Wednesday, December 15, 2010


How To Keep In Touch with Gallery Owners
Eric Maisel

Hi, Dr. Maisel, I’m lucky enough to be represented in a few galleries but they are all very far away from my hometown. How can I maintain good contact with them from such a great distance? — Laura L

Thanks, Laura. I know exactly what you mean! Virtually no one I work with in my capacity as a writer, creativity coach, and trainer of creativity coaches lives near me. The coaches I train reside in places like England, Hong Kong, and Australia. My clients are in similarly far-flung places. My nearest publisher is fifty miles away; my furthest, many thousands of miles; my literary agent, on the other side of the continent.

There is nothing the least bit unusual about this nowadays. If you are fortunate enough to have created relationships in the arts’ marketplace, it is entirely likely that many of those relationships—with gallery owners, collectors, supportive peers, and so on—will be long-distance ones.

It is naturally smart and rewarding to cultivate local relationships. But it is equally smart and rewarding to fashion distant relationships. Once fashioned, though, what are the best ways to maintain them? If you live in Topeka, you can’t drop in on your Manhattan gallery representative on a weekly basis. (Nor, to be frank about it, would your representative want you to drop in that often). If you can’t maintain a friendly physical presence, what are the next best options?

The very best option is the brief check-in email. Don’t burden folks with lengthy emails full of news, questions, or requests; instead, check in frequently (say, monthly) with a brief note that reads something like the following: “Hi, Mary! Just wanted to see how the three new paintings are doing. Are people responding to them?” An email of this sort allows Mary to reply with a simple “People are loving them and I’m sure we’ll sell one soon!”; it allows her to pass along news that she might otherwise not have bothered sharing; it opens the door to a conversation the both of you know was due; and it puts you back in Mary’s mind, exactly where you want to be. You don’t have to wait for “new news” (for instance, the completion of your latest painting) before penning check-in emails of this sort. They are not mini-press releases but the equivalent of “Hi, how are things going?”

Next: BUT When You Do Have News, Share It! →

Eric Maisel

By the same token, when you DO have news, share it. I coach my clients to prepare a brief news release whenever they have news: the news might be that they have begun painting much larger by moving to a series of four-foot by six-foot canvases; that they have landed a commission; that they have new representation; that their studio has moved; that they will be attending a major conference or networking event; and so on. These do not amount to earthshaking news stories but they are in fact the real news of your life and well worth sharing with those people with whom you have a relationship. After all, they are on your side and won’t feel inconvenienced by a bit of news!

Emails may not prove sufficient in maintaining long-distance relationships but they are a big help in preserving those connections. They do not cause the other person to have to think on his or her feet, the way a phone call does; they do not force a person to carve out a chunk of time, the way a personal visit does. Because they are not burdensome, they are appreciated, especially when the message is brief and undemanding. It is a secret of both sales and relating that making lots of regular contact, even only via email, goes a long way to cementing connections.

When you think that a call is in order, arrange it first. Say that on a visit to London you made a great connection with a gallery owner who subsequently agreed to show your work. Your paintings have been selling nicely in that gallery but not spectacularly. You know that you ought to pay more attention to that relationship, as you fear that the gallery owner may drop you in favor of some newer or hotter artist, and you doubt that email contact is really enough. What to do? Drop him an email and let him know that you would like to chat for fifteen minutes via phone or Skype.

Once you’ve nailed down the time, send a brief email setting out your agenda. This might sound like, “Great! So we’ll talk at 10 a.m. my time, 6 p.m. your time on Thursday and I’ll call you at the number you gave me. Let me give you a heads-up: here are the three things I wanted to chat about. First, I wanted to tell you about the new work I’ve been doing, which is quite a departure for me. Second, I wanted to check in with you to see if there is anything you need from me or anything on your mind. Third—well, I’d just like to touch base! Talk to you at six!”

Because our conversations with marketplace players make us anxious, we tend to avoid them. Even sending out an email to the folks on our list can seem fraught with difficulty and danger as we worry about everything from inadvertent typos to annoying people with our “unimportant” or “self-serving” news. We are obliged to overcome these anxieties and build the excellent habit of reaching out to our long-distance connections in a regular, routine way. We really don’t want them to forget us!—silence is not the best policy.

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