Thursday, June 17, 2010

publicity, or my martha story

About 18 months ago, I was sitting at JFK waiting to get on a plane after another disappointing, soul-killing, wholesale show. My cell rang, and it was an editor from Martha Stewart Weddings. I actually said to her, "I've been waiting for your call, what took you so long?" She laughed. She wanted some of my cupcake stands, pronto, for the magazine. I don't think I have to tell you that landing a spot in Martha is the equivalent of winning the publicity lottery. I sent the cupcake stands, and waited for my free copy of the magazine that they usually send you when your item has been featured in a magazine. A couple of months go by. Finally I email the editor and ask what's up? She kindly informs me that I've been bumped to the website only. Another 6 months go by, and I get another call from her asking for a collection of cherry blossom stuff, in pink. I send it out, fingers crossed. This time I get my magazine, and I almost hyperventilate with excitement, my head filled with visions of the massive retail orders I'm about to receive. I look through the magazine, once, twice, three times. Where the hell am I? I finally find an image of my cherry blossom plate, about the size of a dime, on the fold in a mix of other product. Worse, it's layered on top of another plate, making it look like I've made that plate too. To date, I've only received inquiries about that plate underneath!

It is impossible to underestimate the importance of publicity for your business. The first time I received some major publicity was a feature article on the front page of the "Living" section of the San Francisco Chronicle. Since this was back when newspapers were still major sources of information (2004), it generated a lot of attention, which equals a lot of orders. I had a retail show soon thereafter and I literally had people lined up all day long, which was a first. Still hoping it's not a last. After the Chronicle interview, I was able to pay off my student loan. It was also a small launch pad that took me up a notch in recognition, and generated more publicity. If you look at my press page, press mentions have steadily followed after that interview.

People always ask me how I get press, and my honest answer is, "not much" which is totally unhelpful, I know. That Chronicle article was generated by a publicist the Clay and Glass Association of California hires to promote the Clay and Glass Festival, but every other press thing has been editors and writers finding me.

I'm considering hiring a publicist who specializes in working with artists. When I was first starting out and thinking about generating press, I read about how artists are supposed to put together a press packet, and send it out to editors. I've never done that. I'm not sure what the protocol is nowadays, with all of the distractions and information flowing. One thing I do know is editors at magazines, blogs, etc, need to find us, they want to find us, because fresh, interesting "product" is essential to keeping their readers attention. What have you done to get publicity? Or are you like me, just laying around and waiting for it to come to you? I'm still waiting for Martha to call again, I think third time has to be the charm.


  1. The Martha story is so sad!! The kicker is your stands look so incredibly beautiful from the SIDE view not the top!! I'm with you on the importance of any free press you can get. A couple things; do send out regular press releases either yourself or if you're on a budget find a University student involved with PRSA (look up your local PRSA Chapter) to help. DO have regular high-res images of your best work ready to e-mail to any publication -good images are always hard for a publication to come up with on short notice. Get your work out there with the new social media, a current web site, FB, Blog, Twitter and post, share, post, share... but GET IT OUT THERE :o) if your work is good you'll be picked up.

  2. I have been really lucky on the publicity front and the Edistors combing Etsy for new "product" have catapulted my career.
    I currently have a teenie tiny unnoticeable product feature in Coastal Living, but that did in fact lead to another call about a much larger feature down the hold tight, martha knows who you are!!!

  3. Good news. Even better news, once you do the publicity thing for three months, you can stop, work through the results and then see if you need to continue or if you need to hire a production crew. I think your idea of hiring a publicist is a good. Better to cooperate with an expert, and spend your time doing what you do so well. Why do I feel that you are ready to explore a new direction in your work?

  4. Hang in there! Your stuff is amazing. The SJ Merc picks up some of our stories and I can't tell you how many times we are all set then the call comes that we've been bumped to another weekend TBD. It's a sad feeling. But, Martha does know who you are and that is a huge first step. It will happen and when it does it will be so much sweeter! Have a great day!

  5. I just worked my butt off a few months ago when a wedding magazine asked me to make some cake/cupcake plates especially for a shoot. The actual cakes ended up getting cut from the shoot- meaning, so did my cake plates. They still used them as props for the wedding favors and as stands for the shoes, but it would take a magnifying glass to actually see them, let alone recognize that they were mine. I can only hope that they actually mentioned my name in the shopping guide (magazine just came out..)
    I don't have a press release either- it's a good idea though.

  6. I'm like you Whitney. Laying around waiting for the world to find me. I hope Martha calls you a third time ;)

  7. Oh how awful. What a shocking way to display something as beautiful as your cake stand!

    I'd be interested to know how things go with a publicist or press release. As for me, I think I have a long way to go before I start worrying about things like that! I only had my first sale a couple of weeks ago!!

  8. I actual laughed when I read this piece as it is sort of the story of my life.

    My map pieces were supposed to be in Conde Nast Traveler, perfect. I was so excited. I ended up "website only" during a major snow storm with power outages.

    But.....People magazine came calling, used my earrings in a feature with my name clear as day and I sold 400 pair in 3 months!

    I keep thinking I'm going to send my kit to editors, and I just never do. Hmmmmm.


    The covered dogwood bowl in blue sits on my dining room table, which was once in a Brooklyn public libary where William Styron wrote.

  9. Pretty funny story. I hope Martha invites you to be on her show!
    Your biggest fan in Japan,

  10. THat must have been really annoying for you! At the moment I've not tried to get any printed press only online features. I'm hoping that these features will lead from one thing to another.

  11. I really sympathise with your experience... I'm trying to find other ways of promoting my artwork outside local galleries... Thank you for your story. Keep trying and trying and keep producing new work, I like the nesting series... New work is what editors are constantly looking for. yes, a publicist may be one solution - worth trying. Bonne chance.

  12. My recommend -- send a delightful email/link to every high-end, cake/cupcake bakery with a catalog/internet business. Use Martha's website to identify.

    X0 -- A publicist

  13. Thanks Elise!

    And also to clarify for a few people... the piece pictured in the Martha story WAS a dessert plate, not a cake stand.

    And I have to say I was more amused by the whole thing than disappointed after I got over the shock, which took about 4 hours. I KNOW I will get my chance at Martha. To be truthful, great publicity also has to be for the right "product". My dessert plates are hard to produce and a bit underpriced, so if they had been featured prominently, it could have been a TOTAL nightmare. As excited as I was by the opportunity, I was also dreading endless dessert plate orders. So I think it worked out okay, and it also gave me a good story.