HOPELESS ARTIST EMAILS...
AND HOW TO MAKE THEM BETTER
"Here's my latest art."
"Please look at my art."
"I'd like to show you my art."
"Tell me what you think about my art."
"I'm looking for a gallery to sell my art."
"I would like to show my art in your gallery."
"Here are examples of my art for your consideration."
"Visit my social networking page to see my art."
"Can you give me feedback about my art?"
"I want someone to promote my art."
"Visit my website and see my art."
"I'm looking for an art dealer."
"To Whom it May Concern."
"Dear Art Director..."
"See my art for sale."
"I need an agent."
I have no idea when this started or who the original perpetrators were, but I get more pointless, ill-conceived and just plain lame single-sentence email communications like these from artists the world over trying to get exposure for their art-- sometimes slightly longer, sometimes with no text at all and only an image or a link (!), and way more than I would have ever imagined possible. Thank God for the Internet, right? The sheer quantity of these indiscriminate open-ended epistles is absolutely astounding. Galleries, dealers and other fine art professionals are continually deluged with all kinds of requests to show, represent, buy, sell, respond to, or just plain look at artists' art. So OK. Let's say they're looking at your art. Now what?
But before we even talk about that, let's do this. Suppose we take the word "art" out of your request. What's left is that you're basically asking someone to look at you. And since the two of you have probably never met, that means you're asking a total stranger to look at you. So what are they supposed to do? Stand there and stare? Is there a point? Is there something you're trying to say? Is there something you'd like this person to do? If there is, then you'd better go ahead and explain yourself because if you don't, they'll have absolutely no idea what you're up to-- nor will any of the other people or galleries you're sending these to. I entirely understand and appreciate the fact that you're immersed in your art, deeply believe in what you're doing and feel compelled to share, but randomly asking others to notice you simply because you're you doesn't even qualify as a start.
To begin with, tell the recipients why you're emailing them. Research their backgrounds and decide whether it's appropriate for them to look at your art and if yes, have the presence of mind to address them by name. Figure out whether your art is the kind of art they like and if it is, briefly explain why. Tell them how you've concluded that. Show them you actually care about who they are and what they do. Clue them in to your selection process.
No one is inclined to respond to someone who talks only about themselves and not a word about who they're emailing to-- especially if they're one of a hundred other names in the cc (carbon copy) field of your email, or it's otherwise obvious you're doing a mass emailing. I mean are you serious? If they're nothing more than names you Googled up or copied off of some worthless email list you got conned into buying, forget it. Carpet-bombing the universe about your art is guaranteed to get you nowhere. You have to be exclusive about who you're emailing and why. To repeat, you have to show you care.
So that's the first thing. Tell whomever you're emailing why you're emailing them. And make it good. Talk about them-- not you. Explain why you think your art is relevant to whatever it is they do. If you're contacting a gallery, for example, mention the names of several artists they represent or show, and discuss your work in terms of theirs. Compare your education or resume or experience to the artists the gallery shows. Talk about why you think your art is a good fit-- in terms of the gallery, not you. Give the impression that you're actually familiar with the gallery, their website, their profile, that you possess some degree of fluency about who they are and what they do, and most importantly-- that you care.
NEVER give the impression that if they don't respond, then you'll just go ahead and send the same exact email to the next name on your list, or that you're already doing that. You see, you're asking someone you don't know to do you a favor-- a big favor-- like take time out of his or her busy life to focus totally on you. And if you're going to do that, then there has to be something in it for them. And you have to make them feel special or chosen in some way, and not just another cow in the herd. Even if you're only asking for a critique of your art, at least talk about why you respect this person's opinion and value their feedback. To repeat-- it's not all about you.
Next on the agenda, explain what qualifies you to contact whomever you're emailing. In case you're wondering, "I'm an artist and I make art" is not an adequate reason. Somewhere in your email, preferably really early on, you'd better establish either your credentials as an artist, a chain of referral which leads directly to the recipient, or some other reason that's pretty overwhelmingly appealing as to why you're doing this, and why they should continue reading. In other words, you have to elevate yourself from a complete stranger to someone who the recipient knows, who knows someone the recipient knows (and hopefully respects), or who has some sort of definable shared interest that the recipient can identify with and appreciate. If the only reason you're emailing them is to show them your art, don't bother. It's a waste of your time and more importantly, it's a waste of theirs.
Then there's the core content of a typical hopeless email, usually consisting of one or two declarative sentences or phrases like "See my art" or "My art for sale" and maybe anywhere from one to four or five images (or sometimes many more) or maybe a link to a website, social networking page, image page or video. And here's the astonishing part-- nothing else! And here's the even more astonishing part-- some of these emails don't even include images of the art! Did it ever occur to you that something might be missing? (This assumes of course that you have a good reason for emailing the recipient in the first place.) I mean would you walk into an art gallery with no introduction, portfolio or materials of any kind and say, "Hi, I'm an artist; would you like to see and sell my art?" If you did, how far do you think you would get?
You know the worst thing about these kinds of incomplete emails? They show that the sender is just plain lazy, or that they're not really committed to taking themselves and their art seriously, or that they're too busy with other things to figure out who they're emailing and why. In other words, if you send emails like this you sabotage yourself right from the get-go and assure that recipients hit the delete button immediately if not sooner.
Getting back to good, purposeful, well-thought-out emails, envisioning possible outcomes in advance is also highly recommended. What do you hope will happen? What would you like to happen? Whatever the answers to these questions are, you'd better be clear about them before you send your email out into the cosmos expecting to get a response. Plus whatever these outcomes are, you'd better make them clear to the recipients or better yet, ask for them.
By the way, if you're one of these artists who's managed to delude yourself into believing that complete strangers will be so taken with you and your art that all they have to do is see it and they'll supplicate themselves, implore you to tell them more, ask about prices, want to buy something or show you in their galleries or represent you, critique your work, or otherwise allow you to control the conversation and decide whether or not they're worthy of your attention, then I might politely suggest it's time to wake up and kiss the ass of reality. This is not the way the art world works. Whomever you're emailing has to see an upside, that you care not only about them but also about yourself and your future as an artist, which means more than one or two sentences and a handful of images of your art. It must consist of a vision, a plan with a plausible outcome where everyone is clear on the benefits, not only you.
The truth is that we who receive your emails know nowhere near as much about you as you do, and we cannot possibly divine what's what unless you enlighten us. Among other things, please include the following:
1. Your full name (hard to believe, but only a small percentage of these ludicrously lazy emails actually include the artist's full name). Many artists don't even have the courtesy to sign their emails.
2. The name of the recipient. Address the recipient by name-- not "Dear Sir or Madame."
3. Your website or gallery page or social networking page or image page if you have these so that interested recipients can find out more about you.
4. Where you're from, including your contact information (state, country, phone number, and so on). Your Hotmail address is not enough.
5. A BRIEF explanation of why you're emailing this person or gallery.
8. A BRIEF summary of your goals or intentions.
6. A BRIEF resume or summary of your career and accomplishments to this point.
7. A BRIEF description of the images you're emailing.
8. A BRIEF explanation about what you envision for your art (besides finding someone to look at it or sell it for you).
9. A BRIEF statement about who you are as an artist and what your art represents.
10. How much art you have available and price range it sells in.
Even after all this, know that the probability of getting any kind of meaningful response is minimal. But you can at least increase your chances of a positive outcome and make the experience worthwhile if you do it right-- if only as an exercise in purposefulness, and in organizing and presenting your work. So remember-- carefully research and identify your recipients, explain what's in it for them, be clear about your goals as an artist, show a little respect, and demonstrate that there's more to your agenda than you. Good luck and best wishes for success!
Need consulting about how to present your art better? I can help. You're welcome to call 415.931.7875 or send me an email.
(sculpture by Roberto Santo)
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