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How to Sell Art Online

Bogdan and I are picking a theme for each week of the year for all our research, blogging and video content. This week, we're going to be exploring ways that creatives can sell their art online. Unfortunately, we're going to stick to visual art this time, because I can't even begin to understand how you guys get your content out there as musicians and performance artists. Someone should get in touch and fill us in on the complexities you guys face.

Writers are another interesting breed. There are all sorts of writing competitions, grants, and residencies out there, so that's always a possibility. Of course, writing that great American novel and getting published by a major publishing house is ideal, and paying your literary agent 15% is well worth it... if you've got one. I have written several children's manuscripts and been turned down by some of the best names in the industry. I finally just put a few on Amazon, and the rest I'm self-publishing as Zines. But nobody ever said you could get rich off of picture books... well almost nobody. But there are loads of opportunities for copywriting, and writing articles for journals and such. It's that residual income that we want, royalties, bookings, etc... So until that great novel is picked up by Random House, it's probably best to become a famous blogger with a huge following. That at least might get those queries considered more seriously. You can always self-publish, but by the time you have managed to promote and distribute your book, you've got no more time for writing. Writing is rewarding personally, but it seems to be such a hard way to make a living.

Visual artists have a tough time too, particularly now that people are quarantined to their homes with no possibility to view your work in person. I know that won't last forever, but with all of the trouble galleries have been having lately, who knows how many of them are going to survive being shut down for months on end.

So regardless of the type of art, it seems like we're going to have to commit to promoting ourselves, and doing so online.

We spoke last week about there being all sorts of open calls, and each publisher or gallery tends to have submission guidelines at the ready. I'm all in favor of throwing as much of my art as possible to these types of competitions. The problem is that is all seems to passive to me. I can only submit what is requested, and the chance of my being discovered in the pile of submissions is a crap shoot at best. So certainly let's continue to do all of that, but let's also vow right now to do more. Let's take more control, and start to learn how to be marketers as much as we are artists.

As I see it, there are basically two ways to sell your creative work online. The most obvious is to have a virtual shop where people find things they want to own, and purchase them. A simple transaction where the online "gallery" gets a cut. The second format is where someone buys the rights to use your creation for a period of time, or for a particular use. I think of things like purchasing music on Envato, publishing a book, or selling photographs on I-Stock. Someone makes a particular transaction for a single use, or they may contract in a way that offers residual income for the artist. Residual income.... good.

So think about that for a day, and I'll be back tomorrow to give some examples of selling online to get paid one way or the other. Love to hear your comments, particularly if there's something you'd like me to look into and talk about in future blogs and videos.

Bye for now, John

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