Best art business books

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by Mo Li – Last updated: May 24, 2019 at 12:02 pm

How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery

The full title of this book is ‘How to Sell Your Art Online: Live a Successful Creative Life on Your Own Terms’ by Cory Huff, the founder of Abundant Artist. This is one of the best entry-level guides on ‘selling art online’. 

True but no surprise

I have been helping artists promote and sell their art online, so this book is presenting the whole ‘selling online’ idea to artists in a very simple and straightforward way. In many ways, there were no surprises in there – we all know what we have to do, and Mr. Huff spells it out pretty clearly. The difference is between those that do and keep doing and those that just think or talk about doing, hoping that success will come.

Brief approach

It’s very well said, I agree with her. However, here comes o my second point. I think it’s a good book that reminds you of the ‘right things’ to do in bullet points, very brief. This little book works as a shopping list. It’s not the nutrition content on the food packaging. I think it lacks some detailed instructions. The author could have thrown in more information and his years of experience. Perhaps he is holding back a little bit because he wants you to go on his website for more.

 

Entertaining not Systematic

Comparing to the book ‘How to start and run a commercial art gallery’, this book is very easy to read. You can read it with a coffee or tea over a weekend. Don’t get me wrong, there is good information too! If you can follow these suggestions, you have a lot more chances of making it as an independent artist. I wish it would be more like a systematic textbook, that helps you to map out your knowledge structure. I would compare it to an entry-level language book when you learn a foreign language. If you already speak some of ‘selling art online’ language, this book can be too easy for you.

Not Yet Outdated

Someone commented online saying this book is outdated. I would say in the e-commerce world, things can change in a matter of days. It’s a book, from writing, editing, printing and delivering to your hands, it would take a few months and even years. It’s gonna be slightly outdated. For someone who is reluctant to learn or intimidated by the idea of selling your own art online, this book is a small leap to a new world.

Eye-opener for artists

This book offers just an eye-opener for artists who had never thought about selling online. This book is not for someone who would like to follow one book and succeed. It’s clear that each artist is a case study, and there is no magic formula for how to be successful. Just by reading this book won’t make your art sell. You need to use the mentality offered in this book and work on your own strategy and business plan.

 

Launching Your Art Career: A Practical Guide for Artists

best art business books
This is the second edition, published in 2017. It focuses on how to make it in the conventional world of art and encourages you to make exhibitions and work with art dealers.

Artist common sense

This book is ideal for artists who are introverted and lack basic common sense in a professional setting. For example, it tells you ‘not to complain about one gallery to another gallery’. For some people, this is just basic common sense, but for others, this can be a lifesaver. It’s called a practical guide, I think its content does reflect the title. Someone commented this book as ‘the definitive guide for what they don’t teach in art school’.

 

40 artists and dealers say

There is one chapter called ‘what do other people say’ with advice from over 40 artists and dealers. I really like this part. It offers different perspectives yet curated. You can see what others say in Reddit, Facebook, Quora, but here the content is filtered and catered for you. I just wish there are more words from art dealers, researchers, curators, marketers, and cultural managers, instead of from other artists.

Not Entrepreneurial

Personally, I believe the gallery system needs to change. It’s already changing since online marketplaces entering into competition. More and more artists are managing their own business and becoming entrepreneurs. I think that’s the future of art career. This book does not talk about this tendency. On the 2-and-half chapter on ‘Budgeting, Taxes and Trades’, there is nothing really about how to declare tax. No charts or tables. I miss the book on how to manage your art gallery. I feel the necessity to go back on that book when it comes to how to manage your art business.

Things Missing

There are some things missing on ‘making money’. For example, in the one paragraph about ‘crowdfunding’, Alix did not recommend using Kickstarter to cover the day-to-day costs of making art, because that was the responsibility of the artist. I agree with her in the sense of completion. But Kickstart is not all there is to crowdfunding. There are other crowdfunding platforms like Patreon that help artists to get by, and there are platforms that help them make a special project. There are artists make a good living from Udemy courses and Youtube ads revenues. Those things are not talked about.

Fine art graduates

This book is for introverted fine art graduates who wish to enter the gallery system. Also, this book is a must-have for art school libraries. This book is not for entrepreneurs who would like to enter the online art market and become their own bosses in the art business. It doesn’t show you all the options as an independent visual artist.

 

ART INC

best art business books
This colorful handbook is written by Lisa Congdon, an artist and store owner at Etsy. She had over 13K sales on Etsy and 240K followers on Instagram. She is the new emerging social media darling, who is also successful as an artist.

Visually pleasing book

The first impression I had on this book was visually pleasing. It’s very ‘put-together’. It has good information at the same time it’s a lovely object to hold. I would say it’s the perfect birthday gift to any young artists and artisans. The author Lisa is also an artist-illustrator, so it makes sense. By far this book is the best-designed book among all a dozen artist guidebooks I bought.

Comprehensive message

I find the content very easy to read, very encouraging. There are some artist interviews, which are well placed among other things. I think this book is perfect for young people like high school students who are very eager to start their own Etsy business. It’s so comprehensive, that even people with limited English level can understand and learn from this book.

Not for contemporary artist

Unlike the book yesterday from Alix Sloan, this book is for design school graduate, not art school graduate. Why did I say that? She has an Etsy store. For many art school students, who are set to be ‘dead in a museum’, having an Etsy store can come across being ‘cheap’. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer to make a profit than starving. I like what she is doing. But I have to say this book does not represent the contemporary artist.

Anecdotal

I saw this word anecdotal from a comment saying this book is ‘anecdotal’ and full of ‘platitudes’. I didn’t know these two words even after completing 3 master degrees in the English language. I think it means: highly educated people are not happy with this book. OK. I agree that this book has a lot of personal stories, like how I become successful. But if Lisa is willing to share her secrets, we still could learn from her. However, this book is not for art business management, although the title of the book might suggest so. INC sounds like a big deal.

Artist-entrepreneur

Who is this book for? Anyone who wants to become an independent artist-entrepreneur, and who wish to sell art without art galleries. This book is not for someone who has an MFA degree and wishes to make it in the contemporary art world and end up in a museum.

 

ART INC

best art business books

Worse book

I bought this book earlier this week for $9,99 and I just got it from the post office 1 hour ago. I just went through it and I had such a burning desire to review this book. It’s written by two artists who went to art school. The author, Alicia Puig, is the director of business operations at Creative! Magazine. The second author, Ekaterina Popòva is the founder of Creative! Magazine.

Not acceptable

The first impression I had when I got the package, was that it must be a mistake. There was no book in there! Ok, it was a very thin book. It has 81 pages, and every 2-3 page, there was a blank page with poor illustration. I am so sorry to say, what was that?! Page 23 and page 31 had exactly illustration. This is not acceptable. The book is written by art school graduates from Creative! Magazine. I expect it to be either beautiful or full of insights. I think in this sense, this book offered very little of both.

Deception reviews

On Amazon and Goodreads, the lowest rating was 4 stars. Mostly the readers gave 5 stars. I think it must be her marketing effort. There is no problem to do that, I think it shows some kind of skill level. However, just because I read the reviews before buying, I had such high expectations on this book. It was the latest book among other art books, so I thought it could offer something cutting edge. But no. I think it covered a little bit from How to sell your art online, and a little bit from Launch your art career. A mixture of both.

Artists tricking artists

One thing for sure is this book is from artists for artists. It’s very easy to follow and very encouraging. It says things like ‘don’t give up’ and ‘celebrate your achievements’. Perhaps it works for Smartists, although it doesn’t work for me.

Generic Information

Don’t get me wrong, this book is not all bad. It has good information for first-year art school students. However, I wish to see more insights. For example, it’s written a list of web hosting service providers like Wix, Squarespace, Format, and a list of books to read. However, the authors did not include their opinions or experiences using these services. This information is too generic to my taste. If I want to know, I can just search for a list of books, it’s public information. If they could tell me what are the Pros and Cons in using such websites or reading these books, I am paying for their insights.

Who is this book for?

This is for first-year art school students who want an easy-to-follow guide, and who hates reading textbooks. It’s a little book which you can read in an hour or two. This book is not for art school graduates or working artists who seek insights from experts.

 

Start Your Career as an Artist

best art business books
This book is written by two art teachers. Angie Wojak is director of career services at Parsons the New School for Design, and Stacy Miller is a professor of photography at the same school.

Academic discourse

This artist help book is the most similar to a textbook among other books I have bought. Just the details of this book, such as the Index, you can see it’s very well investigated and documented. Also because the two authors are professors at art school, their writing styles are also very academic and teaching oriented. It’s not a book you want to read on a Sunday. Instead, I would say this is a perfect book for electives in the last year of art school.

 

Complete art career reading

In one chapter it is writing about street art and unusual spaces for art exhibitions. I was actually surprised to see this coming from art school professors. They don’t just show you how you can work with the government and entities, also they encourage you to go out there and ‘get it’ on your own. But they also worried about your safety. In one chapter they talk about how to create a safer studio environment. I think this is the most complete book on an art career.

Not Sexy and timeless

There are a lot of 5-star reviews. The only 4-star review comes from a student that got this book because of his professor told him so. In this case, this book is not ‘sexy’ or ‘cute’. Again, you see words after words, without any picture or illustration. It is a bit dry, like all the textbooks. Although it was first published in 2011, I felt this book could be written in any year. The advice and insights given in this book are quite timeless.

US artists Only

Again, this book is primarily made for the U.S art school students. Many things mentioned in this book would only be valid in the States, for example, how to teach art at schools, how to get legal help. Many things can not apply if you are not living and working in the States. I would say this is my only complaint about this book.

For art school graduates

This book is perfect for art school students or graduates, who wish to have a better idea of the world of fine art. It covers a wide range of topics and not only for painters but also for sculptors and photographers as the title suggested.

 

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