20 – Getting Started Submitting Your Art
Submitting Your Art

This is part one of a two part series (for now!) about art submissions. If you want to make a living from your art, you’re going to have to get it out there into the world and get as many of the right eyes on it as possible. You might be lucky enough to have someone find you on Instagram, but most likely, you’re going to have to do the work yourself. In this episode, Laura and Nikki bring up five questions that need to be addressed to help you submit your art.

  1.  Why should you submit your work?
  2. Where should you submit it and which markets exist?
  3. How do you find who to submit your work to?
  4. What should you submit to them once you found them?
  5. When should you send that and follow up with them?

In part one, they discuss the why and where. Tune in next week to learn the how, what and when for getting your art out there into the world!

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Topics discussed

  • Why you should submit your art (1:39)
  • Where you can submit your art (3:23)
  • Publications/magazines  (4:23)
  • Be a podcast guest (9:19)
  • Product licensing markets (9:59)
  • Contests/competitions (10:47)
  • Art galleries/exhibitions (11:19)
  • Local shops (11:57)
  • Art festivals/markets (12:30)
  • Art agents (13:49)

Laura

0:07
Hi, this is Laura.

Nikki

0:08
And this is Nikki, with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting in your own way, and start building an art biz and life that you love.

Laura

0:17
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you stuck.

Nikki

0:31
Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours.

Laura

0:39
What are we talking about today, Nikki?

Nikki

0:40
Today, we’re talking about art submissions. If you want to make a living from your art, you’re going to have to get it out there into the world and get as many of the right eyes on it as possible. You might be lucky enough to have someone find you on Instagram, but most likely, you’re going to have to do the work yourself.

Laura

0:58
So I think it would be super helpful to do a couple of episodes about submitting your work. Really, there are five questions that need to get addressed.

Nikki

1:06
Okay.

Laura

1:07
So number one, why should you submit your work? Number two, where should you submit it and which markets exist? Number three is how do you find who to submit your work to? Four is what should you submit to them once you found them? And five is when should you send that and follow up with them?

Nikki

1:29
That’s awesome. It covers all the things we need to figure out. So what do we start with today?

Laura

1:34
Well, today, let’s start with the first two things. So the why and the where.

Nikki

1:39
Okay.

Laura

1:39
So why is submitting important?

Nikki

1:42
Well, the first reason is you need to let people know that you exist and what you do.

Laura

1:49
You mean, they don’t magically just discover me on Instagram and asked me to design a whole line of products for them tomorrow?

Nikki

1:56
Well, they might. But you also might come across a unicorn. But more likely, people aren’t going to accidentally find you; you’re gonna have to be proactive and put yourself out there and let people know who you are and what you do.

Laura

2:10
Especially if you’re just getting started. It’s important to flex those muscles, to sort of feel the fear and do it anyways, and take 10 seconds of courage to share your work with potential partners.

Nikki

2:21
There you go, throwing my word of the year at me again. Time to find that courage and stop just talking about it.

Laura

2:29
Yes, you are going to have to have the courage to be vulnerable and put your work out there knowing full well you will get many rejections.

Nikki

2:36
So it’s important to build a thick skin and realize that a rejection doesn’t need to be taken really personally. Failure’s gonna happen and you’ve got to keep working at it to get to success.

Laura

2:46
Absolutely. And by doing a volume of work and submitting it, you’ll continue to hone in on your style. And you’ll start to get an idea of which work is more commercially viable.

Nikki

2:58
Was it Albert Einstein that said the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If you don’t submit to the people and places you want your work to be seen, how do you expect them to know you exist?

Laura

3:11
Unless they come riding in on that magical unicorn?

Nikki

3:14
Right? Okay, so that explains the why; let’s talk about where. Where can you submit your work?

Laura

3:23
Well, Nikki, there are a slew of different places that you can submit your work. This is not an exhaustive list. But these are ones that either we have experience with or are pursuing ourselves. So publications like magazines and books, podcasts, businesses that could license your work, contests or competitions, art galleries, art festivals and markets, agents and local shops.

Nikki

3:49
So that’s a bunch. But the first one is one that I have a little bit of experience with, but I know you’ve taken a deep dive into and that’s publications, specifically magazines.

Laura

4:02
Yeah, about 10 years ago, my design business was focused on the craft industry. And I had over 75 projects published in crafting magazines.

Nikki

4:13
Wow. 75. How the magical unicorn did you do that?

Laura

4:18
Well, it wasn’t magical. Nikki, it was a lot of work.

Nikki

4:21
All right. So tell us what you did.

Laura

4:23
Well, publications primarily work from an editorial calendars, so you can get in touch with the editors directly. Or often they’ll have submission guidelines on their websites telling you specifically what they’re looking for. I used to submit regularly to probably three to four publications monthly, like Rubber Stamper and Papercrafts and Stampington magazines, etc.

Nikki

4:48
So how do you even know where to begin? What magazines to choose and what pieces to submit?

Laura

4:53
Well, I usually created pieces uniquely for the call for submissions, and I would find… like you could go into a craft store and look at all the magazines that they have on the shelf and see the ones that you could think that your work might be a good fit for. And because I was doing mostly greeting card designs, they had very specific guidelines, and it didn’t take 200 hours to do.

Nikki

5:14
Right.

Laura

5:14
So you always want to respect the timelines and follow the guidelines to a T that someone might provide you. But it’s funny because I learned something really interesting in the process of submitting.

Nikki

5:27
What was that?

Laura

5:29
That sometimes I have to set aside my own opinion of something I’ve created and submitted anyways?

Nikki

5:34
Why?

Laura

5:35
For example, I actually created a card once for a submission and decided it was hideous and ugly. And I threw it in the trash, literally threw it in the trash. And about an hour later, I dug it out and decided to submit it anyways. So to my surprise and complete shock, it was selected as the featured project on the cover of the magazine.

Nikki

6:00
Oh, wow. So wait, so now we can’t trust ourselves?

Laura

6:06
Yeah, you just, you know, I think that sometimes you have to take a break and step away from something and look at it with fresh eyes. But absolutely, everybody has a different view of what a treasure is so, so sometimes it’s worth it just submitting. So Nikki, you’ve been in some publications, too, right?

Nikki

6:26
Yeah, I’ve been in a couple of magazines. But I took a different approach than you did. I always look at calls for artwork in magazines that I see, and when I see something that I think my work fits, then I’ll submit it. So for example, Uppercase Magazine, which is…

Laura

6:42
Ooh, I love that one.

Nikki

6:44
I know, it’s beautiful. I think it’s one of the best designed magazines out there. Aside from having like really great content, it’s just a beautifully designed magazine. Anyway, they had a call for work that was about transportation, cars, planes, whatever. I didn’t have work with a car in it, but as I think I’ve talked about before, I actually covered my real car with drawings.

Laura

7:10
Awesome.

Nikki

7:10
Yeah, so I submitted that, and it probably caught her attention be the publisher of the magazine, because it was…

Laura

7:17
…different.

Nikki

7:17
It was it was on the topic, but it was from a different point of view. So it got a published. And so I mean, it’s so cool to see your work in magazines, isn’t it?

Laura

7:28
Oh, it is so cool.

Nikki

7:30
So one other example was a beautiful magazine that sadly isn’t being published anymore. It was called Makers Movement. And it was just individual artists and their work with an artist statement, but each edition had a theme. So I saw that they had a call for the theme of women.

Laura

7:46
Perfect.

Nikki

7:47
Naturally, I have a zillion pieces that fit that topic. So I got a beautiful two page spread in that magazine.

Laura

7:54
That is awesome. And I think a lot of people have this opinion that they’d never get in a magazine. So why try. But it really can be easier than you think, it just takes consistent submitting and finding magazines that sort of match your style of work.

Nikki

8:09
Right. And you really have nothing to lose. For this kind of thing it doesn’t cost anything just a few minutes of time and a few seconds of courage.

Laura

8:17
Unless you’re working to a specific submission guideline and sort of creating new work for it. But as long as you’re creating work that you would be interested in selling anyways, it’s not really any loss of time or effort.

Nikki

8:29
Right. So another way of getting your work out in a more local way. Depending on where you live, most places will have small local magazines and publications. For example, here in Paducah, Kentucky where I live, we have a beautiful local lifestyle magazine called Paducah Life. And our local newspaper has one called Posh. And I’ve been in both of them more than one time. In some cases, you might reach out to them and suggest a feature about something specific you’re doing. Or you could send out a press release about a show that you’re having or a company you just got licensed with or whatever it might be. But also, if you’re doing a lot with your art locally, it’s much more likely that one of these smaller regional magazines will actually approach you.

Laura

9:16
Ah, that’s cool.

Nikki

9:17
Yeah.

Laura

9:19
So another way you can get your work seen is to approach a podcast that you would love to be a guest on.

Nikki

9:24
Yeah, and if you want to be on a podcast, first make sure you actually listen to it, and make sure you’re a good fit for their topics. And you need to have something to offer their audience.

Laura

9:34
It needs to be a win win situation for you both. Don’t just say I love your podcast, but point out something specific that spoke to you from an episode and how you think you could offer something beneficial.

Nikki

9:46
Just know that when you approach a podcast, you won’t always be a perfect fit for their audience. But don’t take it as a rejection of you if they turn you down. Just know it probably wasn’t specifically what they’re looking for at that time.

Laura

9:59
Exactly. So another place to submit your work is to art directors at companies that might be interested in putting your artwork on their products. And this is a huge topic that we are just really starting to explore ourselves.

Nikki

10:15
And as we’ve mentioned multiple times in previous episodes, we’ve taken courses on this topic, which we’ll link to in the show notes. And we’ll dive deeper into this topic in future episodes.

Laura

10:25
Yeah, there are multiple markets that you can have your artwork licensed for. There’s bolt fabric, stationery, paper goods, home decor, wallpaper. I mean, there’s a slew of them. And you could just walk into a Target or even a little indie boutique in town and look around; there’s artwork everywhere. And all of it has to come from somewhere.

Nikki

10:47
And it might as well be your work, right. So what else… there are also all types of contests and competitions you can submit your work to.

Laura

10:57
Yeah, like some we’ve mentioned before, like Spoonflower and Minted, those are large marketplaces for artists to sell their work that offer competitions that the public can vote on.

Nikki

11:07
But there are also individual companies that put out smaller contests to choose art for their own products and packaging, which will also go into more detail on in the how discussion we have next week.

Laura

11:19
And a few other places you can submit your artwork would be art galleries, or exhibitions, especially if you’re more fine art focused. I actually used to do encaustic wax art, and was in a handful of juried exhibitions here in Dallas. It usually involves submitting a certain number of pieces of your art related to a specific theme along with a non refundable entry fee.

Nikki

11:42
And I’ve also been in juried shows group invitational exhibitions, also internationally, and I’ve had solo shows of my encaustic work and drawings.

Laura

11:53
It’s a great way to get credibility, right and to sell your work to individuals.

Nikki

11:57
Absolutely. You can also approach local shops, restaurants and cafes to exhibit and sell your work. For example, I have my work for sale in a gorgeous local boutique called Raven & Moth, which I’ve talked about before, I’m sure.

Laura

12:11
It looks stunning. I see the pictures on your Instagram, and it’s such a pretty store.

Nikki

12:15
Thank you. I mean, they do a beautiful job. I just I love having my work there. I also have my work in a new coffee shop in my neighborhood. It’s a great way to sell a bit of work and just get more visibility in your community.

Laura

12:30
Totally, you know, another opportunity to show and sell your work is submitting to participate in local or national art festivals. And those could be juried or non juried or even small trunk shows that might be happening in your local town. I know I’ve done trunk shows selling my polymer clay and solder jewelry work in the past. And I also participated in some Christmas markets at my local encaustic center where you could is sort of like a craft/art market that people would come in for, you know, a day or two. And that was another great way to be able to sell your work.

Nikki

13:05
Yeah, and Paducah has a great festival every year called the Lower Town Arts & and Music Festival. And I’ve participated in that a couple years. And the festival world is a huge entity all to itself. One we’ll do an entire episode on with an artist who has much more experience than we do.

Laura

13:25
Right, right. And you should look locally in your own city and just see what opportunities might be available to you once things begin opening up more to public for live events, because we have experience in Paducah, Kentucky and myself in Dallas. But locally, you may have some really amazing and awesome opportunities to participate in once you kind of put your feelers out and see what’s available.

Nikki

13:49
Okay, so I think we have one more place you can submit your work, and that’s agents. And we’re definitely going to plan a future episode with an agent to go into depth on this topic.

Laura

14:02
Yeah. An art agent basically works with publishers, manufacturers and brands to get you deals. And they negotiate the contracts on your behalf in return for a certain percentage of your earnings.

Nikki

14:14
And they do all the submissions for you.

Laura

14:17
Which is awesome.

Nikki

14:18
Awesome.

Laura

14:20
All right, Nikki. So we just talked about a ton of topics. So what are our key takeaways today?

Nikki

14:28
So the first one is, sadly, you’re unlikely to be discovered by a magic unicorn. So you’re probably going to have to put yourself out there and reach out to businesses and brands you’d like to work with.

Laura

14:42
Okay, that makes sense. Number two, there are tons of opportunities out there including publications, podcasts, art directors, competitions, art galleries, local shops, art festivals, and agents to name a few. But the opportunities are really limitless.

Nikki

15:01
So in our next episode, we’re gonna go into a lot more detail about how and what to submit.

Laura

15:07
And if you have any submission ideas that we’ve missed, we would love for you to share those with us in our Startist Society Facebook group, or on Instagram @startistsociety.

Nikki

15:19
And if you’ve enjoyed this episode, please follow Startist Society and leave us a five star review. Visit startistsociety.com/submitting to learn more about the podcast and read today’s show notes.

Laura

15:32
Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.

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