About a week ago I had the opportunity to read Chris Guillebeau’s new ebook for artists, The Unconventional Guide to Art & Money, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it contained a lot of solid advice for artists who want to start making an income by selling their art online.
I’m actually one of the artists who was interviewed early on for the Guide, so I did have some idea of what Chris was aiming for. . . but without being involved in writing the ebook, I didn’t have a clue as to how my interview answers would be used or what the final outcome would be.
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As it turns out, Chris (and Zoë Westhof, his writing partner) did a great job of doing research and consolidating information into an ebook that’s actually helpful—unlike the many I’ve come across and decided NOT to review in the past.
So why is this ebook different from the rest?
First of all, let me say that I have the utmost respect for Chris Guillebeau. His website, the Art of Non-conformity is one of my weekly reads, and I really enjoy his posts on travel and living a life of non-conformity.
He and Zoë Westhof also began this project the right way, by interviewing artists who are using the internet to make a full-time or part-time income from their art rather than going the traditional gallery route.
Since Chris and Zoë are both writers, not visual artists, it makes perfect sense that they would go to these sources for their information, and I applaud them for taking the time to interview and collect the information themselves rather than just scraping and republishing content that’s already out there.
I also liked how well-rounded the Guide is because of all those different perspectives. It’s difficult to get that kind of broad expertise from a single author.
What kind of information does this guide offer?
There are four parts to The Unconventional Guide to Art & Money. I’ll go through each section so you can get an idea of what’s included.
The first section is about eight pages long. It starts out with some stats about artists in the US, and an assessment of the problem: that too few artists are successful at making a living from their art.
It also discusses how conventional methods (primarily galleries) are restrictive and no longer necessary to sell art, and tries to dispel some of the “myths” that supposedly accompany selling art.
In the second section of The Unconventional Guide to Art & Money, several examples are given of artists who are successful at selling their art online. It offers some insight into how they use the internet to promote themselves, and then provides a flexible outline of what your own plan of action should be.
This section also explains how to attract the right kind of visitors to your blog or website (which I fully agreed with) and discusses other important considerations that you might not think about at first—like how to be authentic and approachable online.
Tips on setting price points, a very brief mention of SEO, and the importance of being visible offline as well as online round out this section.
The third section begins with a 3-page comparison chart showing the pros and cons of different online selling options (i.e., how does this online gallery compare to that one).
These comparison charts could certainly stand to be more extensive—there are hundreds, if not thousands of places and ways to sell art online—but they did seem to cover the biggest and most important websites.
The next seven or eight pages discuss the pros and cons of those sites in-depth, which really helps to give a fuller picture of your options.
The guide then briefly talks about pricing again, including pricing your art prints, before segueing into a “how-to” section on starting your own blog.
Over the next three pages, Chris and Zoë cover why you’d want to start a blog, different kinds of blogging platforms, instructions on how to set up your first blog, and even what to write about.
To be honest, I don’t think three pages is enough space to cover all of that, but it was a good attempt and it will at least get you pointed in the right direction.
The third section ended on a high note with an excellent introduction to social media (something Chris is very good at, in my opinion) and several short but effective explanations of how to get started with some of the most important social media sites.
The final section of the ebook briefly covers several other elements important to selling art online, like why and how to use email newsletters, three ways to process payments, and how to successfully expand your “artistic empire.”
This last section also includes a very honest warning about how HARD it is to be successful at making a living online, even when using these techniques.
I found it refreshing, since it’s true—buying this ebook doesn’t mean everything’s going to be handed to you. You still need to work at it and make it happen for yourself.
Is there anything missing?
After turning the last page, I did think there was one thing missing that would have made The Unconventional Guide to Art & Money a little better. . . I half expected to see a complete checklist at the end, something that would allow me to work through the advice in an orderly fashion, but there wasn’t one.
So if you’re like me, I’d suggest taking notes as you read the ebook, then creating your own list to check things off as you finish them.
OK—now what’s the bottom line?
The price for the basic version of the Guide is $39. It’s 55 pages long (full pages, by the way, not the kind with big margins and one or two paragraphs) and you’ll also receive the MP3 audio interviews from three of the artists Chris and Zoë talked to.
The upgraded version costs $58 and includes three extra interviews. I don’t know what’s in those interviews, but my gut says the basic package is all you really need.
Who should buy the guide:
Artists who want a crash course on using the internet to sell their art. The advice is good, it’s all in one place, and if you follow it you’ll definitely see results.
Who shouldn’t buy the guide:
Artists who have already done a solid amount of research into blogging and social media, or who plan on doing that research themselves.
If you’d like to learn more about The Unconventional Guide to Art & Money, or buy a copy, head on over to the Art & Money homepage and check it out.