Perils of the Internet
A while ago I added my blog address to a few link listing services, including Blog Catalog, Top of Blogs, and Artspan. One of the quirks of increased traffic to your site is...well, increased traffic. I received my first art scam email about two weeks ago, written in bad, broken english offering to urgently buy two of my works. This is a variation of the "Nigerian prince" scam where a check is sent for more than the selling price, you are asked to return the difference, and then the check bounces. If you're really unlucky, you've also shipped the artwork during that time. A good example of sample scam letters, and how to properly respond to them can be found here. Fortunately I immediately tossed it into the junk mail folder.
The email I received last week wasn't a scam, per se, because most likely the author would have delivered on what he pitched: a two page spread in a compilation book of artists.Â The first alarms went off for me, though, when I read that I was pre-accepted for a juried competion, where a as a winner I could pay to have my artwork featured in a two page spread of their "best of artists" book (now, why have a juried competition if you've already chosen some of the winners just by surfing to their sites?). An internet search of their "best of" series showed that it did not exist on Amazon.com, or anyplace other than their website (that I could find). So, as far as I could tell, this was a variation on the vanity gallery, where the artist pays a fee to be included (in this case, in their book, which is sold only on their, or their affiliates, websites).Â Which leads to the third email....
I received a "link exchange" email - where I link to the author's site in exchange for a return link to mine. Although it's generally bad form to directly ask a blogger for a link, there are worse things than a link exchange. In addition to the link, the gallery indicated they were representational and, upon portfolio review, would represent artists for a promotional fee. A perusal of their site shows hundreds of artists listed. Although it's unclear what their review criteria is, it was clear that, once accepted, you would pay a fee regardless of sales.Â So in this sense the gallery behaved like a vanity gallery, where you pay for wall space.
Sometimes the allure of a vanity gallery or vanity book is tough to resist. I'm still not entirely convinced that a gallery which takes 50% commision off sales is really better than one that charges a flat fee for wall space, other than the principle that commission galleries usually accept you only on merit (your work or resume suggest that your pieces will successfully sell), while vanity galleries usually hang anything as long as you pay your bill. I suppose at the end of the year you would compare sales minus expenses for both, and if A > B, choose A, if your goal is to make money. If your goal is prestige, the equation changes. This leads into "what is your goal for your artwork?" - but that's a whole topic in itself.