "Take This Under Advisement,  Need a Career Jumpstart? Artistic Advisors are Ready to Assist You," Sunshine Artist, Feb., 2014, pp. 22-25.

Getting Exposure, The Artist's Guide to Exhibiting the Work, an Art Calendar Guide by the editors of ArtCalendar Magazine

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Comment by Pauline Solnik on April 30, 2014 at 4:34pm
Loved your article! As a newbie, your reading recommendations are really appreciated. It's time for me to walk the walk, not just talk the talk...this site is wonderful! I have to tear myself away from it to get anything else
Comment by Robin Chard on February 3, 2014 at 3:57pm

Thanks! I know I can use some help! Sometimes just getting one or two good ideas are worth the book!

Comment by Susan Neves on January 30, 2014 at 8:21pm

Love it! Thanks for the reminder that we all need to reassess our mission and do some self reflection. I know that's exactly what I'm doing this year!

Comment by Connie Mettler on January 30, 2014 at 2:37pm

Great review, Brian. (I always love book reviews). The other thing is, as you said maybe heard it the third time, is that you can hear something and then hear it again and then maybe it will take. Then there is that old problem, inertia. After you've been at this for awhile you may not want to make changes. But you have to.

Here are some of my favorite books:

No Thanks, I am Just Looking, Harry Friedman

The Secrets of Super Selling: How to Program Your Subconscious to Success,  Lynea Corson

The Secrets of Closing the Sale, Zig Ziglar (or any books by Zig)

and a book that changed my life:

Your Money or Your Life, Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin

and don't even ask me about using social media to increase your income ... :)

Comment by S Brian Berkun on January 30, 2014 at 11:29am

One more resource...the new Feb. issue of Sunshine Artist has a nice article on Artist Advisement. It gives a nice run down on the different types of advisement you might get, who you might contact and what you can expect to pay for it.

Comment by Terry Cox on January 29, 2014 at 10:28am
Nice article. Thanks for the extra resources.
Comment by Janice Kirkland on January 29, 2014 at 9:40am

Thanks for the resource list!

Comment by Britt Hallowell on January 29, 2014 at 9:27am
I loved Maria Arango's book! It really helped me when I was just starting out (thanks Flourish for sending it free with my tent purchase!)
Comment by Christina L. Towell on January 29, 2014 at 9:01am

This sounds like it would be a really interesting read...full of insights, tools and ways to think more creatively about marketing one's art.  I'll check it out, thanks for the well-written book report, it's definitely piqued my interest.

Comment by Kristin Ellis on January 28, 2014 at 10:10pm

Nice review, thanks for sharing!

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