The Artist's Guest Book - The Key to Expanding Your Business! by M Theresa Brown


One of the most important tools in the artist's business tool kit is the Guest Book. Along with a portfolio of your work, business cards and a receipt book, your guest book should be with you any time you are exhibiting your work.

What is a guest book? The Guest Book is your tool to collect contact information from future clients and collectors. As such, at art festivals and shows, it could well be considered the most important resource tool in your display. It is a major source for your mailing list. Without a mailing list, your email newsletters would go nowhere. Announcements of upcoming shows and newly created artwork would be useless.

The critical point to remember is that the people who sign your guest book are interested enough in your work and trust you enough to give you their information. They have seen your work or either talked to you or saw you talking with other people. They have given you permission to contact them again. The marketing truths are, despite handing out business cards and even chatting with a prospect, it is very likely, in this age of too much information, that you and your art product will be quickly lost in their minds (refer to my other article about business cards!)

You can be forgotten unless you have the means to contact these people and jog their memories!

There are a few helpful rules I have regarding
the Guest Book and how to use it. Though I have called it a guest book in this article and refer to it as a guest book when speaking with future collectors and clients, it is not the usual little book you see at weddings and such. Consider it a collection of information. My art Guest Book is a leather bound three ring binder with brass corners. The image below is the top half of a regular sheet of paper. I have edited it for size.

The pages have ample space for my guests to fill in the already printed lines and ask for:

* full name
* complete mailing address including zip code
* telephone (many give cell numbers)
* email address
* notes and comments

If you don't ask for and have a space for a phone number, or email or anything else, no one will write it down. If they don't want to give it to you, they won't, so don't worry that you are invading their privacy. The notes and comments section is very important. Ask the prospect to make a note about what you have talked about, or make it yourself immediately after they leave. When you get home and look at thirty or so names, you won't have a clue who is who unless you jotted down something about your conversation. I also make sure that I can read what they are writing. Blame the computer, but handwriting isn't what it used to be. A little research can find the right street number or zip code, but when it comes to email addresses you have no second chance.

My guest book also has plenty of space for people to write.
There is room for information for two people per page as well as the same information on the reverse side of each sheet.

I let people know that we will be emailing periodic newsletters with updates about our work and schedules. I also absolutely do not share their information with anyone. Period. If I am having an exhibition at a gallery or at a show, I will forward the Gallery's email announcements with my newsletters to the prospects (and I let the Gallery know that is what I am doing), but will not share a prospect's private information with another organization. It is common practice for a Gallery or Organization to ask for your entire mailing list in order to promote "your" show. Although it seems a reasonable request, once your mailing list is in the hands of another, your opportunity to develop an exclusive relationship with those prospects is lost to you! When your show ends, so does the exclusive you had on those clients. The other party will be adding your contacts to their overall list. We have over 1000 people to whom we send out newsletters. No matter how many names are on your Newsletter list, each is a potential client! Your list is a substantial tool in the advancement of your art career and represents many hours of hard work that it took you to collect the names on that list. Do not randomly toss it away!

At the other end of the spectrum from the leather bound book
with brass corners, my artist husband, Steve Filarsky carries a small moleskin notebook he keeps in his pocket for notes. He carries it all the time and it is especially handy when he is painting outdoors. If someone expresses interest in his work, he will ask for their contact information or have them note it down in his book. I have used legal tablets to collect information at a show when the Guest Book was inadvertently left behind!. Anything is better than nothing.

What does it mean to your Art Business to collect a prospect's contact information? We have a friend who does beautiful custom leather work. Her lowest priced items are $200 and most items are in the $600. - $800. range. They are not an impulse item. But I can't impress upon her the need to get a guest book. I often wonder how much money and work she has lost over time because she does not think it is necessary to remind people about her work. It is so easy for an artist to become complacent and think that they will be easily remembered! Opportunities lost become even more critical when the artist told me recently that she was moving out of state because of her husband's job. How are those past clients to know? Certainly her non clients won't know and she is now aware of this!

It is, unfortunately, far too easy to fall into the thinking of "I've gotten this far without one." We see it all the time with artists. And when the economy takes a tumble and gentle reminders to your prospects are in order and even necessary, these artists have nowhere to turn! I have met artsts who tell me that they have never had to market their art. They say that their clients all came to them through word of mouth only. Those same artists are not saying that now. For those artists who have always known the work that it takes to market their art, today's economic woes are just another bump in the road!

We have learned that the symbolism represented with handing out your business card and or asking someone to sign your guest book can be considered permission for them to leave! Obviously, we would prefer an immediate sale to just collecting information, so don't jump the gun with your guest book or business card. I usually wait until they are ready to leave before I ask them to sign our guest book.

Always ask your prospect to sign your Guest Book.
Most will. A few will not. They would rather just take your card. That is fine too. Never insist that they give you their contact information.

Your guest book is a powerful tool.
It will enable you to renew connections with people who are interested in your work. When someone leaves a show after having talked to a dozen of more artists, loses your business card and just gets absorbed back into day to day life, you can still put your art in front of them. Make every dollar that you invested in your art, in traveling, in show expenses and advertisements work for you by installing and maintaining a Guest Book in your Art Business today! All it takes is paper and pen and the willingness to ask interested prospects for their contact information!

Learn more about marketing your art with Art for Sale Audio Book CD.

Art Career Experts

Newest DVD Release from Wilson Bickford

Jerry's Artarama has just released the second of several Oil Painting DVDs, which I filmed for them last Spring. "LAKESIDE BIRCHES" is now available as part of the World Of Art DVD collection.

There are dozens of videos featuring a troupe of very talented artists, encompassing every style and genre, so please take time to check them out.

My hat is off to Jerry's and Burning Oak Studios for allowing me to bring my lessons to you.

It is deeply appreciated!

Wilson Bickford, artist and art educator, has perfected the art of the "wet on wet" painting technique. This extremely popular painting style, for its ease of learning and fantastic results, has helped create new fine artists since its beginning. Bickford gives the viewer the ability to not only create a beautiful piece of art start to finish, but also teaches you practical and important painting techniques which will get you well on your way to becoming a fine artist.


Looking by Valerie (Valry) Drake

I will be attending Surtex in New York City this spring. Surtex is an art licensing trade show. The exhibitors will be artists who license their work and artist's agents. Surtex is held in conjunction with The National Stationery Show and my ticket to Surtex also gets me into NSS. NSS has exhibitors who are (predictably) stationery manufacturers - a large market for art licensing. There are also several seminars offered at the shows which sound extremely valuable.

If you are not familiar with the term, licensing is when artwork is used on manufactured products and the artist receives a percentage based on how many of those items sold. Think about how many things have artwork on them! Party plates, scrapbook stickers, tissue boxes, kitchen towels, school notebooks, t-shirts, calendars, greeting cards, etc. I think the going rate for a license is 5% of the wholesale price.

Since this is my first time to attend Surtex I am not expecting to walk away with a licensing contract. Then again, I can always dream! The cost for an independent artist to attend Surtex is $150. As part of my preparation for the trip I am spending hours researching the individual exhibitors, going to each individual web site and seeing if the exhibitor is a possible match with my work. So far I have targeted one manufacturer and six agents.

As an attendee I am not allowed to carry my portfolio into the show, which I think is perfectly reasonable since other artists pay a lot of money to be exhibitors. I also need to be considerate of the paying customers that are talking to the exhibitors. However, I can carry "tear sheets" and I can set up appointments to discuss my work.

Question #1: What is a tear sheet?
The best I can figure out is that a tear sheet is basically a single page flyer about ONE of my "art collections" (see Question #2). It should show the components of the art collection, various combinations of those components, and some "mock-ups" (see Question #3).

Question #2: What is an art collection?
The art which is licensed is not what I would really refer to as fine art, more like illustrations. An art collection is a themed set of various components that can be combined in different ways. For example my set of dancing stick people has three stick people and various border elements. Here are some of the ways they combine.

Question #3: What are mock-ups? Mock-ups are where I go one step further on my samples and merge the art onto merchandise graphics. So I will take the round piece above and merge it onto a paper plate graphic, and the square one onto a napkin. Or I might take the round one and make a sheet of mock stickers. You get the idea.

I am planning to take four art collections with me to the show. Consequently, I am a busy artist right now.

More about my Surtex preparations next time.

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