By Armand Cabrera
Traditional publishers have been facing lackluster sales of books for quite some time. The competition from cheap e-books and the free content of blogs has put a downward pressure on revenues. This is especially true for art book publishers. To combat this they have come up with a way to guarantee their returns for publishing. It is based on multi-level marketing techniques that have been around for years. It is not actually a pyramid scheme because the participant gets something for their money. What is this something?
Publishers are now making group art books where they get lower level artists to pay up to 3 or 4 thousand dollars for a spot in the book. They seed the book with bigger name artists who pay reduced fees or in some case no fee. The paying artists are hoping they get status from being in a book with a better artist as if that somehow translates to their career just by association.
They give a copy or copies to each participant to prevent it from being a pyramid scheme. This is just another variation on the Vanity Press books of old at a much higher price. I started out as an illustrator, what a lot of these current gallery artists so desperate for press don’t know or understand is that illustrators actually get paid to produce art for books not the other way around.
Is it a good way to advertise? Not really, most art books are published at around 20,000 copies, an art magazine can have a circulation of 100,000 targeted opt in customers. It is true books stay on the shelves a little longer than a magazine but not much. There is no guarantee that because a book is on the shelves it will be looked at by someone interested in art enough to buy paintings from artists. The low print count makes them harder to find and of course more expensive to buy and most art books end up remaindered or recycled.
It is said most artists aren’t good at business and the continuation of these books is proof of that old adage.