Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Rejection Letters, Demystified...

I got a great comment on my most recent post about rejection letters. I had wondered why I was getting so many hits on people searching for "rejection letter." Were they trying to find other rejects with which to commiserate? Were they looking for wording for their own cruel rejection letters?

A gallery employee named Freshie Beth posted this comment:
"Awesome post! I work in an art gallery and I was honestly googling "artist rejection letter" to try and come up with better wording than what I usually send to artists, which I know is short and not very sweet. What can I say - I get two or three submissions a day and I have other things to do than come up with a nice, thoughtful rejection letter for each and every one. Usually the work is so awful, I'm trying to hold back and not be mean (I am blunt by nature). As a gallery director, I can translate those letters for you... When they say they're not currently seeking other artists, they're saying that they don't want to fit you in. If they liked your work and wanted to sell it, they would bring you in unless their gallery really is just a 10' x 10' space. They either don't like your work or it truly isn't a fit with their gallery. Some galleries have very narrow focuses or they just really know what their clients buys and don't want to waste your time or theirs. Our gallery has a variety of subject matter, but it is cohesive and I can tell what "fits" and what doesn't. If we reject someone, it's 95% because the work isn't good enough for our semi-high-end gallery. Out of 50 submission, I might get one that I actually think we could sell. Then, 9 out of 10 of those artists flake out and we never hear from them again. We even offered to have a show for a new artist who we spoke with a few times, then - nothing. Where did he go? The whole process is pretty ridiculous!"

There's a lot to digest there.

She confirms my original hunch that gallery directors really mean that they don't like your work when they say things like, "not a good fit," or "not looking for new artists..."

So I was thinking that it might be funny to, instead of just sending a SASE along with my materials, send a little self-addressed, stamped postcard reminiscent of those notes you sent to the kid you were crushing on in third grade:

This doesn't give them the option to say any of those things that are open for interpretation. It's either yes or no. Wouldn't you rather know why they don't like your work? Or why they don't think it's right for their gallery?

I was surprised by her statement that 9 out of 10 artists flake out. Are aritsts really that flaky? That makes me sad.

I wonder if her experiences are similar to those of other gallery owners?

11 comments:

Jennie said...

I'm still coming up from a bad rejection letter. I would far prefer one that is honest or at least has a reason. I am over 'the quality and quantity of submissions was very high' this latest one doesn't even look as if my work was looked at- everything was returned as sent. seeing it was following a call for artists I guess I expected my submission to be looked at the very least. ah well.

I have received some excellent rejections, offering other deals, good feedback etc, I am getting better at handling them all now! I can't believe artists would just flake out. that's a 'one strike- you're out' deal to me, if they don't want it there are 100 artists behind them who do! I think no matter what a response is always merited. a 'thanks for your time', or 'unfortunately I cant accept this opportunity' or whatever it might be. Politeness is always good.

The Epiphany Artist said...

Hmmm The form is a good idea but I still think artists will not always get the truth and some of the artists dont want the truth ;)

Angela Rockett said...

When I was marketing myself as an illustrator, I did send out a little self-addressed stamped postcard that had little boxes they could check for things like (these are paraphrasing): We like it, send us more; We like it, keep us on your list; and, something like, Your style doesn't suit our needs. I also left room for any comments they might have. I only got about 10% returned, but some of them took the time to write very nice comments, and even recommend other places I might consider sending my stuff to. I haven't really tried it with my fine art - not sure how galleries would react.

Thanks for sharing the response from the gallery employee. It's good to hear from the other side sometimes. It would be great if we all communicated more often, then maybe we wouldn't have "sides" at all.

Mary Richmond said...

First, it's probably important to remember this is one gallery person and she can't really speak for all. Some galleries represent way too many artists, it seems and many artist's work sits in a back room, unwrapped and unseen. Your work can't be sold if no one sees it. Second, I opened a small gallery several years ago and over the first year decided to represent artists I knew who I felt were underrepresented. Let me tell you about artists flaking out....most were incredibly unprofessional, didn't even bring cards to give to interested buyers or replenish work as it was sold! One wouldn't talk to people he didn't already know at his opening and lost thousands of dollars in sales because of his attitude. One never brought in the work a collector wanted to see and another never answered his phone. I think these all fit in the flake out category. Needless to say, I stopped carrying other people's work. I am no longer surprised that they are "underrepresented." It was quite an eye opener.

Daniel Sroka said...

The post card is a fun idea. But I'd edit it down to just "yes" or "no", with no space for explanation. I really don't care why they didn't want my work. Any answer they could give would be so subjective -- based on how my work did not fit their specific style/needs/taste -- that it wouldn't help much in dealing with others.

Daniel Sroka said...

...9 out of 10 artists flake out. Are aritsts really that flaky? That makes me sad.

Some artists, sure. Then again, flakiness is not the exclusive province of artists -- I meet plenty of business people who are just as flaky. But that just means less competition for those of us who take our work seriously.

Kari said...

Yay! I just read in a previous post that you have taken the plunge - me too! One more week to go and then it is head down to get a body of work together.

Which brings me to the matter of galleries and flaking artists. I think the commitment of getting a body of work together is beyond some artists for some reason or other and if they don't already have such work, then maybe that is why they end up backing out.

Good luck, I shall be reading about your progress...

Kari x

Rebecca said...

Congratulations on your plunge. I am one artist looking on with admiration and look forward to seeing the ups (and downs) of your journey to chase your dreams and reach your goals.

Shan said...

I think it's important to take people on their word. If a gallery owner says, "we aren't currently accepting artists" then believe them. Don't try to translate the language. That doesn't serve the you or the gallery.

If a gallery doesn't want to send out 2-3 rejection letters a day, the owner can simply write, on the gallery website, that they are not currently taking submissions. This way, they are quite justified in not responding at all. If galleries want to look at new work, writing response letters is the price of doing business.

Alyson B. Stanfield said...

Great post, great blog, Deanna. Unlike others who have commented, I'm going to see the humor (what I'm reading as humor) in your reply form solution. And I got a chuckle out of it. Why not have humor? Also, if I'm rejected (as I have been for my book proposal), I really would like to know the real reason. I want to get better.

Tricia McKellar said...

I love the card that reads like a 4th grade note--- "Do you like me? Yes or No" Thanks for the post