by Carolyn Edlund
Artist Paul Roustan has developed an incredible body painting portfolio, and published a book this year about his work. I recently spoke with him about promotion and working smart to build a creative business.
AS: What was the purpose of writing your book?
PR: Early on, I discovered people really liked when I posted my work on social media. Surprisingly, thanks to the reaction at various gallery shows, I learned the work has an even higher value as a collection. While people love the shows, not everyone has the coin to buy several limited edition gallery pieces.
The book format is a fantastic way to offer the collection at the most reasonable price point.
Along with the proven wow factor, the book is a great way to give back by sharing my hard earned knowledge. The book includes 5 full step-by-step tutorials showing how I do what I do.
AS: How are you selling it?
PR: The book is predominantly sold through my website and Amazon. I also sell on consignment at book stores and at wholesale through various distribution channels. That is, companies buy my book and sell at their venues. For example, Makeup Artist Magazine sells the book at its IMATS trade shows.
AS: What have you learned about selling books since publication?
PR: I was totally unprepared for the full-time job that comes with selling a book. Producing a book is one thing, but selling it is a whole other ballgame. It takes relentless promotion, hustle, and financing. In order to make money, you have to spend money. And if you are not careful, you can really blow a lot of capital on fruitless pursuits.
Pretty much everything I do is operated on a shoestring budget. Instead of hiring a publicist which can cost some serious moolah and zero guarantees, I learned to do what a publicist does.
Marketing and advertising is key. Any way you can spread the word to the right demographic is gold.
Coincidentally, I did a lot of research here on Artsy Shark on various things that can be done to market artwork. There is such a wealth of information available on the site.
I also connected with an Amazon top reviewer to generate sales. They regularly receive products in exchange for an honest review. Even large corporations throw their wares at these reviewers because they have the reach and respect of some of the finest bloggers.
My biggest practice is analyzing where to spend money. I try to maximize return at the lowest cost. If I spend $500 here, what kind of return can I expect to receive? Is that same $500 better spent elsewhere? In my experience with my product, a Facebook ad is NOT money well spent. I’d rather spend that money on a trade show booth so I can get the book in people’s hands and let them develop the desire to buy it. In that regard, my strategy is highly dependent on a quality product.
To answer the question simply, I’ve learned how to be a better marketer and salesman.
AS: Who do you see as the audience for your book?
PR: My largest audience is people who enjoy something “different”. My work is not your typical body of art. In fact, body painters are seemingly the “black sheep” of the art-world. Many fine art critics turn their nose up at body painters, and some low brow artists roll their eyes. I believe this is due to the hard-headed belief that face & body painting is only relevant at birthday parties and Mardi Gras. As a result, high level body painters must trail blaze to get recognition within respected waters.
I’ve been told that “It’s not art” on many occasions.
Meanwhile, people all over the world express their appreciation and fascination with the art form via social media.
When people actually take a moment to look, I get a lot of “WOW!”
I expect the book to be a form of inspiration and instruction to those that want to learn more about face and body art.
Portrait photography lovers can also feed their cravings with over 300 images included in the book.
AS: Have you used any out-of-the-box strategies for promotion?
PR: The other day I was waiting at the barber shop to get a haircut. The waiting table was lathered in various men’s interest magazines. It occurred to me that it’s the perfect place to leave a copy of my book. I believe more people would flip through the book there than at a book store since there is far less competition.
Applying my own skills as a body painter also helps. For example, at a trade show, painting a model at my booth creates a traffic jam, drawing interest and eyes to my table.
At galleries, the book becomes the reasonable price point for people to take home their unique experience. At workshops where I teach airbrushing, it becomes a valuable keepsake for students.
AS: What other formats do you see as a way to sell your body painting?
Alongside sales of my book, I generate most of my income through the display and sales of limited edition photographic prints of my body paintings in galleries nationwide. The prints are often larger than life. At the openings, I also have at least one fully painted model roaming the space to greet guests. the combination of art, performance, and music turns the evening into an otherworldly experience that patrons will always remember.
My work has also appeared commercially on a variety of media including The Queen Latifah Show, The Talk, Hollywood Today Live, Playboy, DIG Boston, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Providence Journal, Spike TV, Skin Wars, Sabado Gigante, and all over the internet such as Boing Boing, Laughing Squid, Huffington Post, etc.