How to Grow Your Mailing List – Here’s One Artist’s Story of Success

By Marsha Robinett in Art Business Advice > Email Marketing for Artists

As artists we’re often told that a comprehensive, in-house mailing list is the greatest asset we can have to sell our art. Unfortunately, actually adding people to a mailing list seems to be one of the most difficult things for artists to accomplish.

I’ve shown my art three years now, looking at a fourth season of juried art fairs just around the corner, and each time I faced the same question—how do I use this great opportunity to get more names and addresses for my list?

The first year that I showed my drawings, I was so darn happy to have a tent and some art to put in it that I didn’t even think about a mailing list. But I knew it was important, so the second year I had a guest book for people to sign.

It didn’t take long to realize that few people were willing to fill out the information. . . and most of those who did, well, I’ll just say this: cat scratchings would be easier to read. It goes without saying that if you can’t read their information, you can’t use it.

I finished that second year in the fall of ’06 and set up my website that winter—and now I really wanted that mailing list because I had something to tell people about. I started publishing my email newsletter with only 58 people on my mailing list, and I’m embarrassed to say most of those were friends and relatives!! However, it was a start.

When the art fairs began again in the spring of ’07, I went after my mailing list with new gusto. I had a plan. . . and simple as it was, it worked.

Since most people paid for my art with a check or charge card, it was only logical that I ask for their contact information. I bought a sales book larger than I needed so the top portion had plenty of space to write in. . .

. . . and if things were slow, I filled in their information myself while we talked, asking permission to add them to my mailing list. If there were other people waiting, I let them do it while I wrapped their purchase. I then compared what they had written with their drivers license, corrected anything I couldn’t read, and wrote down their email address.

At the end of the season I had a long list of firm, readable, contacts. . . and the best part is, they already owned at least one piece of my art. I was ecstatic!

The only downside to this method is the time it takes to enter all that information into my database and onto a 4×6 note card for the hard file that I keep on each customer. I also have to admit that sometimes when things are really hectic, even my handwriting is difficult for me to read. (Occasionally I forget to ask for buyers’ email addresses, too, but all things considered I’m still miles ahead of where I was.)

Naturally, after getting my face-to-face method down, I wanted to try and increase direct sign-ups on my website and art blog. My number of online sign-ups had been growing, but at virtually a snails pace!

I started thinking about to the guest book I had used during my second year of art fairs, since that method was the most similar to what would be taking place online. Looking through it again, I realized that those who were interested in my drawing classes wrote down their contact information very carefully. You see, I had something of value that they wanted, and they knew if I couldn’t read what they had written they wouldn’t receive my fall class schedule!

I wondered . . could I offer something of value online and use that to my advantage?

I decided to offer a free “mini print” to everyone who signed up for my email newsletter. I actually struggled with the word “free” because I wasn’t sure whether something free would appear to have any value to my visitors. After considerable thought I decided that it would, if presented correctly.

Here’s how I approached it:

First, I stopped talking about my newsletter as just an “email newsletter” and started referring to it as a “Newsletter Group.” I also wrote a post on my art blog announcing the “New Membership Gift” I was giving away, and placed a link on the home page of my website with the words “free print”. (Plus, when your cursor rolls over the link, a text box pops up that says, “Are you curious yet?”)

I also mentioned my new membership gift at the top of my art blog.

So what did I do here? Well, now people aren’t just signing up for any old newsletter, they’re actually joining a “Newsletter Group” that has benefits. The prominent links on my home page and blog create curiosity, and the announcement in my blog explains what they have to do to get their free print, how often the newsletter is sent, what information will be in it, and of course, that I will never share their personal information.

The results after less than two months are great—close to 30 new people have joined my Newsletter Group, and I have both their snail mail and email address!

So if you’re looking for a way to build your email list, first cover the basics—always get that contact information from everyone who buys your art. Then, sit down and think of what you can offer people that they’ll be interested in. A free print, a free service, a unique opportunity. . . or something else?

Be creative—and good luck!

Read more at Marsha’s pencil and graphite art blog or check out her complete portfolio at


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