So, you’ve sold a piece of art. Now what?


Image (c) Tracy Wall

Side note: Last night I purchased a work very much like this one (not sure it’s the same one since I had to leave it on the wall!) at Tracy Wall’s opening reception. I think, gasp, that it's my first pastel. It even made an appearance in my dream.

An email from a reader wants to know what you give to the person who buys art from you–”without going overboard.”

Consider leaving your collectors with these items.

  • A receipt
  • Your business card
  • A brochure or “one sheet” (more on the one sheet later) or statement and bio
  • Instructions on caring for the art
  • Resources they might be interested in
  • Something that says that you retain copyright and what this means if they want to use the image on a holiday card or blow it up and make posters out of it (hey, it happens!). See the Legal Guide for Visual Artists to get the lingo. I would say this is one of the most important pieces of paper you can give a buyer. Most people have no clue about intellectual property, and why should they?

Some artists will include a “Certificate of Authenticity,” which some collectors might find to be pretty neat. However (warning!), it’s my experience that very sophisticated collectors (truly, those purchasing thousands and thousands of dollars worth of art every year) will find this kind of odd. It just isn’t done at that level.

Follow-up with collectors.

I would say that you probably shouldn’t give your buyers–upon purchase–anything more than the items above. The challenge will be following up and staying on their radar screens. (Addition: As Tina noted in the comments and I chillingly forgot when I published this: Send thank-you notes immediately! Don't neglect this step.) Every couple of months you could send your buyers any of the following.

  • Articles about you, about art, about collecting
  • Articles about anything else you come across that you know they’re interested in (I was just thinking of you . . . )
  • Changes in your contact information
  • Invitations
  • Newsletters
  • Announcements of awards
  • Postcards from your art travels

What have I forgotten? How do you follow up with buyers, whether it’s immediately upon purchase or at a later date?

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19 thoughts on “So, you’ve sold a piece of art. Now what?”

  1. And don’t forget the thank you card after the sale. 🙂 (your own advice Alyson) I agree about CoAs. I do them for my Etsy and eBay buyers but to be honest no one else expects them. I then try to do occasional emails when I have shows, an art fair or other news. I don’t want to spam them but I think every couple months is okay. More general announcements and more frequent ‘news’ goes on my blog. But I LOVE the idea of postcards! Even if I spread the mailing list over the course of the year I’d love to send everyone a postcard, especially since most of my work is about my travels. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Hi, As a recent artist, I do try to keep in touch with marketing ideas and even more important : ethical issues. I do believe that it’s very important to transmit an image of confidence. And to put it to practice, of course. A good name on the market is difficult to built but easy to loose and with all the competition, quality and reliability is a must. Kind regards, José Carrilho

  3. About the certificate of authenticity… It was very trendy for a while (and may still be) to include them with reproductions, but it always seemed strange to me. I sign and number my gicleés. That seems to be enough to me. Am I wrong? There is a sticker on the back of the frame or matt (all archival) that speaks to the archival quality of the product. I also had an awkward moment when a patron was shocked to see a reproduction of my original (which she had purchased) hanging in a local gallery display. We had never had the copy right discussion. When it seems appropriate I do mention that I retain the copyright when people buy originals but it’s a little edgey to bring it up. Any thoughts?

  4. Hi Alyson, In regard to a COA, I provide one for each original painting. The certificate also states my retainment of copyright, and has space to record information on future transfers of ownership. I’ve found my collectors appreciate receiving the COA, as it authenticates the painting, records it’s history, and substantiates their investment.

  5. I just borrowed a painting that I had sold a few months ago to have prints made of it. The art consultant I was working with really wanted this painting and I told her it was already sold, but I did know the buyer and I said I would ask him if he would let me have my painting for a week to get the proof made. He was very open to it. I wrote him another thank you on one of my cards, but I also added a $25 gift certificate to a restaurant (group to choose from). Did I do too much or was that ok? I figured if it weren’t for him allowing me to have my painting back, I would never be able to get the prints done. He also contacted me to tell me he had bought the painting, otherwise I would not have known were it ended up.

  6. Carol Lois Haywood

    Along with most of the above, I send six printed notecards showing the purchased image on the front as a bonus gift with the original painting. I find this to be a subtle, more generous way to communicate the idea that I appreciate their support very much. . .and I also retain this image and will be using it for my own needs in the future. They learn that they may have another six anytime in the future free on request. Some of my buyers are first-time art purchasers and therefore seem to like very much having the notecards to announce their new involvement in art. It’s free marketing for me and also communicates (I feel) that the exchange involved was not only about money.

  7. Thank you Alyson for thepurchase, the posting and the link! And such a good discussion! I, too, will include a COA with the purchase of a giclee. I’ve often wondered how a buyer would feel if, after the purchase, I wanted to make prints. The ones I have asked (hypothetically) told be they would be honored that I wanted to make prints of their purchase. They felt in increased the value of their original. Nancy, I think you handled the situation well. Carol, what a great idea!

  8. Michael Lynn Adams

    Great discussion. Great ideas. Many I have pondered, including the COA and the notecards as gifts. Thank y’all.

  9. Sarah Regan Snavely

    Love the postcard idea! Can I “borrow” it? Great discussion — these are things that I mean to do, but rarely get done. Thanks for the encouragement!

  10. When I sell a painting, I attach a small plastic bag containing a picture hanging hook and nail to the wire. In the bill of sale a small paragraph is included saying: COPYRIGHT AND REPRODUCTION RIGHTS RESERVED BY THE ARTIST. This artwork may not be copied or reproduced in any way whatsoever without the written consent of the artist.

  11. i’m curious to hear about what artists do for frequent, or long-term collectors. gifts? perks? also, what about thank yous for galleries after a great year wraps up?

  12. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Nancy: I think that was an extra special touch. And, no, I don’t think it’s too much. Everyone: Of course you can borrow the postcard idea. It’s why I put it here. Steal it to your heart’s content! Carol: Yes to the note cards. Great touch! Sylvia: I think that’s fine, but if it were up to me, I’d make it a little friendlier or at least have a friendly discussion with the person. Too often, artists are so afraid of copyright violation that they end up telling people everything they can’t do. Why not turn it around: “I’d love it if you put this in your family holiday letter or bragged about it in a post a low-resolution image on your blog (with a link to my Web site, of course!), but please realize that I, the artist, retain copyright to this image. It may not be copied or reproduced in any other way without my prior consent.” Laura: Actually, I believe it’s the law in California to provide COA for MULTIPLES, not originals. Your question led me to do a new post on this, which I’ll do momentarily.

  13. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Sylvia: I’m so used to my name being misspelled that I didn’t even notice it. Don’t worry about it!

  14. Pingback: Give Away Your Art ??? — Art Biz Blog

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