This past weekend, I spent a lot of time with some artists talking about marketing, especially about the feelings and emotions involved in self-promotion. A few artists expressed concern about overdoing it, which is normal since nobody ever wants to come across as too pushy or arrogant. But one woman even mentioned that she feels like she’s imposing on people when she contacts them to request things like press coverage or gallery representation. While I respect her viewpoint, I encouraged her to look at self-promotion another way: Done right, we’re actually doing editors and gallery directors a service by letting them know we’re available.
Let’s look at things from their point of view:
Newspaper, magazine, and website editors, as well as TV and radio producers, have to find good stories to publish. Finding stories that will engage an audience is hard work. So imagine how happy and appreciative they will be when you send them a proposal about a compelling story – your story – that meets their needs! Your local news media editors will love it when you contact them and say, “I’m a local artist who is doing something really interesting in our community.” Likewise, how-to art magazine editors love it when you contact them and say, “I can write a feature that will teach your readers an exciting new technique I’ve developed.” When you present an editor with a specific, useful idea that will truly be of interest to their audience, you are doing them a favor and saving them a lot of work.
The same is true of gallery directors. They are always looking for new artists whose work they can sell because it will appeal to their existing customer base and attract new customers with similar tastes and interests. So, if you’ve done your homework and think that your work will complement the work already being sold in a specific gallery, you should contact them. A gallery director will be thrilled to meet an artist who is a good fit for the gallery and its customers.
By now, however, you’ve probably deduced that the secret to success is to present the right proposals to the right people. It’s not enough to simply contact every editor and producer with a general request to be featured. You need to see a connection between your story and their audience, and then help the editor or producer see that connection. Similarly, you should not contact every single gallery around, nor should you contact a gallery just because it’s successful and well-known. Be selective and contact only those galleries that are selling work similar to yours in a comparable price range. Then, in your cover letter, explain specifically why your work would be a good fit for that gallery.
In short, you’re not imposing yourself on people when you contact them with professional proposals because they always have the right to say no. Rather, if you’re giving them something they need to accomplish their business goals, you’re doing them a service. Everyone wins.