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Art Submissions Getting You Nowhere?

Art Submissions Getting You Nowhere?

Lance J. Klass

…often the answer has nothing to do with you or your art.

I’m always amazed when artists thank me profusely for responding to their art submissions, especially when I turn them down. They seem to just be glad that someone actually took the time to respond to them, because with most submissions they never ever hear back. Not a positive, not a negative, not a form letter in the mail and definitely not a return of their artwork. Not even a simple email rejection. Nothing, nada… zip.

For those artists who are accustomed to not hearing back (can you ever actually get used to that?), let me shine some light on that murky area. You see I have the same thing happen to me when I submit my artists’ work. And believe me, I send out a whole lot of artwork to companies that are good active licensees, so-so licensees, or just prospective licensees and most of the time I hear nothing back.

If it’s a good licensee or if I find myself getting a bit annoyed or just in a pleasantly feisty mood, I’ll email them again and ask, "Did you receive those materials from (blank) that I sent you two weeks ago? Did you get my email?” That’s a very legitimate question because we’ve all had emails not go through, or wind up in a junk mail folder or spam filter and get discarded without ever having been opened. Or, I might re-send the original email, as that often helps get a response.

What I’ve discovered over the years is most often, it isn’t about the artist or licensor and it isn’t even about the artwork.

You see, the reaction to art of any kind isn’t rational and it isn’t logical. The fact is it’s totally subjective. If I showed the same piece of artwork to 100 people, a certain number would like it a lot, a certain number would hate it a lot, some would be interested, some would be uninterested and some would be totally out to lunch.

If you think about it, this is what retailers experience everyday. Imagine the typical store in a mall or on the street. There are attractive displays of items in the windows, and every day hundreds of people walk by the store, glance at the windows and never slow down. That’s a rejection.

But a few people out of those several hundred will indeed have their eye caught by something in the window. They’ll stop, look for a moment, (perhaps longer) and then either move on or go into the store. The same thing happens inside a store when you browse the aisles, glance over hundreds of products and never buy even 1% of all the products you see. If you’re on a mission to go to a particular store for a particular item, you might stay and browse those items until you find the one you want. But chances are, you’ll then take it to the register, buy it and leave.

Total up the rejections you’ve been party to while walking down a retail street, an aisle in a mall or through a store and I’ll bet you’ll have turned down many hundreds if not thousands of products.

Art licensing is much the same. I’ll give the example of one card company that receives thousands of pieces of art every time it sends out a request for images. It’s overwhelming, and unless the art happens to connect with initial reviewer instantly, it never makes it to the table when the committee is doing initial or secondary reviews.

Next: Who is the Initial Reviewer? →

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