Warning: long post….
What am I trying to achieve with Paralysis Unseen?
I’d like to have my work engage people. That is for them to see it, interpret it and give me a sense of what it might mean to them or how it might resonate with their inner selves.
Anyone, would be the glib answer. But in some ways serendipity plays its part. For example, the posts in the blog have been viewed over 13000 times by over 4100 people. But if I were to specify target audiences for the Paralysis Unseen book I think they would be:
- Organisations and people interested primarily in the artistic merit of the book – eg art related publications and editors
- Organisations and people interested primarily in the social statement the book makes – eg disability networks
These audiences break down into two major groups of people and organisations focused on arts and disability.
I want to engage the artistic community in my work. It seems to me that all of the exploration and research has shown that it is a natural assumption to believe that almost all subject matter has been represented visually because of the volume of images being uploaded to the internet, but this is not to be the case.
The visual representation of disability has been ideologically defined and represented in the visual arts through reference to particular archetypes and while new trends have arisen they have not, in general helped trigger the viewer’s understanding of the experience of disability by distinguishing between visually distinguishing between impairment and disability.
Accordingly I want the artistic community – curators, art editors and other people with an interest in the visual arts to think about this question and think my work can be that trigger.
The types of arts targets I have in mind further break down into the following:
- Influential people – eg Gerry Badger
- Influential publications – eg Source
- Influential organisations – eg ICA
- Competitions – eg Deutsche Borse
The disability community has long established networks in both the political and artistic spheres. Accordingly engaging these networks with my work may help publicise it and so help it reach the widest artistic community whether disabled or not.
Disability targets further break down into the following:
- Important networks – eg Disability Arts Online
- Important organisations – eg Shape
- Important publications – eg Disability and Society
How can I achieve reach these communities?
- Invite people to the MA exhibition
- Email people with links to my website
- Hire a space and invite people
- Send targets my book
- Try to get the book published (rather than self-publish)
So let’s look at each one of these in turn
Inviting people to the MA exhibition
It’s exhibition seasons with lots of students promoting their work in student exhibitions. So, I’ve decided not to use this to target and invite people I am aware of but rather put my work out their and let people who I don’t know see the work, and the book in particular.
The Guardian’s advice regarding this route is not to send unsolicited stuff.
“All the people we spoke to agreed on one golden rule: don’t send unsolicited material to galleries and dealers in a blanket fashion. You don’t want your precious and expensively prepared portfolio to head straight for the bin. So make sure your approach is carefully targeted.”
[Frederika Whitehead, The Guardian]
Okay, given the number of emails I receive and bin I’d imagine that this approach is not really for me. It costs nothing but is a waste of time.
Hire a space and invite people
When it comes to exhibiting there is a real high cost. For example, to hire a 2.5 square metre space at the PhotoMasters show at the Old Truman building would cost £200+VAT per candidate.
Or the hire costs at, say, the OXO tower are as follows:
- Bargehouse – from £4200+VAT per week for 15,000ft2/ 1393.54m2
- Gallery@oxo – from £3850+VAT per week for ,500ft2/ 139.35m2
- G11 – from £910+VAT per week for 700ft2/ 65m2
The gallery offers the most promising opportunity in terms of location and footfall averaging 9000 visitors per month – but at a huge cost.
Then there are the considerable costs of:
- Producing the work
- Promoting the work and driving people into see the work
So the idea of putting my work on display in this way is just not cost effective for me.
Send key targets my book
There are lots of articles on self-publishing and they all aim to temper expectations. For example this article suggests that even if the book is great, there’s a good chance your book won’t sell. But it does offer me hope suggesting that niche books tend to do best.
I found this interesting article on marketing self-published books. The article makes me think that this approach might have some traction. Whereas everyone pretty well ignores speculative emails if someone went to the trouble of sending a book to review or consider or publicise it might at least get some form of consideration. But this comes with its own cost. That’s why I purchased 20 books when Blurb was running a 35% discount. The exercise is still costing over £350 but this seems reasonable when compared with the other options.
If I target around 20 influential people within target organisations and or publications in the arts and disability arts spheres and send them a copy of the book along with a business card and covering letter, at least they might give it some attention.
Try to get the book published
But just because I have self-published doesn’t mean that I should discount getting the booked picked up and published by someone else. The Huffington Post had a good article on this:
- Produce a mock-up to present to publishers.
- Consider your proposal from an outsiders point of view.
- Don’t simply send your photography out to every publisher you can find on the internet.
- Consider small local presses.
There will only ever be a niche market for my book so do I approach small publishers like Hwaet Books and hope to build from there?
When identifying publisher targets I have found most want a pdf of the book rather than a physical mock up and this works against the idea of getting them to really – REALLY – consider the book.
There is so much to think about …..and so, with all these ideas running around I have developed a simple marketing strategy that looks like this:
- Send targeted photobook publishers the book either in physical form or pdf depending on the organisation’s submission rules along with a short CV. (But expect a better response from those who receive a physical book).
- Identify and send key named people in the Arts sections of general magazines and journals and other key players in arts and disability arts the physical book. These are going to be the hardest to get to people and so sending them the physical book gives me the best chance of gaining their attention.
Of course I will keep an eye out for exhibitions or competitions that I think my work fits the medium and longer term, such as the Royal Photographic Society’s Photobook competition, but the above is about generating interest around a specific point in time.
Any suggestions from you?
PS. This post has been all about doing and doesn’t reflect how I feel: excited touched with trepidation…..