Curating a Library of Art Business Books

Lindsey Harnish of the Ferndale Public Library in Michigan inquires:

I just won a grant for my library, specifically to purchase art business books. While I’ve got a long list of titles on my wish list, are there particular books that you strongly recommend?

Well, Lindsey, since you used the word strongly, I pored over my titles and came up with this curated list for you.

Career Guidance

Jackie Battenfield, The Artist's GuideJackie Battenfield, The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love
Battenfield’s book is quickly becoming the standard for artist career development. It’s especially good for artists on the gallery track.
Heather Darcy Bhandari & Jonathan Belber, Art/Work: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career
Another good book for artists seeking galleries.
Both of these books have a strong New York bent.
Daniel Grant, The Business of Being an Artist
Pretty much everything Grant writes is worth reading. I’m embarrassed to say that my edition of this book is from 2000. The 2010 edition (the most recent) adds 100 pages to my version.
Grant has also written Selling Art Without Galleries and How to Grow as an Artist.

Media Specific

Barney Davey, How to Profit from the Art Print Market
Davey knows the giclée market! This is the go-to book for artists who think prints are in their future.
Lynn Basa, The Artist’s Guide to Public Art: How to Find and Win Commissions
Any artist interested in dipping their toes into the public art arena must have this book. Public art commissions are a whole different world than galleries and selling directly to collectors.


Tad Crawford, Legal Guide for the Visual Artist
This book should be on the shelf of every artist. When you need a legal answer, just look it up! We’ve gotten terribly lazy and expect people online to answer stuff for us. Get the book. Trust me. You need it.


I'd Rather Be in the Studio self-promotion book for artistsAlyson B. Stanfield, I’d Rather Be in the Studio: The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion
My book isn’t a career guide, but focuses instead on self-promotion. And I don’t mind saying that I still think it’s good – especially if you want to promote directly to collectors and attract attention for your art.

David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking
While this book is more about mindset than about business, it’s a must-read. After all, you can’t build an art business if your mind isn’t in the right place.
Gigi Rosenberg, The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing
Rosenberg’s book isn’t just helpful advice for writing grants. It’s also warm and personal. I read this book cover to cover and enjoyed every moment. Comb through the sections before you send that application in.


Richard PolskyWhile neither of these books was specifically written as an artist business book, they will help anyone understand the art market economy:

  1. Sarah Thornton, Seven Days in the Artworld
  2. Don Thompson, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark

If you’d like to know what the life of a private dealer is like (and get some inside gossip), try:

  1. Richard Polsky, I Bought Andy Warhol
  2. Richard Polsky, I Sold Andy Warhol (Too Soon)

I know there are many more out there.
What would you recommend to Lindsey and why?

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29 thoughts on “Curating a Library of Art Business Books”

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Thank you for sharing that, Sarah. I have a Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Handbook, but I haven’t heard of “pricing & ethical guidelines” version.

  1. Corporate Art Consulting by Susan Abbott –
    While this book is geared towards someone trying to start a business as an art consultant rather than as a fine artist, much of the information contained in this book works for both the consultant and the individual artist looking to get their work into corporate collections.
    Susan Abbott’s other books are also worth taking a look at.
    And, by the way, thank you and congratulations to Lindsey Harnish for seeking out a grant and winning it in an effort to build an art business book section for her library. We need more librarians like her!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Robert: Has that book been updated? I have a really old version. And most of the art consultants I’m aware of are not using that model.

  2. Assuming you have Alyson’s book, “I’d Rather Be in the Studio”, re-read chapter/action 13 then go find/add the following three books to add to your library. Selling is about building relationships, yes, but what do you do at the moment when someone is standing in front of your painting…you know they are interested….what do you do? I have talked myself right out of a sale so many times, or worse..not asked for the sale… and now I know what to do or not to do because I now understand what is actually going on. Here are 3 books specific to selling art. I wish I’d had them 40 years ago when I started my art career! Do you know of others? Please post the titles if you do.
    “The Art of Selling Art” by Zella Jackson
    “The Art of Creating Collectors” by Zella Jackson
    “Selling Art 101” by Robert Regis Dvorak
    Also, Bruce Baker has a CD “Dynamic Sales Techniques which gave me a few quick tips for doing out door shows that I implimented right how to greet people the right way.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Jennifer: I was totally unaware of Zella Jackson, so I appreciate those.
      Bruce Baker’s CD is good, but, unfortunately, Lindsey can only purchase books with her grant money.
      I’d also recommend the sales audio programs that I’m doing right now with Carolyn Edlund. She really knows her stuff.

  3. This is a great list! I’m actually reading “Seven Days in the Art World” right now.
    One that I would *highly* recommend get added is Caroll Michel’s “How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist: Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul.”

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Amy: Yes, that’s a good one. The only reason it isn’t on this list is because my edition is old and, I’m sure, outdated. I haven’t seen a newer edition. VERY little about the Internet in my version!

    2. I just checked the publisher’s website (Henry Holt) and this book is now in its SIXTH edition! And while that is 2009, which is a few years ago, the author has a website,
      My son bought me this book when he figured out I was serious about being an artist, and it is still, in my humble opinion, a GREAT book to read to understand the ecology and culture of the art world. (I read the third and the fourth editions, and now I will have to read the sixth!)

    3. Alyson Stanfield

      Priscilla: Did you see a big difference between the 3rd and 4th editions? I should probably take a look at the 6th. Or maybe wait until the 7th. 😉

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Thanks for that, Sari. I can’t believe I haven’t read that book. Will check it out.

  4. Lindsey Harnish

    Thank you so much, Alyson and all for the excellent suggestions! I see some familiar titles from previous readings and wishlists and a lot of fresh insights. Thanks also for the congrats–very exciting to make books like these available to my community and my state (thanks to the excellent inter-library sharing systems).

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Happy to help, Lindsey. This was a post that needed to be written. I was delighted to see your question in my inbox.

  5. I look forward to tracking down some of these.
    Alyson, I’ve started marketing my artist partner’s work (website, YouTube etc) but have been hampered by his lack of interest in promotion work. I recently bought the Only72 deal because I saw your name in there with some other useful stuff. I was thrilled to see a copy of ‘I’d rather be in the studio’ and after spending half a day speeding through it I gave it to Mike and told him to read it. By the second chapter he went out and bought folders and notebooks and has been making reams of lists and jotting down ideas. He’s quite annoyed with himself for not starting earlier but had never come across a resource that championed self promotion. He still has plenty to read but the light bulb went off and I can see our COMBINED efforts are really going to kick some butt in the next few years! No more excuses 🙂

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Lara: That is so awesome! Usually I tell people not to try to drag along their artists, but I’m glad it worked out this time. Very cool.

  6. Perfect timing! I just petitioned a couple artist groups I belong to, looking for art business titles!! Little did I know I should have just caught up on my blog reading first!!
    Thank you for what looks to be a great list!
    All my best, Kim

  7. I’ll be certain to check these out. Thanks Alyson.
    Chris Tyrell writes and teaches the business of art and while one of his books has a Canadian bias, lots of material applies regardless, & the other is a series of case studies with artists.

  8. Pingback: Curating a Library of Art Business Books — Art Biz Blog | Books Palace

  9. Hi Alyson – thanks for posting this; it’s a great list and a good topic for an article! I recently purchased “The Profitable Artist … etc.” by Artspire and am finding it to be very thorough and well written. Thanks for all you do for the arts community… and best wishes from England!

  10. Cay Lang’s “Taking the Leap: Building a Career as a Visual Artist” is a fine resource, first written in 1998 and revised in 2006. At an art business conference in Fresno in the early 1990s, I was so impressed with her non-pretentious honesty, humor and practical advice. Her book focuses on the gallery route and has step-by-step advice, based on a 6 month class in which she taught beginning artists how to become professional artists with good results.

  11. While not the most uplifting book, I would recommend: Collecting Contemporary Art edited by Adam Lindemann. It lists the players in the Art World with direct interviews of “uppety ups.” Plus many images of contemporary works of art.

  12. I enjoyed reading this insightful post. I think it’s fair to say that there isn’t just one book out there that will answer all your questions as your artist but I love your list! I am happy to see that I already have a few of them including your book! I think I Rather Be in the Studio is wonderful. It’s something they should be teaching in art school. I only had one class that was related to actually earning a living as an artist. Also I find that too many books only focus on the gallery approach to earning a living. There are so many other ways! For example, I am a pet portrait artist and receive commissions.

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