Your artist newsletter is for keeping your list warm. It's not for making sales.
By way of explanation, a definition is first required.
An Artist Newsletter Is ...
Many artists call every email they send a “newsletter.” There's nothing wrong with that, but I want to split some hairs. (Since this is my blog, we'll use my definitions.)
An artist newsletter is an email sent consistently, which might have regular features such as your work (nonnegotiable), collector or student testimonial, featured product, and recommended articles. Those are just examples.
In the past, I implored you to publish a newsletter on a regular schedule—stressing that you will build trust by sticking to a precise schedule (e.g. The third Thursday of every month).
I no longer believe the regular schedule is critical. I don't, sorry to say, think your subscribers are awaiting your message with bated breath.
But I do believe publishing on a regular schedule is a promise you make to yourself and your art.
A newsletter schedule instills a habit of staying in touch with people who have asked to hear from you.
Why You'll Benefit from a Newsletter Schedule
You're more likely to use your list when you have a schedule.
You're less likely to let your list go cold and find yourself, one day, six months later, trying to figure out what to say to your subscribers about your absence.
[ If you find yourself with a cold list, see How to Warm Up a Cold Email List. ]
Your newsletter is a promise you make to yourself and your art: to share it with those who have gone out of their way to ask to hear from you.
When you have the schedule for your artist newsletter, you are much less likely to ignore the commitment.
And even though your newsletter isn't for making sales, selling your art will be much easier when you've stayed in touch with your list.
Earning the Right to Ask
Newsletters help nurture relationships with the people who have asked to hear from you, but they’re not much good if you write them only when you feel like it or, worse, only when you want something from your list, such as interest in a sale, attendance at an opening, or registration for your classes.
You might share stories, your latest pieces, and/or work in progress. The point is that you share consistently, and that each newsletter isn’t focused solely on making sales.
This effort earns you the right to ask for something, like those things I mentioned above, from time to time.
Be Clear That Your Art is for Sale
I said each newsletter isn’t focused solely on making sales, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sell or try to sell from a newsletter.
You absolutely should.
You always want people to know that your work is for sale. The best way to do this is to post prices of your art in your newsletter.
Sharing prices is not pushy or aggressive. It's actually a helpful service—providing potential buyers with information they need to make decisions.
If you don’t sell your art from your studio … if the work is available for sale through a gallery or other venue … tell people exactly how to purchase it.
I believe that sales (mostly) happen as a result of personal contact—not in an email blast sent to hundreds of people. But you still need the latter. You need to keep your name and art in front of people.
You want to be the artist most on their mind when they go to buy art. Your artist newsletter can do this for you.
This article was first published July 2, 2015. It has been updated with original comments intact.