Artists or Agents? Tips by Susan January

Susan January
is the Vice President of Product Management at Leanin' Tree, a greeting card publisher that represents over 750 artists.

I asked her if I could share her views from the "manufacturer's view point" whether she prefers to work with agents, or with artists directly.

Here is what she said:

We select art artwork primarily because it's good, fills a creative need we have, and because we believe it's going to make for a great product that will sell-in, and sell-through, at retail. Every art submission that is sent to us is reviewed and considered for publication.

There are wonderful artists who are licensing very successfully on their own. And there are some fantastic agents who are earning every penny. The great thing is -- there's room for both, and manufacturers know that, and will continue to use both as valuable resources!

While the digital shift is changing the way, and the amount of artwork that can be reviewed, all manufacturers have limited staff and resources for reviewing artwork. It's difficult to find and review websites, and the artwork by licensing artists. On our Product Development staff, we don't have anyone whose time can be fully committed to reviewing websites everyday.

From that perspective, it can be easy and convenient to reach out to a licensing agency, give them my "shopping list," and let them respond with lots of possible images from a number of artists.

On the other hand, there is an artist that has great work, is easy and fun to work with, and handles their "art business" professionally and efficiently, I am happy to work directly with them on any project.


Remember, it's all about the Art.
I'm mostly interested in the artwork, and less about whether or not I'm working with an agent or artist.

Timing is important.
I've had meetings with artists at shows, or received submissions from artists or agents, for 3 or more years in a row, before just the right project opened up for us and a particular artist's work!

Manufacturers like Trade shows.
I can't say enough about how valuable shows like Surtex, the Licensing Show, the Atlanta Gift Show, and CHA have become and continue to be for me. I attend every one, and often make it a personal goal to stop at every booth. As long as artists are attending the shows, I'll be there shopping for artwork.

Consider Exhibiting.
Even in this digital age, I truly hope that artists will continue attending and exhibiting at the shows. And I say exhibiting for a reason: my goal at a show is to see as much artwork as possible, and to meet as many artists as possible. I believe I can do that most effectively and efficiently within the exhibit hall, and not trying to run from one end of a convention center to the other to meet with artists who are in the building but not exhibiting.

I've made it a new practice that I am only meeting with artists at a show who are in a booth! It's what the show is for, and I want to support it.

To submit art Leanin' Tree, See guidelines. To learn more about art agents, see a list of U.S. Agents and Agents outside the United States on Joan Beiriger's Blog.

Susan January is the Vice President of Product Management for Leanin’ Tree, Inc., a 60-year old greeting card and gift manufacturer located in Boulder, Colorado. In her current role, Susan provides direction for the company’s long-term product strategy, which includes product planning, allocation and assignment of design and editorial product-related duties, and management of the company’s internal creative staff. In addition, she secures, develops and manages all existing and future external creative resources, which currently numbers more than 750 artists and licensing agents, across all greeting card and gift product categories. Prior to joining Leanin’ Tree in 1998, Susan spent 10 years in product development and art licensing at Barton-Cotton, Inc., in Baltimore, MD, developing greeting card and social expressions products for fundraising programs for national non-profit organizations.

Blog Article Brings 2 More Art Assignments!

Earlier this month I asked Artist Katie Atkinson to write about how she uses email to sell art. Recently she wrote me to tell me that after the article was published, and she shared it with publishers, she received 2 more art assignments. I asked her to tell her story of what happened. This is another perfect example of how blogs help sell art, and how an artist should seize the moment!


Since I was fortunate enough to have my article published here earlier this month, I wanted to let you know of the results that came from emailing this blog site and article to my clients and contacts, “How I Use Email to Sell Art and Get Leads."

When deciding who I should send the article to, my top priorities were the clients whose products I featured in the article. After sending it to each of them I followed up the next day with a quick sketch idea tailored to each client as well. I also let them know that the article had brought 68 new people to my site that day and hopefully their web traffic would be up as well. The results of these two brief emails promoting their companies and products along with my own business was that I got two new assignments!

Remember this important last step in the promotion process.

It gives you a meaningful reason to reconnect with clients, and they will really appreciate the free publicity and that you are thinking about them.

When you have a combination of a variety of different contacts with companies you want to work for you will stand out and they will think of you more easily.

You may find that it isn't any one thing that is the deciding cause. It is a combination of many factors working together over a long period of time that all suddenly reach a tipping point: send samples in the mail, have an online presence of your work, and email press releases and blogs.

(photo: Good Cause Greetings)

Katie has done many illustrations on the theme of Christmas, world peace and the holidays. She has illustrated over 50 greeting cards, (many for Good Cause Greetings) and her work has been widely published in many different countries through She likes to paint uplifting, inspirational images that will have broad appeal. Her work has also appeared on Land’s End gift cards, book and magazine covers, CD covers and as Christmas Seals for the American Lung Association. Katie also enjoys teaching and has given many workshops on “Creating and Licensing Greeting Cards”, and “Marketing your Art” at the Norman Rockwell Museum and many colleges. Her art can be seen at and at

How to Sell Art on Facebook

After posting Laura Barbosa's article on "Selling my Art Through Social Media" earlier in the month, it got such a great response from readers, I asked her to contribute a second article on how she uses facebook to sell her art. Laura was very generous to take time out of her life to do this for us!

Guest Writer, Laura Barbosa

When I first joined facebook I really didn’t know what to expect. My friends & family all had facebook profiles and they were sharing stories, photos, joining groups and just having fun communicating. I decided to give it a try and opened up a basic profile page which led me into creating a fan page for my clients so I could post coupons, special sales, art news and links to my interviews.


The first step is to open up a personal page, but before you do, think about what you are going to use as a name. Names are very important because they carry a message to all your contacts without you having to do anything. What do you want people to know about you? For example: my facebook name is “Fine Artist Laura Barbosa” which helps spread the word to everyone on facebook that I am a Fine Artist. Other sample names might be:

Visual Artist Vincent Vaughn,

Art Collector Annie,

Jewelry Maker Annette Bloodstone,

Crafty Julia,

Acrylic Painter Paul Punchy,

Doll Maker Donna, etc…

(click on image for detailed enlargement)


Your name will become an important addition to anything you do on facebook. When you post comments, your name is permanently stamped wherever you want to leave it. This is great when joining groups and becoming fans of companies, galleries or any genre that helps you further your career. This will connect you with influential people in your industry.

Try to leave good comments on every page you visit and this will bring people to your page who want to add you as a friend. By having a name with your craft embedded in it, you will eliminate the potential for spamming and turning people away because you will not have to leave a message saying: come see my art, click on this link, etc… Your post or comment will be all you need to leave on facebook and people will make their own choice about adding you as a friend.


Again I can’t stress enough to include your talent or craft into your page title.
For example, my fan page is called “The Art of LauraBarbosa” hence the word “Art“. I purposely joined my name together because many people search for me and never separate my name when they use google or other search engines, but this is not something you have to do.

You can create a fan page by scrolling down my page or any other fan page and clicking on “Create A Page”, from there, facebook walks you through how to set up a page for your business.

(click on image for detailed enlargement)


-Add friends in your field of business.

-Leave your name on many gallery, curator and art fan pages.

-Comment in art groups and on many pages in the art world.

Facebook is by far my number one tool in: Collecting new clients, getting interviews by radio show hosts, gathering artist friends, getting galleries to see your work, getting museum contacts, and the list goes on. It is an endless social marketing extravaganza.


If you are asking yourself if this takes time, then yes it takes time for any social network that you join, to build itself up and become a money making tool and gateway to new clients and opportunities. It is now an important tool for any business.

After you acquire a good fan base make sure to:

-Post new work

-Announce Events

-Give facts about your business or art or crafts,

-Just make it interesting for your fans to visit your page.

Remember that all your posts are automatically posted on all your fan’s home pages. Another good tip is to suggest your fan page to your personal friends, this is a great way to get the ball rolling.


It is not good to boast about what you are doing. Having a post that says, I just made 300 dollars and sold this work of art, doesn’t sound good. Make sure your posts are classy and tastefully done.

A good example would be: COURTESY POST: “SILVER SURFER” has been *SOLD* Thank you all for your lovely comments.

By doing it this way, you will only be spreading the news about which piece has sold in case other clients were interested in buying it or want to order a similar piece.

(click on image for detailed enlargement)


I post to my fan page from every day to every other day, and try to give my fans information that they may want to know, by never patting myself on the back. Remember to be professional in all that you do and say and the world will love you for that!

Link to my fan page

Link to High Fashion

High fashion sold to a client on facebook and this led to 3 custom commissions.

I have now sold many paintings through facebook and gained many incredible clients who have also become cherished friends.

(click on image for detailed enlargement)

Fine Artist Laura Barbosa

Official Website

My Etsy Art Shop

Follow Me on Twitter

Facebook Fan Page

Heart Of Art Blog

Why an Artist Should Have a Blog

Greeting Card Designer Blog invited watercolor artist Diana Ting Delosh to be a special guest writer for "Social Media Month" and talk about her experiences of having blog.

Guest Writer Diana Ting Delosh

I started my blog , The Hare Illustratère because I had been advised by art directors, editors and other illustrators that it was a good way to stand out from the crowd and show personality. Plus a blog is a great place to hang all my POD widgets.
Think of your website as your formal evening gown and your blog as your informal weekend wear.
On my blog, I show sketches, experimental work and write about my creative endeavors from foibles to successes. On my website showcase only finished art and successes.

The experts say you should post at least once a week, the more the merrier. I try and post weekly about my art-ventures as an artist and writer, and other creative related musings that I illustrate with my art.

My blog explores my creative process and my experiences in this bunny eat bunny world of illustration. Hopefully what interests me resonates with other creatives. Blogging is different from journaling. Both help you articulate your thoughts. The difference is that with blogging you have an implied audience and all the possibilities your audience may bring.


Blogging helped me discover a technique to break through a very solid artist’s block. 2009 was a bad year, good news and feedback was scarce. It was no surprise that by fall 2009 I had a rock solid creative block. All along I tried my usual methods of getting unstuck. Still the art just came out stilted and dead. Needless to say I ranted and whined on my blog. Finally I decided to just make bad art - and just have fun doing it.

Fast forward to October, Halloween, the month for disguises - I decided to make art in different subjects, styles and mediums other than my usual. For the entire month of October I wasn't my whimsical, decorative self. Towards the end of the month I was glad to go back to being me -and the spark was back. Some of my doodlings from this period are posted on my blog most are in sketch books but the point is that blogging helped me stumble onto a new strategy to breaking up a creative block. It also helped expand my view of my own talents. This was an unexpected and wonderful benefit to blogging.


The other benefit of blogging is feedback. In recent years art directors seem to have less time to respond to submissions. All too frequently the company policy is to only respond if interested. Translation - only if they have work, then they will contact you.

Unfortunately this policy means you have no way of knowing if your submission was liked but there’s no work, if they didn't like your style, or if your submission never made it. Which brings me back to the importance of feedback. The biggest surprise I ever had was when an editor commented on one of my posts. It was the only way I knew that she had received my promo-postcard, looked at my website and liked my work. Hurrah for blogging and bloggers!

Diana Ting Delosh uses ink and watercolor to create her whimsical and decorative art. She has illustrated for major clients such as Dover Publications, The Woo Agency, Harcourt Achieve, Scott Foresman, Inkwell, Ladybug Magazine, Modern Publishing. Her writing has been published in Highlights/High Five and Ladybug magazines. In 2008 Diana was awarded the Highlights High Five Pewter Plate for Puzzle Poem of the Year. Previously she received the 2001 SCBWI Magazine Merit Honor Award for Illustration.

Diana Ting Delosh
Illustrator & Writer
Whimsical & Decorative Art
Greeting Cards:

How New Media Shapes Trends

After reading extensive informative & articles on Barney Davey's blog, I asked him to participate in our Social Media in March Theme, to write about how artists can utilize new media.

How New Media Shapes Trends

The first thing to examine is what is New Media, or Social Media. The obvious answer is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Friendfeed and all the rest. If you stopped there, you would be correct. However, I believe New Media is more than those online communities. It extends to blogs, both personal and commercial/professional, streaming video of the Olympics on MSNBC or TV programs on, news and views on the Huffington Post and much more.

What it means is we are witnessing a dramatic overhaul of how information is created and delivered. Through the Internet, we are connecting with other likeminded folks without regard to time zones, geography or other physical constraints from the past. What used to be a big fat pipe of media controlled by a few powerful companies is now fractured with 500 channels and that is just cable.

Social media transcends and transforms how humans connect

Social media as a byproduct of the Internet evolution is a phenomenon most should not ignore because it offers so much potential. My blog has allowed me to make friends and acquaintances around the world. We are using these connections to help each other spread our message and to strengthen and increase our presence in our overlapping communities.

Moshe Mikanovsky’s comments on a previous post on this blog were both poignant and succinct. I agree with all he had to say. Although we have not talked, nor even written personal notes or emails, I consider him more than someone I know, a friend. Why? Because we have shared complimentary tweets and retweets and it is easy to recognize a kindred soul in as little as 140 characters. He has gained my admiration and respect. The same is true for Kate Harper. We are kindred souls virtually and happily connected.

Forging friendships and alliances is both global and local

What is happening now is due to Social Media we are exposed to new people and new ideas in ways not available to previous generations. The result is we become attached to people both globally and locally. Hazel Dooney is a perfect example of some of the wonderful, involved interesting artists from other parts of the globe I have met and communicated with through Social Media.

Interaction is not just global, it works just as well locally. Recently, I went to a huge tent art show here in Scottsdale where more than one hundred artists take residence from January through March. There I got to meet in person with Fiona Purdy. She is artist who lives maybe 15 miles from me whom I have met via my blog.

I went to shake her hand and she insisted a hug was more appropriate it. This is because through my blog she has come to know me quite well. And, she expressed to me in humbling terms how valuable the information I publish has been to her and many other artists. To that end, she showed me a folder in which she keeps useful documents. There she has a blog post from me with selling tips from my day gig which she reads daily to help remind her to not sell with what is in her wallet and to make big offers. It helps her get her mind right for making presentations to prospective collectors. Meeting Kate, Moshe and Fiona are mere microcosmic examples of how social media is forging new relationships both online and offline.

Social Media Is Not One Size Fits All

You get to choose your style and to what degree you wish to offer personal details. It is not necessary to be especially personally informative to make the most of Social Media outlets. It is true, you can make great deep friendships by opening yourself and letting it all hang out. Heather Armstrong, a mommy blogger at has built such a strong following by discussing the mundane in such an entertaining, engaging and sometimes irreverent fashion that she how has been picked up for a television show.

I am not suggesting readers here should set their sites on blogging to reality TV. It is an extreme example of how you, on your own scale, can create and market your art through celebrity using Social Media. Divulging personal information is not for everyone, including me. I work full-time elsewhere and don’t have time to go down that path. Moreover, it is not something I am personally interested in doing – that is, you won’t find posts about my dogs, or what I had for lunch, or how I am bummed by too much rain.

Personal items and anecdotes can be great conversation starters, but I do not have time to keep up the conversation. Instead, I like to post things, including some short thoughts or observations of my own on the business art, and mostly links to useful information artists and small business owners can use to help them. This works for me, and from the feedback, I think for my friends and followers. My same posts simultaneously go in the stream into Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Links to my blog posts get posted as tweets and in the other sources as well.

Should you use unique content for different applications?

There is a trend coming that says each platform should have its own unique content and that spreading the same news in different media is a form of spamming. And, since the search engines are now crawling these sites for real time response, it could be SEO unfriendly as well. Drat the luck, just when I had mastered getting it to go everywhere at once.

I am not there yet in creating new content for various media. If it comes to that, I will probably choose one and abandon the others as a form of social media triage. As much as I enjoy the differing interaction, I do not have time to think through, prepare and write unique content for different platforms. I am certain most other busy people will feel the same way. If this trend holds up, I believe a negative effect in the form of user fallout on all but the strongest platforms.

Having said all this about Social Media, I do not believe it is for everyone. I would tell anyone who is just not interested to concentrate on keeping their communication strong in traditional media and marketing. I wrote a guest blog for Absolute Arts last year titled Success and the Unconnected Artist. It explored and conjectured on the same concept. That is, you can make it and have a successful art career without having a Facebook fan page or Twitter account.

Social Media Is Not the Be All or End All

Rather than think of Social Media as something you must do, I think it far more important for artists of all sorts to be thinking of how they can create as many direct distribution channels as possible. There has never been a better time to be as much in charge of getting your art to market as now. Having your own collector base that you communicate with directly is a key to long-term success.

The tools to create, print, deliver and market your work are abundant and affordable. And, with the twin effects of the disrupting power of the Internet and the fading economy bearing on individuals and businesses in an unprecedented way, it is just plain smart to take matters in your own hands.

There is no security with anyone else. Galleries and retailers can still make great partners, but they have their own issues to deal with and you cannot count on them to be there and carry your water as in the past. I do not advocate abandoning them, rather just the opposite. That is, find the best ones, service the daylights out of them, surprise them with what you bring to the table and make them love you. It is the only way they will abide by you competing with them in the distribution of your work.

If You Are in Distribution Channel Conflict, Be Professional & Fair

I advise to provide your galleries, retailers and dealers with your best work and make it not available from the distribution channels you directly control. I met with an artist recently who has his own galleries in three locations and is represented in many others he does not own. He sells mostly originals from his locations, but has giclées to offer as well. He keeps his prices consistent and will not dicker to the detriment of his galleries. They respect him for it.

This artist embellishes his giclées to the point they are nearly original paintings. The ones his galleries get are much better than those he sells in his own galleries. He has found a way to make a marked distinction for his galleries. They can market to their collectors with the message if you want the best from this artist, get it from me.

Without question, your situation is going to be different. Nevertheless, you can use this concept to come up with your own ideas on how to proactively market your work yourself and charm and beguile your dealers, retailers and galleries with ways to help them make money. If you regularly put money in my pocket, keep your drama out of the deal, and offer me something special for my customers, I am going to like and respect you even if you compete and sell your own work through channels you control.

Social Media Is a Nothing More Than a Tool

In the final analysis, Social Media is merely a tool. If you think of it in any other way, you will spend more time on it than necessary. Use it to build your own fans and use your clout with your fans to sell to them and to promote your other distribution channels in the process. If you tweet more than about yourself to include gallery openings, retailers’ sales promotions, or how something you make is only available through them, you are effectively harnessing Social Media on a higher plane.

Just as with blogs, you need to find a voice, which is a standard way of delivering your message, in your Social Media accounts. Your voice, like your art should have some familiarity to it. Doing this will help people come to be comfortable with you more quickly.

Social Media Can Enhance Traditional Media & Publicity

Do not abandon traditional media in the process of transitioning to Social Media. You can still move the dial with direct mail, with trade and consumer advertising and email marketing. Add in a healthy dose of well-timed and well-aimed publicity and layer it all with thoughtful Social Media activity and you will find your marketing in high gear on overdrive.

Using Social Media with alternative marketing locations is a great combination. Look into how you can drive traffic to a coffee shop or salon displaying your work with Or create a specially priced piece, offer a discounted commission or maybe to personalize a giclée by adding a personal element for the buyer into the piece and jump on the trend to find a slew of local buyers.

Take Ownership of Opportunity

Be curious. When you see something new, you should be asking yourself how it could apply to what you are doing. Think about how you can use the resources mentioned in the previous paragraph. There may be gold in using them, but if you fail to challenge yourself with how to harness what they offer, you will have dust instead.

When you come up with the right angle for using the unique aspects of Social Media, you will be picking up found money left and right. Without the growth of Internet use and Social Media involvement, these suggestions would not be worthy of your time. Now you can leverage the power of tools like Foursquare and Groupon to give you presence and market share like never before and have fun in the process.

Seek to put thoughtful zest into your Social Media tools, and learn to use them to help make your own success. It is an exciting and very good time to be an independent self-representing artist.


Since 1988, Barney has been intimately involved in the art business. As a sales and marketing executive for Decor magazine and its sister Decor Expo tradeshows, Barney consults with leading art publishers regarding their art marketing and advertising strategies. He has a substantial knowledge of art print marketing and Internet marketing.

He does public speaking on art and Internet marketing. He is the author and publisher of the 280-page book, How to Profit from the Art Print Market. He also publishes the prolific Art Print Issues, a business blog for visual artists with nearly 300 posts on the site. In addition, Barney is a frequent guest blogger for Absolute Arts, one of the leading fine art sites for artists, collectors and patrons.


Email Address: Email Barney

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