Patience, Politeness and Perserverance Can Equal Publication

By Geoff Thornley

You would be surprised how many artists send unsolicited artwork to companies that not only do not take the type of work you are creating, but do not take art period. They either use an in house art department, or deal only with agencies. Research the company you are going to send your artwork to. If they have a website, visit it and check what type of art they publish. Any search engine will bring up thousands of pages of greeting card companies, or greeting card associations that have lists of members that are looking for artist submissions.

Your latest creation depicting a heavy metal band slaughtering chickens may possibly be the most fantastic piece of art ever created, but a card company that sells sentimental will leave the majority of your work in the envelope, un reviewed. Match your art to the companies that are looking for your type of art.

Be professional in your approach and in your manner. Your work will not be the only work they receive, and cryptic, or terse one-liners of information regarding you and your work, such as...Yo! check my site, it's great then get back to me after six...will result in the treatment it deserves. Again, your art may well be the greatest art ever, and some companies may ignore the accompanying information, or lack of it, and decide to drop at your feet. But most will not, because they recognise trouble when they see it. Out of all the card companies publishing, I would hazard that less than a third deal with artists directly, simply because experience has taught them that artists, in general, are a bunch of flakes who suffer delusions of grandeur, are unreliable, hate conformity and work as and when the mood takes them. They are an unruly, ill-disciplined bunch of child like creatures that have little or no communication skills, and think that deadlines are just dates on a calendar.

Editors look for solid, dependable types who send in a lot of work. Not just one or two pieces that you have taken six months to produce. They might buy them and publish them, but if they sell and start to really make a profit, they want to call you and commission several more paintings of a similar nature. They would like to think that in dealing with you they have an artist who is amenable, flexible, polite and interested in creating more and more work on an on-going basis.
They do take one or two pieces probably knowing that they will never deal with the artist again, but they always look ahead to what might happen, to what they want to happen, and that is to buy and publish a piece of art that is going to sell globally and fill their pockets with gold,...then commission another piece that is going to do the same while the going is good.

It is for mainly these reasons that the majority let an intermediary deal with the artist, leaving them free to merely deal with the art itself. It can happen that an unsolicited approach to a company can result in sales and a succesful partnership, but it is rare. It takes a lot of time, sifting through mountains of artwork that lands on their desk or in emails everyday, just to find one or two pieces that they think might sell. An agency has already sorted the art into groups, packaged it onto CD's and sent it to the companies they know are interested only in a particular variety of work or from certain artists. Time is money, and they waste little in dealing with artists work that is not coherent, well presented, matching their guidelines, or of good enough quality and interest to warrant a second look.

Keep sending your work in, even if the original series of designs has been rejected. They might have liked your style,but not the subject matter, so the next batch may include something they do like. Perserverance is as much a part of success as is skill. They will keep seeing your name, and will associate it with someone who is determined and not afraid of rejection. They like to work with artists that are able to take criticism, and can adapt artwork without the tantrums or the pleading to get artwork that needs to be changed, finished on time.

Be professional in your presentation. Do not send everything you have ever painted ever, or include work that is not your favourite,...I hate it, but Uncle Bob likes it so I'm putting it in just in case you like it too. Submit only your best work. If you have a website, include it on all your correspondence. The editors are far more likely to make the link if you keep your portfolio brief, with references to more available work if they like what they see, than if they have to wade through pages of similar looking work, or hours of downloads that just clog up in-trays and waste valuable time. Make sure that all images are clearly labelled and if possible, state the image size and resolution. For example 5 x 7 @ 300dpi. This lets them know that the image will reproduce perfectly without having to arrange scans or having to do, or pay, for any work themselves.

Once you send in your portfolio, give some appreciable time for them to review and reply, at least 3-4 weeks. Patience is a virtue you will need in abundance. Some companies state that any further contact with them after receiving an acknowledgement of receipt, will result in instant refusal of your work. I have my doubts over that one. You have a right to call and enquire about your own work and they would be foolish indeed if they binned it without looking at it, just in case you are the next big thing in art, but their point is valid. They cannot review, choose, publish, distribute and collect their dosh if they are dealing with artists calls or emails asking where their stuff is and what's taking so long to look at a few lousy pictures. Be polite in your dealings with the editors or the staff, after all, you are trying to sell them something, they are not always looking to buy.

I always send to as many companies as possible at the one time. I print off a lot of coloured sample sheets or burn a few CD's and send them off to all the companies I think might be interested. This cuts down time and frustration, because small and large companies differ in review times. Some will answer in a week, some as stated take months. By the time that happens, luckily you will have sold something to another company. The more you sell, the more interest you get from others. It is a strange irony that some people will only want something if they know that someone else wants it too. Suddenly they all want it, which can only be good for you and your work.

Keep submitting, keep painting, stay focused on what you want out of it all, be patient and most of all, enjoy every step of the way.

my art can be viewed at

Geoff Thornley has been a professional artist for ten years and has numerous designs published as greeting cards world-wide. He teaches both novice and advanced students in the application of acrylic and in how to make the most of it, plus saving money in the process, especially for those just starting out in art. He lives in Kent, England.

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