Home > Artist Tips, Uncategorized > Artist Tip: Proper Email Business Ettiquette for Artists

Artist Tip: Proper Email Business Ettiquette for Artists

May 25, 2011

Author Alan Bamberger wrote this funny, bitchy article about how to be more likely to get results from any email contacts that you solicit your art to.  Valuable tips on what to do, what not to do and how to consider your reader are included in what are assumed to be “cold call” letters searching for interest.  This is re-blogged from here.



“Please look at my art.”
“Here’s my latest art.”
“I’d like to show you my art.”
“Email your feedback 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 website and see my art.”
“Dear Art Director…”
“I’m looking for an art dealer.”
“I need an agent.”
“See my art for sale.”
“My art.”

I have no idea when this started or who the original perpetrators were, but I get more pointless, idiotic, ill-conceived and just plain lame single-sentence email communications like these (sometimes slightly longer, sometimes with no text at all— only images!) from artists the world over trying to get exposure for their art— way more of them than I would have ever imagined possible. Thank God for the Internet, right? The sheer quantity of these indiscriminate open-ended epistles absolutely astounds me— requests for me (or whomever) to show, represent, buy, sell, respond to, or just plain look at an artist’s art. So OK. I’m 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 me to look at you. And since we’ve never met, that means you’re asking a total stranger to look at you. So what am I supposed to do? Stand there and stare? Is there a point? Is there something you’re trying to say? If there is, then you’d better go ahead and say it because if you don’t, I’ll have absolutely no idea what you’re up to— nor will anyone else. I entirely understand and appreciate the fact that you’re immersed in your work, deeply believe in what you’re doing and feel compelled to share, but randomly asking people to notice you simply because you’re you doesn’t even qualify as a start.

To begin with, I’d like to know why you emailed me. Did you research my background and conclude that I should look at your art (assuming you have the presence of mind to address me by name)? Is your art the kind of art I like? If so, please explain. Tell me how you know that. Or am I just a name you Googled up, or copied off of some worthless mailing list you got conned into buying? It would be nice if you clued me in to your selection process. I’m certainly not inclined to respond to someone who mentions only themselves and not a word about me— especially if I’m one of a hundred other names in the cc (carbon copy) field of your email, or it’s otherwise obvious that this is a mass emailing. I mean are you serious?

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 that 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 theirs. Talk about why you think your art is a good fit for their gallery— 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 one more thing— that you care. And 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. You see, you’re asking someone you don’t know to do you a favor— a big favor— like to 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. 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 justification. 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 for them to 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. 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. 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 sell my art?” And if you did, how far do you think you would get?

As for why you’re doing this, envisioning possible outcomes in advance is 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 ask for them. And 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 they’ll supplicate themselves, implore you to tell them more, ask your prices (because they’re not in your email), sell them something, show you in their galleries, represent you, critique your work, or otherwise allow you to control the conversation and decide whether or not they’re worthy, then I might politely suggest that 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, and that upside has to be more than two sentences and a handful of images of your art. It must consist of a well-thought-out 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 inane 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 Madam.”
3. Your website if you have one.
4. Where you’re from, including your contact information (street address, phone number, and so on). Your Hotmail address is not enough.
5. A BRIEF resume or summary of your career to this point.
6. A BRIEF description of the images you’re emailing.
7. A BRIEF explanation about what you envision for your art (besides finding someone to look at it or sell it for you).
8. A BRIEF statement about you as an artist and what your art represents.
9. 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 organizing and presenting your work. So remember— carefully research and target 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 good day!

Categories: Artist Tips, Uncategorized
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