Why Mailed Art Submissions Just Don’t Work


Before the rise of the internet, if an artist wanted to submit artwork to a publisher, agent or manufacturer, the artist either had to do it personally in a face-to-face meeting or else send the art submission through the mail.

Back then, artists were told that mailed submissions had to have a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) inside to make sure the recipient was able easily to return your submission.

That led artists to assume that they could expect to receive a response – positive or negative – to their mailed submission.

The sad fact is that more often than not, they never heard anything at all.

Times Have Changed – So Change With Them!

Many large companies used to have lower-level employees on staff whose job it was to receive, open, cull through, and either pass along or file art submissions as they came in.

And companies might receive literally hundreds of such art submissions each and every month.

Do The Math

I receive an average of three a day, every single day of the year.

Do the math, and that’s just over a thousand art submissions a year.

Once artists and business really took to the internet, the number of mailed submissions tended to drop off, yet they’re still a significant proportion of the total art submissions received by art licensing agencies, as well as companies that manufacture products for sale at retail.

But mailed submissions really don’t work anymore, and I’ll tell you why.

1 – Manufacturers are devoting less time and fewer personnel to handling mailed submissions.

Staff who once had the job of processing new art submissions have either been laid off or reassigned to other jobs, and time is at a premium.

Responding to your submission, repackaging it, sealing it, and getting it through outgoing mail can be quite time-consuming.

No wonder many companies consider them a nuisance.

2 – Partly as a result of this, it’s increasingly likely that even with a SASE enclosed in your mailed package, you’ll never receive your materials back and will probably get no response at all.


In this tight market, time equals money, and many companies don’t have the staff or the time to devote to processing mailed submissions.

A quick look is the most you’re going to get, and if the artwork – not the presentation, however elaborate you make it, but the artwork itself – isn’t what the company is seeking, the package and it’s contents often go right in the trash.

I was astounded when I first heard years ago that companies were trashing and never answering artists who sent in samples of their work through the mail.

I had thought that if someone took the time to put together materials and sent them to me for review, the least I could do was send their materials back to them with a reply.

I still feel that way, and if there’s no SASE enclosed with the package but there is an email address, I’ll take the time to respond that way.

Apparently, not many people do.

3 – Companies often put aside art submissions that come through the mail “until later”, when the marketing or creative staff “can get to them.”

As packages pile up on top of a file cabinet or on shelves in a closet, they tend to be forgotten.

When they’re finally looked at by a reluctant staffer, the process can be fast and deadly.

Spend time on answering each and every one?  No way!  The employee probably feels he has better things to do.

4 – There are often problems with the mailed art submissions themselves which turn off the people who receive them.

A lot of art packages that come in the mail are a jumbleof cards, bookmarks, single sheets and the worst thing of all – CD’s.

What makes an artist think that I’m going to take the time to load up their CD – with who-knows-what virus embedded in it (this has happened to me more than once) – and go through fifty or a hundred individual scans?

Consider how much time that will take me and you’ll realize it’s a daunting task.

I guarantee you that most manufacturers who receive art on CD’s from artists they don’t know, never take the time to open them.  Into the trash!

Avoid Having Your Art Go Into The Trash

Surely there must be a way for an artist to get a representative sampling of their work in front of a creative, marketing or licensing director!

Well, there is, and it’s called the internet.

So throw away those large envelopes and mail-ready materials and get yourself an internet site to showcase your art.

Sites are available very cheaply from a number of online companies, and they can be very easy to set up.

Then send an email to the right person at a company and enclose a link to your site.

How easy is that?

The recipient clicks on the link and in the space of a minute or two can decide if the artwork might work for them or not.

Emails are also fast and easy to respond to.

Still, many companies never bother.  I’m always surprised when I receive a grateful email back from an artist I’ve turned down via an email response.

They’re just so delighted that someone took the time to actually answer them!

Apparently I’m one of the few who does, and that’s a sad commentary on the state of the market, as well as the state of what you might think is just plain courtesy.

But it’s a reality and one you’ll need to deal with in order to get your art to the right person at the right company, and move ahead toward a career in art licensing.

There are other articles on getting moving in art licensing on our Porterfield’s Fine Art site.  Check them out and learn all you can if you want to be successful in art licensing!

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(c) Lance J. Klass.  All Rights Reserved.  This article may not be reproduced with the expressed written permission of the author. 

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