How I Use Email to Sell Art & Get Leads

GCDesigner Blog invited Katie Atkinson, Illustrator, to be a special guest writer for "Social Media Month" on her experiences of how she uses the simple act of dashing of an quick email, to get contracts. She offer tips for artists.

Guest Writer Katie Atkinson
Copyright © 2010 GCDesigner & Katie Atkinson

In this day of information overload, art directors are blitzed with an enormous amount of resources for finding art, such as websites, agencies, mailings and directories, but sometimes the simplest and least expensive approaches are the best, such as sending email.
I approach getting contracts by sending an art director a quick email with a few well-chosen images.
But those images must be targeted to that particular client, so it makes their job easier. I’ve never had comparable success when I made up postcards for mass mailing or took out directory ads.

by Email

Last fall I was browsing in Barnes and Noble, looking for leads to license my art, and as I was thumbing through a magazine I came across an ad for a poster company. I liked their art and I copied down their website. When I got home I looked them up found the art directors name and sent him an email with my website and several of my illustrations attached.

Fifteen minutes later the phone rang and it was the art director! And two days (and several sketches later) I had a contract with Owl Square Press www.owlsquarepress.com to create an illustration for a poster and matching note cards!


When I finished the poster project I went through my usual questions I ask myself:

Who else might be able to use this art?
Who might want to write about this or promote it?

I decided to approach the magazine, Bookmarks, where I had originally seen the ad. So I sent an email with my website and a jpeg of the new illustration to the art director, asking if he might be interested in using this piece for a future cover.

I heard back from him that day and he commissioned me to do a painting for their next issue’s cover.

As an illustrator and art licensor, I knew to only sell the limited rights for poster and note cards to the poster company, so that illustration was still available for all other uses.


One day when I was emailing out my press releases to local papers, I received a mass email announcement about the upcoming NY Stationery show. I viewed this at it as a “Godincidence” and thought “Why not send them an email too?” I hit reply and attached my press release to them as well.

I nearly fell off my chair when just 10 minutes later I got a reply from the editor at the Art of Licensing Magazine saying that they were writing a related story on the newly created holiday stamps for the U.S. Postal service for their Spring 2005 issue. They wanted incorporate my Christmas Seals story into the article and interview me!


The irony in this is that because I sent one simple email, they printed an in depth article and the pay off was bigger than I could have ever imagined, in terms of free publicity and promotion. Thousands of them were in stacks by the entrance to the Stationery show for all to take.

In May 2005 I attended the NY Stationery Show at the Javitz Center. Even though I am from a small rural and town didn’t have a booth, I felt I belonged, and had a real presence there when I saw the 2 page article in the magazine.

All this happened because I said “Why Not?” and I took a chance by doing a simple thing like sending off an email. You can do it too!

Katie has done many illustrations on the theme of Christmas, world peace and the holidays. She has illustrated over 50 greeting cards, and her work has been widely published in many different countries through www.images.com. 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 http://www.images.com/artist/katie-s-atkinson/ and at www.katieatkinsonillustrator.com

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Anonymous said...

Wonderful story. Just shows we should follow up when we have hunch.

Leyla Torres said...

This is an inspiring story. I have a big "YES" sign posted on my bathroom mirror to keep open all possibilities. Why not?

Jen said...

Great article, thanks! This approach appeals greatly to those of us who are passive-aggressive ;)

Kate Harper said...

Jen-Your message made me LOL.

Indigene said...

I loved reading this article! There are some days, when your energy level isn't where it needs to be and POW! Something just invigorates you! You are it for me today...: Thanks for such an inspirational and encouraging article!

Katie Atkinson said...

Thanks for your comments! I am always searching for inspiration from other artists myself- because like any other sales endeavor: there are always lots of contacts made in order to stumble into the ones that just "seem to happen effortlessly"

Sophie said...

Hi, I found your post via Linkedin and love it. You so underline that if you find the right target (person, gallery or buseinss) things should be easier. Do you homework and it will pay off. Thanks for the positive story, we can all do with that at times!
Now who do I dare to send my press release to when I am having my Open Studio....:D

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sophie,

And now for some follow up about results from promoting this promotion- I sent this blog post to the two companies that gave me assignments (this year) that I was promoting in the article- Owl Square Press and Bookmarks magazine and each of them gave me a new assignment! My new theory is: have a reason to recontact clients that shows them a benfit you did for them and the work will follow. Katie Atkinson

sharp green pencil said...

So interesting.. all one needs is some faith in oneself and some determination, well and a good product! Excellent example to us shrinking violets!
Thank you!