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Well, I'm learning because the market is speaking to me and I'm listening as best I can.

  • Lesson #1: My market is retailers, not individuals.
  • Cards with people might be endearing and "Awwww..."-inspiring, but they don't sell. Unless the person depicted on the card looks familiar to the one buying it, the card will sit idle - in the land of misfit cards. No "Charlie-on-the-card."
  • If the retailer is from Iowa, they're proud to be an Iowan and they want some cards to reflect Iowa. Bring on the pigs, cows, farms, covered bridges, and so on. I need to paint "Iowa." Heck, I'm even thinking of doing a Hawkeyes card and a Cyclones card. But Iowa sells - in Iowa. Note to self: think regional. Minneapolis will want Vikings, for example.
  • Sometimes, text in the card will be necessary to sell it to the retailer. I had a woman actually say to me today: "My market isn't smart enough to fill up a blank card." So, the poet/English major in me gets to take a crack at this. Fortunately, my cards are intentionally letter-sized when unfolded and therefore it's easy to print on the inside of them. Text...
  • I need to be able to go corporate. I have some trips in my future to sit in front of the buyers for major retailers. Michael's, for example, does this. To sell my cards at Michael's, I would need to get 15 minutes in front of their buyer and pitch my wares.
  • I know why the Heart card didn't work for me: I wouldn't frame it to hang in my living room. My goal is not to paint greeting cards, but to paint frameable art.
  • And finally, I need to change up the style of my painting and do some contemporary designs. My work thus far is more traditional. I missed a couple of retailers today because of this.
All good lessons, to which I'm listening and now steering my work. I'm doing some things right, and I'm doing some things wrong. I'm tweaking the wrong toward rightness.

In my favor:

  • Universally, the cards are regarded as beautiful and classy.
  • The size of the cards is a seller.
  • The price of the cards is seen as very reasonable.
  • When compared to other cards in stores, the employees believe that my cards are better than what they currently sell, and they're pretty frank about saying so - to other employees and to management.
I picked up another retailer today and perhaps a couple more locations. Tomorrow, I drive to Minneapolis for a meeting and on the way there and back, I'll have my camera for taking pictures of rural Iowa and Minnesota.

It just occurred to me that I have someone with whom I need to meet. I personally know the guy who runs the local zoo. I might show him my cards and see if he's open to me painting some "zoo" cards and selling them there. If so, Terry might have some other ideas for me - he's a top-notch marketer. Plus, he's involved with Iowa's biggest event: the Iowa State Fair. Someone suggested to me today that I paint some State Fair cards. I get that. I may do that. Event cards?? Ragbrai, anyone?

I realized today that I'm selling not just cards, but my brand. Whether the cards sell in droves - or not - may be immaterial. By simply having my brand in various locations around town, I drive up the value of my work. The more broad the reach (think "multi-city"), the higher the value and the more wide the spread and the bigger my audience. Therefore, if I wanted to get a gallery interested in selling my work, the pitch is easier. I'm thankful that I have a logo for my work.

I suspect that this story will turn out different than I expected, but with persistence I will achieve what I wanted: financial independence and making my living by my art. That's the goal. The path to get there is the adventure, and I'm having a great time of it. Pretty scenic!


by Brett Rogers, 5/2/2006 11:25:18 PM



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