Dear Rep. An open letter from an art producer to a rep.

©Ann Elliott Cutting –

Dear Rep;

Nice to hear from you!  Our jobs are really similar, and we have a lot to gain from each other, so we can both be better at making great creative happen.

I feel blessed to call many of you my friend, and so appreciate your dedication to this craft. Your analogy of doing a dance together is good. I also think it has similar elements of dating, if you think about it. Waiting for the phone to ring, the first kiss/job, the discovery of new hot talent, being stood up, finding out he has a beer budget and she has champagne tastes. It’s all in there, isn’t it?

I’ll try to address each of the points from your letter.

When you ask me what our budget is, usually I don’t have access to that info, or I’m given a number that needs to include so much more: my print producer’s costs, comp illustrator, additional stock photography, my billable time, agency travel, etc. I will try to share with you what I do know that might help you figure out the right approach.

Personally, I don’t kiss and tell, er– divulge who folks are bidding against, until after the job has been awarded (“awarded”– what a word!)  I don’t see how that is relevant and it doesn’t feel professional.

I try to offer feedback about creative calls, and estimates, when I have time. With several clients’ projects, some double or triple bidding, I don’t have the time I would like to be able to give much other feedback, until we’ve zeroed in the photographer we are going to work with. Then, if it’s one of yours, you won’t be able to shut me up.

It’s so much easier to offer positives, when really, it’s probably best to hear what’s not working with a portfolio, or website.  I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and unless I’m invested, I don’t want to run that risk. I hope you understand. I guess that is the good thing about forging our friendships—those we work closely with, and get to know, seem like its fair game to explore that with.

I will always let you know when I am asking for a third bid, and your photographer has little chance of getting the job. To do otherwise is just plain dishonest, and does nothing to help build trust and a good relationship.

I know how much time putting estimates together takes, and also that you have to juggle schedules if you think you are being considered.  I don’t ever want to be the art buyer you jokingly want to charge each time I  make you triple bid for the hell of it, or revise an estimate 20 times. Experience helps me be able to do the math, to some extent. However, I do have a responsibility to my clients and my agency to get the best talent for the best price, with as much usage as possible.

What kind of art buyer doesn’t tell you that you didn’t get the job?! Does that really happen? Ok, I know I have been guilty of this a time or two, but once I have reached the hired photographer, worked out all the details and made it official, I will definitely let you know.

Are you kidding—portfolio shows are one of the best parts about being stuck inside this cube, and not out on production bossing everyone around! We love seeing the new work, (and you) whether its books or iPads. I know how much work and expense goes into these shows, and we really appreciate it. What irks me is the Reps who show up late, or unprepared, or get drunk! (this happened twice last year) or don’t keep tabs on their items and they go missing, I have heard horror stories about demanding Art Buyers who basically ask you to feed the whole agency when you come, and that is just plain rude. I do know that most Creatives will not break away to attend portfolio shows that don’t have treats. If I decline a portfolio show more than once, it is likely because your talent wouldn’t work well for our agency. I don’t want to waste your time or ours.

I appreciate the email blasts to alert me who is doing what. Unfortunately, my inbox is inundated with them– half are from sub-par talent, and repeating weekly. So I get a little jaded. Rather than e-blast every Sally, Dick and Jane, every few days, I wish reps/photographers would market the appropriate audience, once a month or when there’s truly awesome new work. Most of you do a great job of researching and reaching out to who you want to work with. And I’m so thrilled to see great new work!

Please keep the dialogue flowing.

Can’t wait to see you at the next donut party, er, I mean, portfolio show!

Bonnie Brown

Sr. Art Producer

10 thoughts on “Dear Rep. An open letter from an art producer to a rep.

  1. Great Bonnie. Thanks for the reply and your comments. Your answers are wonderful.

    I think though most of the agents will disagree about your comment about knowing who we are bidding against We want to see if the others are similar in style, region, and seemingly in the same price range. For instance I have estimated against some of the same photographers over and over again. I know that we are basically in the same level of production or if we are not, I can sort of tell but viewing their work. Other times there is a new kid on the block who just will price it out for a dollar so more. I’ve also been considered along with some of the legends in the business and it gives me an idea that they are series about their budget or it’s not the only issue.

    Anyway it is a valuable piece of the estimating puzzle.

  2. Bonnie,

    Before I run off to do pre pro for a shoot tomorrow, your input as an art producer is very valuable.

    As a photographer I encourage others to work with consultants to help you edit your images, and strategize your email and direct marketing campaigns to art buyers and reps.

    Bruce Eisenberg

  3. Thank you Bonnie for your thoughtful response. I love that you look forward to portfolio showings. Sometimes it seems that creatives, in particular, don’t have the time anymore to meet face to face, but it is always welcomed! And getting drunk at a portfolio showing, really, WOW,for shame! That is so beyond imagining!
    I do agree with Norman about knowing whom we are bidding against. I have had experiences where we were bidding not only against other established photographers, but turn-key production houses as well, with whom there was no way to compete. I told the art buyer at the time that that was the case and we respectfully declined bidding.
    So glad that this dialogue is continuing!
    Thank you!

  4. Heather, thank you for beginning this dialogue. It comes up often and it is nice to discuss it in a forum where we are comfortable to express ourselves. It is so important to encourage new refreshing ways of working together. As we all know, relationships are like fine wines. They open up over time.
    And Bonnie, thank you for eloquently saying what so many of us feel. I am grateful and inspired by your words. Especially, because the dance we do can be so intricate at times. And being a good facilitator is crucial.
    How lucky are we to work in such a creative industry? To be able to work with top-notch talent, creatives and reps in so many exciting forms.
    You go girls! I look forward to more sharing.

  5. Bonnie! Thanks so much for writing this and Heather, thanks so much for posting. Really. It gives such great insight to a process that can sometimes be mysterious.

  6. Pingback: Dear Rep. Let’s not be afraid. Love, Art Buyer. « Heather Elder Represents Blog

  7. thank you bonnie and that you heather for starting this.

    I too have to agree with norman and i think most reps would line up behind how important it can be knowing who you bid against/with. in the long run it helps us know where our talent is positioned or should be positioned. for me it has less to do about the actual bid in economic terms, but knowing how to best stay on our toes in this mad industry.

    i look forward to more communication on this topic, thank again!


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