Today I speak to Sean. Sean is the publisher of Fine Art America, a premier online site for artists
How long have you been in the publishing business? What do you publish?
FineArtAmerica.com is an online social network and e-commerce marketplace dedicated to the visual arts. I founded the company in 2006. The site provides powerful sales and marketing tools to artists and photographers around the world – helping them transform their artwork into flourishing online businesses.
Within minutes of opening an account, artists can create an online profile, upload their artwork, add secure shopping cart features, and start selling museum-quality prints to the millions of visitors who stop by Fine Art America each month. They can also socialize with the siteâ€™s 12,000 other members, catch up on industry news, browse job openings, enter art contests, issue press releases, blog, and participate in group discussions.
For casual visitors and art collectors, Fine Art America provides tools to discover and track new artists, search for artwork, browse upcoming events, and register for FineArtAmerica’s weekly newsletter – the industry’s only newsletter to deliver personalized news based upon the recipient’s preferences and geographic location.
By combining social networking with the thrill of discovery and online sales, FineArtAmerica.com has found a niche amongst the millions of struggling artists around the world and the millions of collectors who yearn to find them.
Who started your business, and what made you start it?
FineArtAmerica.com has been in business since September of 2006. Early in 2006, I designed a website for my brother who, at the time, was working for an art gallery in Chicago. The gallery represented about twenty different artists, and each time an artist would release a new painting or schedule an appearance at the gallery, my brother would contact me to update the website. As this started to become a frequent occurrence, I decided to write a simple program to allow my brother to upload images on his own and do other things like post events, issue press releases, etc.
That’s when the light bulb turned on. I realized that there were thousands and thousands of artists and gallery owners around the world who would love to be able to do the exact same thing.
What is your publishing background?
I have been developing websites since 2000. FineArtAmerica.com was my first large-scale project
How can a writer/artist submit their work?
Everything on FineArtAmerica.com is “do-it-yourself”. Once you open a free account, you can immediately start uploading your artwork, advertising your events, issuing press releases, participating in contests, and much more.
What type of work are you looking for?
FineArtAmerica.com currently accepts artwork for a wide variety of mediums (e.g. paintings, photography, sculptures, drawings, mixed media, pyrography, etc.) The complete list can be viewed here: http://fineartamerica.com/artdirectory.html
Members of FineArtAmerica.com are able to upload 100 images immediately upon registration. Each month, thereafter, the image limit increases by 25. The longer you are a member… the more artwork you get to display.
What are the publishing fees?
FineArtAmerica.com is free to join. A free membership allows you to upload and advertise your artwork for sale (both originals and prints).. When you receive an order, it is your responsibility to handle all aspects of the order fulfillment (e.g. collecting payment, printing, framing, matting, packaging, shipping, etc.)
Fine Art America does not charge any commissions whatsoever for these orders. In fact, we are the only fine art site on the internet that allows artists to sell prints and originals 100% commission free. We don’t believe in standing between artists and buyers simply to collect a commission. You created the artwork… you have to take care of packaging, insuring, and shipping… so you get to keep all of the profits!
Having said that – we do offer a premium membership which allows artists to sell prints of their artwork via our print-on-demand program (http://fineartamerica.com/printondemand.html). This program costs $30 per year.
The print-on-demand program allows you to sell giclee prints of your artwork on paper or canvas with custom framing, matting, and canvas stretching. Fine Art America takes care of everything, including: printing, framing, matting, stretching, packaging, shipping, processing credit cards, and sending you payments on a monthly basis! All you need to do is upload your images, set your print prices, and start selling.
If you want to earn $50 for the sale of a 30″ x 20″ print…. then that’s exactly what you’ll earn. We don’t subtract any commissions from your profits. In fact, we actually pay YOU a 10% commission for any frames, mats, or other accessories that the buyer purchases along with your prints.
The print-on-demand program was first launched in September of 2007 and has become very popular with our members and our art collectors.Many of our members are averaging several hundred dollars in sales each month. We provide a partial list of recent sales on our website so that everyone can see what type of artwork is selling: http://fineartamerica.com/recentprintsales.html
Would you like to talk about the writer/artist/publisher process?
FineArtAmerica.com currently has 12,000+ artists who belong to the site. With so many artists, it is impossible for us to devote individual attention to individual artists. So – what I decided to do was to create tools to allow artists to promote themselves.
I view myself as a personal web developer for 12,000 clients, and I really enjoy trying to create new ways for artists to gain exposure for their artwork and increase their sales.
For example, I recently released a new feature which allows artists to create HTML e-mail campaigns (http://fineartamerica.com/announcementemails.html). This feature allows artists to create beautiful, graphical e-mails in a matter of seconds and then send the e-mails to all of their friends, family, art collectors, business acquaintances, and more. They can even track to see who opens the e-mails.
A feature like this typically costs $100+ per month from other online retailers (e.g. http://www.constantcontact.com/pricing/index.jsp).
We provide the feature to all of our members – absolutely free.
I try to release a new feature like this once per month.
Is your business local National or International?
Despite our name, Fine Art “America”, we are a truly international website. We have members from all over the world, and we ship orders all over the world.
Our headquarters are in New York City, and our printing / framing facility is in North Carolina.
If you visit our site, you’ll notice that at the top of every page, we automatically identify your location in the world (e.g. Paris, France). This is a very powerful feature of our site which is often overlooked by our members and casual visitors. Each visitor to FineArtAmerica.com is geographically located by IP address, and then the pages of FineArtAmerica.com are individually tailored to that location.
If you live in London, for instance, then you will automatically see local events that are occurring in and around London when you visit our site, and you’ll automatically see local artists that live in and around London. You can still see artists and events from all over the world, but your local artist and events are displayed most prominently.
This feature does an outstanding job of promoting local artists, local galleries, upcoming local events, local job openings, and more. The feature is unique among fine art websites and fosters a sense of community amongst the members of the site. It also encourages something completely unique – the purchasing of fine art originals. If a fine art collector can drive down the road and actually meet with a local artist and view his or her work, that collector is much more likely to spend several hundred dollars or several thousand dollars on an original
Do you have corporate sponsors?
No – FineArtAmerica.com is privately owned and generates all revenue from our print-on-demand program (http://fineartamerica.com/printondemand.html) and our premium membership fees.
Is your business environmentally aware / Do you promote these issues?
Our only “products” are the prints, frames, mats, and other accessories that we sell. The process of fulfilling orders is done manually by our expert staff of printers / framers, so there isn’t a lot of waste or pollution that we’re generating. I guess, to answer your question though – no, we are not really environmentally aware and don’t actively promote the issue.
Do you actively look for environmentally aware artists?
No – this is not a priority.
Do you promote educational programmes?
We currently do not promote any educational programs. However, I have plans for 2009 to begin partnering with art schools in the United States in an effort to offer scholarship opportunities to the members of FAA. Assuming that this initial effort is a success, we would then expand to other countries, as well.
Do you hold competitions?
Yes – FineArtAmerica.com hosts weekly competitions which award gift certificates and other prizes (e.g. featured space on our homepage).
Also, each of our members can create their own contests at any time, just for fun.
This feature was just released last week and is already becoming very popular. You can view a complete list of active contests on this page: http://fineartamerica.com/contests.html
Do any of your proceeds go towards a charity?
No. FineArtAmerica.com is still a “start up”, and as such, all of our discretionary spending goes towards advertising and continuing to build the site. When opportunities arise to donate money, we prefer to give back to our artists by running special promotions (e.g. paying our members to help promote the site, sponsoring weekly art contests that award prize money, etc.)
What are your plans for the future?
I am committed to building FineArtAmerica.com into the premier online destination for artists, art galleries, and art collectors. When people think of buying books online, they think of Amazon.com. When they think of buying art online, I want them to think of FineArtAmerica.com.
I am also committed to releasing new features each month which will continue to revolutionize the online art market. FineArtAmerica.com has many features which do not exist anywhere else online, and one of the best ways to keep artists and art buyers excited about visiting our site is to continue this history of innovation.
What do you do to market your site and members?
We’re constantly testing different advertising options, and we typically spend several thousand dollars each month on advertisements. For competitive reasons, I don’t want to disclose where we’re having the most success. In general, almost all of our monthly advertising budget is spent online. We don’t advertise in traditional art magazines or trade publications.
Over the years, we’ve run advertisements with Google, StumbleUpon, FaceBook, and others.
Do you use social networking in your day to day life?
FineArtAmerica.com has a FaceBook page and a Twitter page: