So this week, we're focusing largely on publishing literature - which makes sense. When you think "published [blank]" the first words that come to mind to fill that blank are probably "poet" or "novelist" or "hack". Right? But, little-known fact - There are as many routes for publishing visual art as for literature
Seriously, though: Whether you're a writer or not, there's a niche for you in publishing
. This article will outline some of the most common venues to answer that ever-present question, "Where can my work go once I'm done with it?"
If publishing visual art sounds like something you would like to do, I cannot stress enough that you should read the rest of the articles in Project Educate: Lit Publishing Week
. Most of the themes you'll see apply to visual art as much as literature. It's still important that you read submissions guidelines, don't take rejection too personally, don't go like this when your work gets accepted somewhere--
--and that you take the time to research the editorial policies and styles of the publishers you're thinking of working with. And it goes without saying that your work needs to be high-quality and print ready, just like literature needs to be for publication. Now, onto the opportunities:
Bet you didn't see this one coming! Most of the major literary magazines (and even more of the small ones) publish a selection of visual artwork in every issue
. With few exceptions, lit mags don't have in-house creative departments dealing with illustration and cover art. Just like they rely on literature-submitting writers for original text content, they rely on visual-art-submitting artists to pretty up their pages.
Lit mags may or may not pay for your work
, but tend to pay more per page for their cover art than their inside content. An example of a magazine with this policy is Arc Poetry
, which is considered a "pro" poetry market and pays $40/page for interior poetry or visual art. If they choose your work for their front cover, you get $100. That's $100 in actual money
, albeit actual Canadian
money. If they pick your work, the bit earlier about not thinking you're a god applies now. You've just made more money in one sale than most magazine-publishing poets make in ten years.
Lit mags invariably have submissions guidelines on their website, and if they welcome visual art they will specify that in the guidelines. So the same resources for finding markets - Duotrope
and so on - will help you find potential lit mag venues for your visual work.
The above general rules also apply to non-lit magazines. In fact, there are a ton
of magazines devoted specifically to visual/contemporary art. Too many to make sweeping generalizations about how to approach them, so here are some helpful pointers:
- Check where the magazine is published. Visual art (and lit) magazines in Canada, for example, tend to get National Arts Council funding and to be eligible for that they need a certain percentage of original Canadian content in each issue. Magazines in your country are more likely to take your work, and to pay you for it.
- Make sure the magazine takes unsolicited submissions for art. Some very major magazines only take submissions arranged by agents/publicists, or submissions by artists they approach. Unsolicited submissions mean they invite submissions from the general public.
- If the magazine requires queries instead of just "submit your art and move along", what they want is a letter to their art editor outlining the project you're thinking of and why you think it fits in their editorial vision. Don't get pushy in your query, but don't undersell yourself either.
- Check what specific license the magazine wants for your work. Generally a magazine wants first rights, which means they want to be the first place to show the work. If that's the case, send them work you've not shown in galleries and not put online (or frantically put it in storage on DA before submitting, like poets do). Usually after the issue is printed all rights revert to you and you can show it wherever you want, but the considerate thing to do is to acknowledge the original publisher if you show the piece online or in another publication afterward.
- Browse a few back-issues of the magazine and get a feel for what they actually print. This is key. Don't send The New England Ranch-Style Architecture Review a painting of an anthropomorphic duck eating an anthropomorphic pondweed.
Keep in mind that not all magazines are printed these days - many exist online-only. In fact, there was a submissions call just yesterday on DA for a mag curated onsite and distributed on- and offsite - Submit to the 7th edition of Designn Magazine
- so keep your eyes open on any social networks you frequent.
This one gets trickier. Later in the week, projecteducate
will have an article by vglory
about varying sizes of publishing house and another by PinkyMcCoversong
about agents and query letters, and I'm writing this section assuming you're going to read them later this week, then come back and read this again
The Big Five have several art imprints
that publish coffee table type books and instructional/genre art books, and some other large publishing houses like Taschen
focus strictly on visual art collections in book form. But to get into any of those houses' works, you're going to need an agent
or publicist who will bust down doors for you. If you have a very strong concept for a book-length corpus of work, though, and can find an agent to represent you? It's worth it.
It's a hard route and not one for everyone so do your research about querying and representation and set realistic goals, because you're going to be rejected a million times before you get accepted to one of these houses.
There are also many small presses, though, that do visual art books - and for many of those, you can query directly. No agent. Check out Wikipedia's list of art publishers
for a starting point. This list includes small presses, major houses, and big five imprints. Also, go to your local book store and browse their selection of art books
- you'll find it to be overwhelmingly major houses, but local book stores are more likely to have local artists who've published with local small presses, too. And think about joining your local arts councils or galleries and asking other members if they know any presses that'd be into your work.
A General Note Before Publishing
Now, this note here is just personal insight and experience, so feel free to disregard it. But it will help your chances of getting published if you have either a unique style and approach to your medium
or a perfected grasp of the style "standard" of your medium as set by other people's current published/shown works
. You want the publisher to say exactly what Jessica Lange is saying here:
Not saying you need to be 100% perfect before you can submit your work - but it will definitely help if you can justify in your head why
it is worth the publisher's money. Yes, publishing costs money. Even if the publisher doesn't pay you for your work they're paying to print it, host online copies, design a layout for all of the above, and/or throw a launch party where you're going to get invited and be offered free champagne
And yes, those launch parties happen. Even lit mags throw them sometimes; if you're local, go.
It's great networking and an opportunity to put your face and personality next to your works.
And one final note - don't worry about editors "owning" your work or being able to screw it up however they want to and make you look like a goose-stepping Satanist. As a visual artist you have the copyright and moral rights and all those other fun things
that your local laws allow you, even if the work is in a magazine or book. Unless the publisher has explicitly purchased your copyright - and that's very rare and should be a red flag when you're placing a work. You're generally assigning them a one-time license
to show the work in that issue of the magazine, and maybe a continuing license to show it on their website/in ads too. Read your contract.
You'll get a contract of some sort from any publisher before they run your work, even if it's just them asking you to send their legal inbox an email saying "Hi, here's permission for you to publish my work in Issue X of Publication Y". If the contract has any weird conditions you're not comfortable with, you can always consult a lawyer and/or negotiate the terms
. The publishing house doesn't have to agree to the changed terms, and you don't have to agree to give them the work if they have terms you don't like. If you reach a contract impasse, just think: One house liked it enough to take it, maybe another one will too - with terms I can live with, versus this crap.
And when you place a piece, pat yourself on the back because you're awesome.
Questions? Comments? Discuss!