Recently Larissa Dahroug, an S.F. Bay Area artist, sent a catalog of her work from her recent exhibition to me. I was really impressed that she was able to put together such a fine catalog and asked her to write a Guest Author post about how this catalog came about.
Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Larissa Dahroug, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is implied.
FROM THE PEN OF LARISSA DAHROUG:
Self-employment is tough. You have to wear so many different hats at once. Being self-employed AND in the arts is even tougher, I think. Someone asked me recently why I’m an artist. I told them the truth. It’s the only thing I know how to be. Except for very infrequent, though dreaded, bouts of creative block, I pretty much have got the “make” part of my career down. The part I’m trying to get better at right now is getting an audience for my work once I’ve made it. For my latest series, Sewn Paintings of Light & Love: inspired by 40 dedicated people living and/or working in Santa Rosa, I tried something I’d never done before. I self-published a catalog.
In these tough economic times, the challenge of selling art is made that much harder. Asking even $250 for a piece of art is a HUGE amount of money when so many folks are cutting back on things like food and health care. For the show of this work I wanted to make sure there was something for as many people as possible, and I wanted to tell the story behind my art. A catalog seemed like a good answer to my desires. But I only had a short amount of time before my show and I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to find a publisher willing and able to print a catalog for me. A writer-friend of mine had recently self-published his first novel. If he could do it with his novel why couldn’t I do it with my catalog?
I did a Google search for self-publishing companies. There are TONS of them out there. I ended up choosing Selfpublishing.com, a company based in New York, NY. Selfpublishing.com was not the cheapest company I found, but they weren’t the most expensive either. They were somewhere in the middle. In my experience, I usually get what I pay for, and while I couldn’t afford the most expensive company I found I knew I didn’t want to go with the cheapest either. I am very pleased with my experience working with Selfpublishing.com as well as with the end product. For around $700 I got an ISBN number, all of my files translated into a printable format, 50 24-page-full-color-glossy-covered copies of my catalog, express shipping and excellent customer service from a real live person, Jacki Lynch.
I created my catalog using my digital Nikon and Mac’s iPages. iPages is easy to use, but unfortunately, the finished files were not in the correct format for printing. Selfpublishing.com provides their printing requirements on their website. Files created using Adobe CS are generally ready to print. In spite of how it may appear, I’m actually quite computer illiterate. I don’t know how to use Adobe CS. If I did it would have cost me about $200 less to have my catalog printed. It also would have cost less if I hadn’t required express shipping.
The process of producing the catalog was not without its bumps. There was a last-minute issue when the printer accidentally shipped my finished job by ground instead of air. Jacki was on it though! She had my job reprinted and shipped on time at no extra cost to me. In fact, it turned out very well in my favor because the original job had already gone out so in the end, I wound up with 100 copies of my full-color-glossy-covered catalogs for the price of 50!
I forgot to mention that this series of work and the culminating show were also a fund-raising event for an institution in my community. Planning any art event, but especially one like this can be very stressful. Over the phone (me in California and Selfpublishing.com in New York) Jacki was with me each step of the way, reassuring and soothing me when I was stressed. Customer service like that is priceless.
My show was a great success! I sold some of the series and a bunch of catalogs. Sales are still happening and I also now have an impressive and professional promotional item to use to market myself to galleries and other venues. With the technology that's now at our fingertips a beautiful catalog once only possible if an artist was picked up by a big name gallery or museum or had tons of extra money sitting around and a friend in the publishing biz can be a reality for anyone. $700 is no small sum of money these days. But it was a smart investment in my business, and it’s important to remember that cost and value are not always equal. My businessman father has taught me, value transcends cost.
Larissa is a socially-minded multi-media artist. She lives and works in Santa Rosa, CA with her husband and five spoiled cats.
The affiliate link (below) to Selfpublishing.com is provided for your convenience. The website is very interesting. There are many different ways you could approach creating your own catalog or publicity materials. In the next post, I will tell you how I put together two different catalogs for my work.
This post was updated on January 21, 2022, to provide current links.