Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.
I love reading your posts and have found your list of reps a wonderful resource! After researching many of the reps who specialize a bit more in studio and live music photography, I have found a few I would love to contact with my work. Can you give some advice for writing interesting and attention-grabbing query letters? Maybe even some “do’s and don’ts”? I express myself best visually and sometimes find it very difficult getting my point of view across in written form, this maybe a common sentiment for visual artists… any points in the right direction would be most appreciated!
Also, the main rep in which I’m interested lists no submission information on their website, can you also give any hints as to the best way to contact them. I have seen where some agencies ask for an e-mail with 5 images attached, while others may want a mailed submission with a burned disc of images. Is there a general rule of thumb for contacting agencies with no guidelines listed?
Amanda and Suzanne:
Agents are a sought after. They can make your business boom, but you have to be ready for what they can do for you and also be ready for what they need from you. Photographers often think “once I have an agent I can relax.” This is false. You still have to give 110% outside of your agent’s efforts.
For Email submissions:
-Be brief in your introduction- a couple short paragraphs should suffice
-Always attach a hot link to your website
-Send images in the body of the email so that they are visible without requiring any attachments to be opened. If you want to send an additional attachment with a short pdf of your portfolio or of a specific body of work you are proud of that is fine, but don’t only send an attachment that needs to be opened. As a rep agency we receive many emails from photographers and it’s important to get a quick visual of the photographer’s work to see if the quality of work is high and if the subject matter is applicable to what our agency represents.
-Let your personality come through in your introduction and tell us why you feel your work would be a good fit for our agency within the group as a whole, this is very important. If you are truly interested in us tell us why, otherwise your email may come off as bland, generic and not tailored to our specific company.
-After sending out an email follow up with a quick phone call. Be brief. Remind me that you recently sent me an email with your work/your website etc. and give me a little bit of information about yourself that you think is important then leave it at that. In case your work is not to my liking I don’t want to have a 10 minute conversation with you.
-If we are interested in you and we tell you this: be persistent and stay in touch with us. If you feel strongly that you are right for our agency and have good reasons as to why you are a perfect fit you may just convince us of this-even if we aren’t looking to add anyone to our roster.
For Mail Submissions:
-One of my favorite mail submissions was a small beautiful book/portfolio piece that was specifically made to act as an introduction to potential future reps. The book had a short intro about the photographer’s background and included a statement that surmised how he felt that the choice of a new rep was a very important decision, one that warranted a nice printed sample. The book was printed on high quality fine art paper and contained an overview of what the photographer specialized in-basically a short 10-15 page portfolio. The binding was simple, thread I think, something that the photographer could have done himself. I felt as though I had received a special book that had only likely been sent to a few select reps.
-Please do not repeatedly send printed materials if you don’t receive a response from me. I once had a photographer send me an 8 x 10 print every month or so for at least 6-8 months, and unfortunately the work was not to my liking at all. While I appreciated the photographer’s persistence, I felt that he was wasting his energy since we were not interested in him.
-Only unusual printed promotional materials stand out. I normally toss standard postcard style printed promos. I do however consider holding onto them if the image is really spectacular or if the paper is high quality.
-I probably would not look at a disc of images if one was sent to me in the mail, so I wouldn’t go through the trouble of doing this. If we are very interested in a specific photographer we may ask them to send their printed portfolio, but most of the time a photographer’s website provides enough information about their work and whether or not we’d be interested in representing them.
Introduce yourself as an artist looking for representation & include no more than 5 lo-res samples & a link to additional work, your site, blog, etc. Good work will speak for itself. If the agent is not looking to add an artist at the moment, ask if you can add he/she to your mailing list to keep them up-to-date on your work.
Write lengthy emails or call to see if we’ve been to the site yet. If an agent loves the work & wants to learn more they’ll call you to schedule a time to speak further. Don’t get discouraged, keep producing fantastic work & keep trying. The right fit will happen when it’s meant to.
What we look for is professionalism and glimpse of the artist’s personality in the correspondence we receive.
Of course, the imagery is the first and foremost thing we are looking at but an agent needs to know that the photographer can communicate in writing as well.
My bullet point suggestions are:
1. spelling and grammar must be correct
2. keep the inquiry short and to the point
3. let us know why you are interested in our group, what you need most from an agent at this point in your and perhaps how you see your work fitting in with the existing roster of talent
4. share a bit about your photography background and experience
5. if you’ve worked with any well known art directors or clients be sure to mention them
We like to have a pdf attached with around 5 pieces that represent the work the artist is most excited about creating.
We also like them to include a link to their website so we can get a good overview of their photography and the artist’s current branding.
We do not currently have a submission policy. And due to the high volume of submissions, I personally deflect unsolicited emails that come directly to me to our photo editor to review. Occasionally a printed piece that arrives in the mail catches my eye, but my best advice is to network and actually get referred to our agency. For example, speak with a favorite client and ask them for a contact at the agency. The best rep agencies will know most clients. I am not suggesting your client contact us on your behalf, but I am more likely to read a letter that starts with “so-and-so art buyer from McCann suggested I contact you about representation.” We greatly value the opinions of our clients.
All different points of entry to finding an agent. Keep trying and find the right solution that best represents you. You will find the perfect match if it’s meant to be. Of course, some times you have to try on a few to find that match.
Call To Action:
If you are looking at getting an agent – write a list of clients you love and respect (and vice versa) and ask them for recommendations. Make a list of agents you would like to approach as well (use the workbook.com) and seek people who have a talent pool you respect (not just name, but style).