Opinion - Building a body of work [Archive] - Artist Forum

: Opinion - Building a body of work

11-01-2018, 09:52 AM
Hi All,

Nandkumar posted about why he wasnít selling (https://www.artistforum.com/acrylic-painting/just-not-able-sell-my-art-49881/). I wanted to reply with some thoughts but it ended up as a long response, so I thought to break it down here.

Why arenít we selling? This is a problem many artists and creative types face and there are two major reasons Iíd call out;

Problem 1: Nobody knows you exist or at least your target audience donít
Problem 2: Youíre 1 in a million (in a Ďbadí way)

I donít know your situation, but allow me to share some thoughts on these from the perspective of being both an Indie Author and Artist.

Problem 1 is where we all start and in the main might be an ongoing problem for the duration of our artistic career. In fact, this is a problem for all people producing creative work. Just about 2 years ago I wrote my first novel and have sold exactly 11 copies to date. Despite it being well received, the main reason Iím not selling more is that my target audience has no idea Iím even there to consider as a choice. Those that do, arenít chasing for more novels as theyíre not sure Iím Ďseriousí. Back to that in a moÖ

Problem 2 is a consequence of the low cost of entry into artistic endeavours. Everyone and anyone can do it. In the Indie Author community everyone writing their first novel thinks theyíll make it big time, ŗ la The Martian. Given thereís roughly 100k indie novels hitting Amazon every year, the chances of being noticed for just creating are minimal. Thatís not the only platform either, so I dread to think how many novels are in competition. Itís the same with art, just on Artpal theyíre suggesting we see Ďwhy over 96,000 artists sell their art with ArtPal!í and again, thatís not the only platform. Good luck getting found in that lot.

So what to do?
The first and best piece of advice I was ever given is to create a substantial body of work. By substantial I mean 100 to 200 pieces at the minimum. If youíre writing novels thatís 3 to 5 completed works at the very least. In the Indie author world the quip is youíre not a writer until youíve published 3 novels. Any less and no one will buy you, publishers wonít care. Yes, youíll sell the odd one but thatís not the idea right?

While I think on it Ė About what it takes to be Ďseriousí; It takes 6 months to 1 year to write a novel of about 100k words, with a good writing session being about 500 to 1000 words. Add in editing, writers block, etc. and you can see how we get how long it takes, assuming uninterrupted dedication, etc. cranking out a draft full-length novel in less than 1 year is a writerís dream. If each writing session is about 2 hours for 1k words thatís 200 hours to complete a novel. As a rough guess my paintings take between 5 and 10 hours minimum. At the same level of effort then Iíll produce 20 to 40 paintings per year. Assuming I donít trash some on the way! If I need 100 paintings for a believable, attention grabbing, worth-investing-in corpus of work Ė Iím going to need 2.5 to 5 years of consistent output. This, as the sharp minded of you will have deduced, is what an Indie author would need to dedicate to get those requisite 3 to 5 novels out there.

Sure, you donít have to wait until you have all 100 to begin selling, in fact that would be counterproductive, but the point is thereís a bunch of work/time to put in before we have enough art that will start to garner any attention. As a heuristic Iíd suggest 20 to 30 solid pieces youíre confident are your best works to date. To sell more, you need more to sell. Imagine a busy market with all the customers, browsers, sellers, stalls, sights and sounds. Do you want to be the one with a big stall of stuff in the middle of all this or the person holding one item up in a corner. No one will pay any attention even if youíre holding a masterpiece. A substantial body of work is essential. Think about any artist, author, musician or actor that is globally known Ė the vast majority came to our attention with a substantial creative history behind them. Overnight success is mostly a lie masking often decades of preparatory work.

This also starts to address the 1 in a Million problem. Every single piece you create puts you a step ahead of the competition. Each piece means youíll be in the 1 in a slightly-smaller-group of people that have the same number of pieces in their corpus and the attention it will be worth paying to you will increase proportionally. My wife and I bought a couple of paintings off the talented Mariusz Kaldowski, partly because he had such a large body of work to choose from and when we did an online search for the type of art we wanted, he came up in that search. Of course thatís the next piece of the puzzle. How to get noticed, but thatís a whole other ramble.



Mark J Diez