How to Sell Your Art Without Selling Out

How to Sell Your Art Without Selling Out By Ann Rea

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Author’s Note

This book may seem like it’s all about rules, based on the title. But it’s actually a book about breaking the rules; the rules of the entrenched art establishment.

I broke the rules of the art establishment and made up my own so that I could sell enough of my art to make a decent living. My rules have allowed me to support myself nicely since 2005 as a fine artist living in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the United States.

This book is not an attempt to convince you of a new philosophy nor to assert that I have all the answers. I’m still trying to figure it out.

These are the rules that work for me, and they work for the artists whom I’ve mentored. I had to figure them out on my own. So my hope is that this book offers you an easier introductory framework on how to build a profitable independent artistic enterprise. It may work for you; it may not. You decide. This book is an invitation for you to break the rules and to challenge:

• the authority of the art establishment.

• all of your assumptions about selling your art.

• most importantly, yourself.

I am guessing that you are an artist who has come to a sobering fork in the road. You either want to sell your art and you don’t know where to begin or you have been selling your art but not enough. So let’s examine your options.

Like most artists, you have been led to believe that the conventional path of seeking representation to sell your art is the path that you must take. You just hone your craft and hope for that big break. This way you can let someone else, more capable, deal with all that business mumbo jumbo. Is that what you learned in art school?

But as we know, if you take the conventional path, the odds are stacked high against you. And ironically, the first question that a potential art representative will ask is, “So, how much work have you sold, for how much, and to whom?”

The entrenched art market is a scarcity and permission based model. It is guarded by gatekeepers who will only let a select few past their gate. Why? Because it’s their gate, it’s their game, so they get to make the rules. Even assuming you have great talent, that is very subjective.

No need to exhaust yourself and become bitter about the realities of, and the rejection by, the traditional art market. Are you prepared to wait for the gatekeepers to open their gates? Then just ask yourself, “Is this the game I want to spend my life playing?”

If so, read no further.

Your other option is to take the reins and actively pursue success by taking an unconventional entrepreneurial approach. The odds are not great, but I found them to be quicker, freer, and much more profitable.

What does the entrepreneurial approach mean? You ignore the gatekeepers, and you build and own your artistic enterprise. This is not a smooth road either. But the gatekeepers cannot blunt your success, and you can maintain your creative freedom through your business savvy.

Bottom line. You can direct your limited time and life force to submitting and showing your art, or marketing and selling your art.

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