How to Sell Your Work to Art Publishers
Carolyn Edlund | ArtsyShark
Harriet Rinehart has a long history as an art publisher. Founder and president of H.W. Rinehart Fine Arts, Inc. for 18 years, she sold her company to Bentley Publishing Group in 1999. Since then she has worked on product development and artist search for the six brand divisions of Bentley Publishing Group.
Artsy Shark spoke with Harriet about her artist search, how to submit your work and what the benefits are of licensing your artwork to an art publisher.
AS: Tell us about Bentley Publishing Group and their market.
HR: Take a look at Bentley’s website to see the type of art they are selling. For a more current look, choose this link to see the January, 2010 release booklet.
Bentley’s customer base is made up of large chain stores, small gallery shops, interior designers and overseas distribution channels. Bentley is one of the largest companies in the industry and has distribution connections with related companies in more than thirty countries.
Retail customers purchasing Bentley art are mainly looking for decoration (Decorative is not a four-letter word!!) so art with any political, sexual, or violent content would never be selected. Artwork which is painted in the currently popular color palette will outsell equally good quality work in other colors by a substantial margin.
For some reason, I get a lot of work submitted which looks like the covers of fantasy and sci-fi magazines and book covers. These don’t work for us either as the audience is not broad enough for that type of work.
Bentley licenses the rights to reproduce selected images in both offset and digital printing technologies, on paper, canvas, and other newer substrates like aluminum or Plexiglas. We pay a quarterly royalty of 10% on actual invoiced amount for which the art print is sold wholesale.
Royalty income is a great help to artists trying to survive. Any income an artist can generate which does not involve standing in their studio or standing in an outdoor art show booth is wonderful. In a few cases, some art reproductions have been continuously in print since the early 1990’s. The artist receives a check every quarter…like found money. Although the life span of an art reproduction has become shorter in recent years, some things still become “classics” and sell year after year.
AS: When you review artist submissions, what are you looking for and what are you not looking for?
We are looking for artists in that narrow gray area where artistic talent and commercial vision come together. I often see artists I would personally enjoy owning, but know I cannot publish as their work is too sophisticated for our middle-of-the-road decorative clientele. On the other hand, technical sophistication (use of color, clarity of forms and definition) is very important.
Keep in mind that what Bentley is looking for in the decorative market may not be the same thing which the art schools tell you to concentrate on for acceptance in an art gallery. These are two different worlds. Our art sells best when our artists work in series, pairs, or groups of four related images. Images should relate as to color, format, and size.
You can see examples of artists who works in groups of related images here in the Bentley catalog.
Pairs need to be in related sizes and related colors, with the same image size, which can be seen in this example and also this one.