How I Sell Paintings Online
To date I estimate I’ve sold about 300 paintings with 95% of those sales being online. This post is for people who miss out on certain paintings and sales, and for those interested in selling paintings, be they fellow artists or those in marketing.
It should give you an understanding of how you can find out about paintings earlier than you currently do, and it should also complement my recent appearance on the Irish radio marketing programme The Persuaders.
In short the sales are hosted on Bicyclistic, the paintings individually live on IrishKC, and twitter is the engine that drives it all. But read on for more detail.
THE BIG SALES
About 4 times a year I run large online sales, anything from about 20 - 80 new paintings at an introductory price of typically 50% off and often offering free shipping worlwide. these are the steps involved in the sales. They were different in the past and will be different in the future, but right now they work for me:
1. Orphan Pages The first thing I post is an orphan page on my Irish-American events & humour blog IrishKC. An orphan page means it’s not in the stream of blog posts - it exists but nothing links to it.
The creation of these pages is the longest part of the process for me - as well as the pay-pal-links, the image and enlarged linked-to image with relevant alt and title tags, I’ll add words, a short paragraph or 2. I do this because people have told me they want to know about the paintings and also to help with ranking the image and page when the search engines index it.
2. Special Email Notifications With the painting now online I can point people to it. If people have asked me to let them know when a specific painting is ready then this is the point I email them a link to the painting. Ideally this would be the night before a big sale goes live, but in practice it might only be a few hours before launch.
*See bottom of post to find out what paintings I’m working on
3. TwitPic Details When it’s taking a long time to put all the individual pages of paintings together (with sales of 75 paintings this can take me up to 2 days) I throw out teaser photos of sections of paintings on TwitPic. These are automatically posted to twitter.
4. Twitter Painting Links As each painting is posted on IrishKC, once I’ve sent out any special email notifications, I’ll then post a link to it on twitter.
Note that this is still before I’ve launched the overall sale page - and paintings can be selling. For example, for the Christmas 2009 Sale paintings averaged 15 views before selling. All 17 paintings sold. In the big sale before that - August 2009 - the average views of a painting before they sold was 41.
5. Sale Post When all the painting pages are built on IrishKC and all have been announced individually on twitter, I then post on Bicyclistic announcing the sale. This is the post with index of thumbnails of the paintings linking to.
This is the link that from now on I point to in all references to the sale.
6. Bicyclistic Paintings Page I add the link to the Sale Post onto the Bicyclistic paintings page. This is where links to all big sales, shows, prints, and paintings available for sale reside as well as a gallery for viewing of selected paintings.
7. Twitter Sale Announcement With the Sale Post ready I now announce it on twitter. This takes place minutes after Step 5.
8. IrishKC paintings page On IrishKC I maintain an overall static page about my paintings similar to the one on Bicyclistic but much more detailed. It’s called Irish Paintings for Sale and has 170 thumbnails (should have lots more), and includes a lot of links to posts I’ve written about my painting.
9. RSS People who follow Bicyclistic in feed readers such as Google Reader and Bloglines or in Blog Aggregators, tend to hit the Sale Post beginning about now but depending on their daily reading routine it might be many hours later.
10. FaceBook Facebook also picks up the feed from the blog, and is where many people are reading this post now, but FaceBook is highly erratic and usually quite slow to pick up. While I have seen posts on Bicyclistic appear within the hour on FaceBook (by which time a number of sales have already occurred) it more often is anything from 12 hours to 3 days before the paintings sale appears in FaceBook. I only post status updates on the sale if I have new extra paintings added into the sale.
11. Blog Auto-Email Some people subscribe to Bicyclistic by email. While this is perfect for most posts, Feedburner don’t send the emails out until after the end of the day - about 1am Irish time - many hours after I typically launch the sales in the morning or afternoon.
12. Prizepool I maintain a pool of paintings on Bicyclistic from which winners of regular competitions I run get to choose a painting for free. the paintings in there are also for sale. When I run a big sale I add several paintings in the sale into the prizepool. If I have the time I also run a competition during the course of the big sale.
13. IrishKC Post. I now post the announcement of the sale on IrishKC. This is usually done the day after the sale started and I tend to highlight aspects of it that will appeal to its readership.
14. American Hell I have another blog which is just cartoons. Sometimes, but very rarely, I might post an announcement of a paintings sale here so if you’re following American Hell or are a fan of it in FaceBook you might hear about it this way. It’s unlikely though to be honest as I like to keep American Hell clean with just cartoons. There’s a better chance of me announcing the sale on American Hell’s twitter account
15. LiamDaly.com I have a real name and a website to match. It’s massively out of date and although it predates all my other sites I’ve never sold a painting from it and stopped trying in 2006 when IrishKC was created specifically to sell paintings. It does however have a rarely updated blog which is used for main announcements of news and events concerning paintings, so I post an announcement of the paintings sale here.
16. Emails I’m aware that the most important weapon in one’s online selling arsenal is supposed to be a mailing list, and I don’t disagree, but I’ve never had one. I’ve planned one for years, and I will eventually have one but the last few years have seen Twitter, and to a much lesser extent FaceBook, act like a living talking mailing list for me. At this stage though - usually a day or 2 after the sale has started I do send individual emails to a handful of people - usually friends - who have asked me to tell them about any big sales (as opposed to people interested in buying specific paintings back at Step 2).
17. MySpace Because my Events & Humour blog IrishKC focuses a lot on music Irish-related music, I have been fairly active in the past on MySpace. Cumbersome as it was - and still is - I tend to only blog announcements of major painting sales, and sometimes I’ll post them on the Bulletin Board, but it’s becoming less and less a priority for me.
18. Stumbleupon I don’t tend to drop links to the sale all over the place, but if I do have the time and think the sale needs a push I might stumble it or pick one painting in the sale and stumble it.
19. Blog Links Once upon a time I used to ask a very small number of bloggers to mention my sale but I stopped doing this when they started linking to it before I got a chance to ask. However since then twitter has compressed the attention a sale gets into the first 24 or 48 hours and blog links have decreased so I might revert to this practice as I’ve found it very useful in keeping the sale alive for its duration e.g. 4 paintings sold in the last 24 hours of the August 2009 sale all of them coming from one particular blog link.
20. End Announcement The big sales are all done for a limited time, usually 1 or 2 weeks. As they’re about to end I’ll announce a reminder that the introductory prices (anything from 50% to 25% off the regular price), and free global shipping if I’ve offerred it, have only a few more hours to run. This announcement is done on twitter and on FaceBook and often results in a little spike in sales right at the end.
Sometimes I’ll post just a single new painting for sale. This is a lot simpler than the big sales. I post it on Bicylistic (not IrishKC) and announce it on twitter.
When I run competitions for free paintings I follow a few principles. I’m genuinely giving a painting for free and not looking for something in return. There are no catches, nothing to subscribe to, nothing to link to, no hoops to jump through. Because I believe if the paintings are good enough, and the competitions fun, then good things will happen.
I pose a question and the 1st correct answer wins. I ask questions that are entirely guessable - I’m not saying they’re necessarily easy but that they can certainly be guessed at. But I try to frame a question such that a regular reader or follower on twitter would be at an advantage, however slight. Above all though I try to make competitions fun.
Also, rather than me select a painting I put as many paintings as I can - usually 20-25 - into the prizepool for the winner to choose from. What determines which paintings go into the prizepool isn’t their prices but how much it will cost me to ship them.
The LONG TAIL
IrishKC was set up to sell paintings. Writing about Irish-related events in an American city that I then lived in, together with humorous essays on being from Ireland in America, built a community of people interested in things Irish. Most of my paintings are landscapes and cityscapes of Ireland.
But I also write IrishKC so that it pulls in a lot of search traffic - 95% of visitors come from search engines most of that on terms not related to art, although I consistently rank highly for terms like “Irish Paintings” and “Irish Paintings for Sale”.
While I prefer direct community involvement and organic links, I don’t say no to sales from people who find my paintings through searching on other Irish matters e.g. last summer I sold 2 paintings to somebody searching on the band, Hothouse Flowers and art. They found posts I’d written on the Flowers and saw that I painted.
Because so many of my paintings are of specific places, if I’m ever writing a post - on any of my blogs - that refers to a particular place I’ve done a painting of, I will link to the painting(s). This practice has resulted in sales long after paintings first went on sale.
Let me know if you’d like to joing my mailing list, and then whenever I go live with it I’ll add you and let you know. eolai[at]irishkc[dot]com