Marketing Your Art the Right Way

Selling Art, Not Selling Out

Ten Marketing Ideas Artists Can Steal From Me Right Now

Main photo by elhombredenegro

Unlike many people, I don’t have a problem coming up with ideas. I have trouble choosing what ideas to focus on. Becoming successful is not about how many good ideas you can come up with. Anyone can come up with good ideas. Becoming successful is about focusing on a few good ideas and seeing them out to completion.

One thing I do every day is James Altucher‘s method for becoming an idea machine. Each day I write down ten ideas based on a single topic. The purpose of this exercise is not to come up with ten good ideas. It’s to exercise your idea muscle. Just like any other muscle in your body, you must exercise your idea muscle to make it stronger.

One of the topics I chose was Ways for Artists to Promote Their Art. I may or may not get to these ideas some day, but you are free to try them if they pique your interest.

1. Trailers for your art

When you go to watch a movie in a theater, are you one of the people that has to get there before the trailers start? Do you eagerly wait in anticipation to see what movies are coming out soon? Sometimes, the best part of going to the movies are the trailers that comes before it.

Trailers do a magnificent job capturing the look and feel of a movie. Great trailers will build up anticipation before the movie is even released. They give you a glimpse of what is to come.

You can do the same thing with your art. Your art trailer should build up anticipation for your work before people can even buy it. It should capture the look and feel of your work. It should to feel like an embodiment of your art.

People have even been making trailers for books. What’s to stop you from making one for your art? To get you started here are 11 steps for making a book trailer, 9 storytelling tips from a master of movie trailers, and my personal favorite The Art of First Impressions: How to Cut a Movie Trailer. Learning from these articles will give you an idea of what you can do to make your own trailer for your art.

 2. Create a sense of mystery

What makes Sherlock Holmes so great? Why are we so invested in his story and the story of other great detectives and problem solvers?

In the age of the internet, sharing every single detail has become the norm. Social media has only amplified this. We publish every accomplishment, every piece of work we complete, every detail of our lives. What if we weren’t so transparent?

People love the thrill of a mystery. We love cracking clues and unraveling stories. We love the sense of accomplishment when the problem is solved.

When we finish a piece of art, we usually try to promote it every chance we get. What if we gave our audience a mystery to solve instead? Adding an element of mystery, piques the interest of your audience. We can’t help but solve it.

Some great examples of a mystery campaign can be found in the marketing for the Dark Knight movies. The Dark Knight marketing campaign included a fake website with posters for Harvey Dent’s political campaign. These posters slowly changed into a picture of the Joker. The Dark Knight Rises campaign featured a black screen and the sound of chanting. Fans deciphered the sound and discovered the hashtag #TheFireRises. The more people who tweeted the hashtag, the more an image of Tom Hardy as Bane appeared.

While we can’t all afford to make marketing campaigns as high tech as the ones used for the Dark Knight movies, we can learn some lessons from them. First, you can use the element of surprise and a mystery to reveal one of your new pieces of art. Second, you can build momentum for your campaign by adding a social element to it.

If you want to read more about mystery campaigns, Paul Maccabee wrote a wonderful article detailing Beyonce’s unexpected album release, J.K. Rowling’s book under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, and the mystery duo Daft Punk’s Get Lucky release, among other things.

3. Guerrilla marketing

Have you ever seen an advertisement that forced you to stop and stare at it? I’m not talking about racy or controversial ads from well known brands. I’m talking about ads that are so clever you just had to admire them. These ads are so good that you can’t help but talk about them.

Many of these ads use a tactic called guerrilla marketing. You may not know it by name, but you’ve definitely seen examples of it in use. Maybe you’ve seen Folgers turn a manhole cover into a steaming cup of coffee or Axe turn green exit signs into women chasing after a man wearing their body spray.

Guerrilla marketing is designed to promote products in an unconventional way with a small budget. It’s doesn’t matter if you a large corporation or a one woman shop. Anyone can use it.

If you are considering whether or not to use a guerrilla marketing campaign, there are a couple things to keep in mind. First, you must do it in a public place where there will be a lot of people. This gives your campaign the ability to spread by word of mouth quickly. The second thing to consider is the legality of your campaign. Make sure you know what you can and can’t do before proceeding.

If you are interested in learning more about guerrilla marketing, Web Urbanist has come up with a list of 10 Different Types & Kinds of Guerrilla Marketing. You can also check out this great article on How to Pull Off a Guerrilla Marketing Campaign.

4. Offer free rewards and incentives

If there is one thing I know about people, it’s that they love to get things for free. It doesn’t matter if it’s a ball point pen or a cheap t-shirt, we jump at the chance to get something free.

There’s a reason so many companies give things away for free. You can use it to attract people who may not know about you or you can use it to build good will. Businesses have used everything from free samples at grocery stores to buy one get one free offers to entice people. The only caveat is there has to be a good reason to give your work away for free. If you don’t have a good reason, people will become suspicious.

I am not proposing you give away something you toiled on for hours. That doesn’t help anyone. What I am proposing is offering things like a free print if a customer spends a certain amount or sending your best customers something free as a token of appreciation.

Many artists think discounting offers the same benefit as giving something away for free, but that is not the case. Discounts devalue your work. They give people a reason to wait for a sale instead of paying for what your art is really worth. There is something about receiving things for free that you don’t get when you give a discount or have a sale.

If you have art that can act as a reward, try giving it to your customers for free. The best gifts come when you are least expecting them. Surprise your best customers with a token of your appreciation.

For more information check out these articles on offering things for free by Dan Ariely, the Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University.

5. Connect with someone influential

There is an interesting phenomenon people have seen first hand over the last few years.

Author Michael Ellsberg had a 3-minute segment on CNN, a 1,000 word piece in the New York Times, and a guest post for a blog. The blog blew the other two out of the water.

In another scenario, clothing manufacturer Mizzen+Main had a full page New York Times article right before Christmas, a fundraiser announcement in the Wall Street Journal’s Venture Beat blog, a full page photo in Esquire with a famous professional athlete, and a brief mention in a two hour long podcast. The podcast mention blew the others out of the water too.

What is going on here?

These scenarios are both examples of the phenomenon dubbed the Tim Ferriss Effect. If you haven’t heard of Tim Ferriss, he’s the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, a No. 1 New York Times and Wall Street bestseller. The book made the Best Seller List for 7 consecutive years from 2007-2013 and has been translated into 35 languages.

Although these scenarios are both examples of the power of Tim Ferriss, they aren’t exclusive to him. The point is not having Tim Ferris promote your product. The point is, in this digitally connected age, influencers are the key to reaching out to and expanding your audience.

If you are a writer, reach out to an influencer that reads the type of books you write. If you are a painter, reach out to an influencer who collects your style of paintings. If you are a podcaster, reach out to an influencer who listens to podcasts.

One thing I will mention is, DO NOT start blasting influencers with a pitch for your product. That is the fastest way to get it deleted. In order to connect with influencers, you need to provide them with value. If you want to learn more about connecting with influencers, I can’t recommend Selena Soo‘s post, How to get the attention of your favorite expert, enough. She explains exactly what you need to do in order to create an authentic relationship with an influencer.

6. Go on a speaking tour

This may not sound glamorous to most, but one day, I hope to go out and meet my audience face to face. Writing about your work and art is an inherently solitary experience. You crack away at your keyboard hoping it’s half as good as it sounds in your head, but it is always difficult to convey exactly what you are thinking with text. That is why giving a talk face to face can be such a great experience.

When you are in front of people instead of a computer screen, you can use your hands to talk. You can change the inflection in your voice to match your tone. You can use facial expressions to convey emotions that are impossible to translate through text. The ability to express yourself fully using body language should not be underestimated.

Sure you could achieve a similar effect with video, but video does not provide immediate feedback from your audience like being face to face does. You also benefit by getting to know people for who they are, not just a statistic for you to tout.

This brings me to my point of doing a speaking tour. Speaking tours allow you to travel and meet fans in different locations. It lets you interact with people from far and wide. It lets you discover the common thread we all share, no matter where we live.

The main inspiration for wanting to do a speaking tour comes from Chris Guillebeau, who traveled to every U.S. state and Canadian province in three months, to talk about his book The Art of Non-Conformity.

Some great lessons Chris learned from that experience were: the benefits of teaming up with local organizers in each city, making the events fun for attendees, having a co-host to help facilitate your talk, the importance of making sales, and thanking fans while on tour. He also addresses some of the most common questions people might have about doing a speaking tour.

Another great article on touring comes from Austin Kleon. Austin is an artist and author who wrote the wonderful Steal Like an Artist. In the article, Austin details ten lessons he learned while on tour for his book. I’ll give you a short summary of each.

  1. You are a traveling salesman. The main goal of book tours is to sell books, so embrace that and get comfortable selling.
  2. Invest in good gear. A durable carry-on and day bag are good for travel.
  3. Wear a uniform. Always pack the same things so you don’t have to think about it. Also make sure they match and can be combined.
  4. A little germaphobia goes a long way. Airplanes are a dirty place. Make sure you are prepared.
  5. Eat right, sleep a lot, and don’t drink too much. Your body is what keeps you going, so being healthy is an important part of travel.
  6. Let people know you’re coming. Tell your fans you are coming to their city. It is up to you to bring people to your events.
  7. Ask questions. Talking about yourself get tiring. Ask people about their lives to break the monotony.
  8. When in doubt, go to an art museum. If you are looking to kill some time, check out the local art museum.
  9. Be a mensch. Be good to people. Be giving to others. Be ready for anything.
  10. Treat home like another stop. When you get back, view your home like you are visiting for the first time.

7. Do podcast interviews

Do you have a great story to tell but don’t know how to get it out there? Then you should consider going onto podcasts and talking about your journey.

As of 2013 there were millions of blogs but only 250,000 podcasts. That means it is a great time to jump in on the ground floor. You can be a part of a growing medium that is often overlooked as a way to gain new followers.

Even though there are relatively few podcasts, that doesn’t mean people aren’t listening. Those 250,000 podcasts have produced more than 8 million episodes and hit over 1 billion subscriptions in 2013.

The great podcast 99% Invisible averaged 1.5 million listeners a month in 2014 and the extremely popular podcast Serial had an estimated 40 million downloads during its 12 week run.

The great thing about podcasts is, they feel extremely personal. Loyal subscribers will listen to their favorite podcasts religiously. (I, for one, listen to a handful of podcasts every week.) This leads to a strong connection between the podcaster and their audience. You feel like you know the host personally. You trust their judgment.

So, when your favorite host brings on a guest, that guest is automatically trusted as an authority. Which means the audience of that show will listen intently. Podcast listeners are eager to learn, especially from people they have not heard from before. This is the perfect chance for you to become that trusted authority.

Although being a guest on a podcast can bring a nice boost to your authority and traffic, just showing up is not enough. In this wonderful article on Entrepreneur on Fire, Kate Erickson breaks down what Kevin Rogers did to be a successful guest on the show.

  1. Prepare. Know the format of the show you are going to appear on and make sure you are ready for the questions that might come up.
  2. Tell a story. Tell stories and give them color and details. Instead of spouting philosophy, tell an exciting story.
  3. Plan ahead. If there is a question you know the host asks every show, prepare a great answer for it. Go above and beyond, and give your answer impact.
  4. Promote it. Letting your audience know about your interview is a great way to spread the word about it. The more people who interact with your interview, the more likely it is to be seen.
  5. Leverage social. Share the valuable content you’ve provided in your interview with your social networks. Make sure you give them a reason to listen instead of a vague mention about it.
  6. Follow up. Send follow-up emails to your subscribers and tease more content from the show. This will help get your audience engaged.
  7. Make it easy. Make sure you have a clear call to action when sharing with your audience. People shouldn’t have to think or do much work to get to your interview.

Pocasts are so great that I have started a podcast of my own. If you are interested in being a guest on my show, let me know.

8. Do a Reddit AmA

What if I told you you could promote yourself to a community of millions of people. A community where you would be in the same sphere as performance artist Marina Abramovic, the illustrator for the New Yorker & New York Times Christoph Niemann, and comic book artist and creator of 300 & Sin City Frank Miller. A place where you could talk about your art and answer any questions that might come up.

This place exists and it is called Reddit. Reddit, for those of you who are not familiar, is an entertainment, social networking, and news website where members can vote on just about anything on the internet. It has been dubbed “the front page of the internet” because so many people find their news there before it is reported anywhere else.

One of the great treasures of the site is a section for Ask Me Anything also known as AMAs. In this subreddit people who have done something uncommon or interesting can hold question and answer sessions with the users of Reddit. It’s a great way to answer questions from your fans or people who may not have heard of you.

Hosting a successful AMA

If this sounds like an intriguing idea, Ryan Holiday has a fantastic article detailing how you can host a successful Reddit AMA. Ryan is the bestselling author of Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. He has worked with Tucker Max and Robert Greene, and he has was also the Director of Marketing at American Apparel. His first AMA was so successful that he did another one to promote his latest book The Obstacle is the Way. Below are some tips from the article.

Anyone can do a Reddit AMA, but it is best to have a great story to tell. You want to make it intriguing enough for people to tune in.

The first step is scheduling a time and date for your AMA with the Reddit moderators in advance. This allows you to be added to the “upcoming AMA” section in the sidebar, which is seen by the community of more than 8 million subscribers.

In order to make your AMA compelling, you need a great headline. Come up with something that makes people want to check it out.

You will also need to have a good description of your work. This lets people know exactly what you do. Explain what you are qualified to talk about, what you want to talk about, and include links to your work.

You should also be prepared with answers for questions you think may come up. This allows you to be prepared for the most upvoted questions, which will rise to the top of the list.

One thing you need to avoid is, doing an AMA strictly for promotion. Redditors can be hard on people who only use AMAs to promote their new work. Be open to answering any question that may come up. Use this opportunity to talk to a brand new audience who may not know about you and your work.

Successful artist AMAs

You don’t need to be the best or most famous artist to have a successful AMA.

The artist behind is a self-proclaimed terrible artist who sold 18,794 pieces of original art. This AMA had 2,759 upvotes and 805 comments. The artist Shitty_Watercolour had an AMA with 4,043 upvotes and 3911 comments!

The key to having a successful AMA comes down to how compelling your story is. If you have a great story, people will want to know more about it.

9. Crowdfunding


I can’t tell you how grateful we should be to live in this moment in history. We live in a world where you can connect with people across the world instantaneously. We live in a world where anything you dream of can become a reality. We live in a time where fans can help fund your projects before you even start on them.

How is this all made possible? Through the marvel of crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is is one of the best ways to raise money for your creative projects. Instead of funding the project yourself, you finance it through contributions from other people. That way, you don’t need to take on all the costs yourself. It also allows you to gauge the interest in your projects before you spend all your time working on them.

The two biggest crowdfunding platforms right now are both online: Kickstarter and Indiegogo.


Since it launched in 2009, 8.9 million people have pledged more than $1.7 billion and have funded 86,000 creative projects on Kickstarter. Kickstarter projects are all-or-nothing, which means you must meet your financial goals to receive money. To date 44% of projects have reached their funding goals.

Through Kickstarter, fans help artists fund their creative visions. In exchange, creators offer rewards to the backers of the project. This can be anything from a thank you on the project website to private screenings of films.

If your project is successfully funded, Kickstarter takes 5% of funds raised. There is also a payment processing fee of 3% + $0.20 per pledge.


Indiegogo launched in 2008 and has had millions of contributors that have funded hundreds of thousands of projects. It gets 15 million visits per month and has hosted campaigns in 224 countries .

Indiegogo works much like Kickstarter in that contributors can select a funding level and receive a reward from the creator. But there are two major differences between these two platforms.

The first difference is the types of projects you can create. While Kickstarter is limited to creative projects, Indiegogo allows you to create a project for any category.

The second difference is Kickstarter requires you to hit the funding goal or you won’t receive any money. Indiegogo, on the other hand, allows you to keep the money you raise, even if you don’t hit your goal.

The reason you have a funding goal is, if you don’t hit your goal, you will be charged a 9% fee on the funds you raise. If you do hit the goal, you will only have a 4% fee. There is also a 3-5% credit card/Paypal processing fee.


Patreon was started in 2013, which makes it a relatively new platform. As such, there are not as many statistics as Kickstarter or Indiegogo.

Unlike Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Patreon is not used to fund your individual projects. Instead, Patreon allows fans to give ongoing support to their favorite creators.

Patreon allows you to contribute monthly or per project created, and depending on your contribution level, you will receive a different set of rewards.

Patreon charges 5% of funds raised and there is also a 2-4% credit card transaction fee.

If you want use crowfunding to help finance your art, make sure you weigh the pros and cons of each platform. Figure out which one you are most comfortable with. Do some research into what others have done to successfully fund their projects and use it to help fund your own.

 10. Teaching

Have you ever had a teacher that was so good you wanted to learn everything from them? She explained the subject so well that you can’t imagine it being taught any other way. It is the only class you remember anything from. That is the power of having a great teacher.

Great teachers are able to explain things in a way so others can understand them. They build rapport with their students. They have a genuine interest in the improvement of their students.

People teach for many reasons. Some want to share knowledge with those willing to seek it. Some want to build authority within a certain subject area. And some do it because others constantly ask them to. For these reasons and more, good teachers are sought out. The knowledge they impart is invaluable.

That is exactly why being a teacher can be good for you too. You can help others by teaching a subject you are passionate about. You can build authority within the community you love. You can finally teach all those people who have asked you how you created that painting or wrote that book.

Most of us are ignorant to the fact that we are good enough at something to teach it. Out of all the people in the world, why would anyone want to learn from us? This is just another example of the imposter syndrome.

The fact is, you are likely better at your subject than most people. There are probably a ton of people out there who want to learn how you do what you do. Why can’t you be their teacher?

“While we teach, we learn.” – Seneca

Teaching not only helps others learn, it also helps you learn. When you teach others, you approach the subject in an entirely new way. You learn ways to translate what you know so others can understand it. In studies researchers have found students who tutor others “work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately and apply it more effectively.

This is all well and good, but where can you teach?

Local: One place you can start is locally. Find out if anyone in your local area wants to learn your subject. The only problem with teaching locally is, there is a physical limit to the number of people you can teach.

Online videos: Youtube is another great way to teach others. It provides a massive platform for people to discover you. The only problem is, it can be difficult standing out in such a saturated market.

Online education sites: There are a few places online where you can teach your subject to a very targeted group of users. A few are Creative Live, Udemy, and Skillshare. If you can demonstrate your skills well enough, these places are a wonderful place to teach.

Teaching is great for many reasons. You can help others along the way, you can learn as you teach, and you can make a name for yourself as an authority in your field. If you are looking for a way to get your name out there and make some money while you do it, teaching might be for you.


If you are ever looking for new ideas on ways to promote your art, give the ten ideas a day trick a try. You will be amazed at the results. Even if you don’t end up using any of your ideas, they are a great way to explore something new. Whether that’s ten different marketing tactics to test out or something entirely new, the choice is yours.

My challenge to you is to pick one or more of the ideas from the list above. If any of them strike your fancy, explore them and figure out ways you can make them work. If you do, please share it in the comments!

Do you know of any other artists who need new ways to market their art? Share this article with them so they try these marketing ideas too.

If you enjoyed this article, please sign up for my free marketing tips below. Future articles will include inspirational art quotes, blogging, creating newsletters, tools for tracking your user interactions, what makes a good post, article headlines,  site designs that work, and much more. Stay tuned, and don’t forget to leave a comment below, I would love to hear how this information has helped you.

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