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Quality, Partners and Promotion: Key Ingredients for Success Books by Artists

There is often additional information on the recording that is not in this written interview.  Inspire yourself and listen while you make art.

Welcome to ArtMatters - a monthly e-zine where you can be inspired by artists, art world insiders and arts organization leaders who are making a difference in their art businesses and communities.

Photo Credit John MurrayPat Fiorello is a full time painter whose work exhibits her reverence for light and color, combined with her subject matter of architecture and lush flora.

You can learn more about how she makes a good living and enjoys her artist lifestyle from our previous interview here.

Long-time member and former chair of the Atlanta Artists Center, Pat Fiorello is a professional artist and art instructor known for her impressionistic landscapes and floral paintings in oil and watercolor.

Inspired to make the expression of beauty a higher priority in her life, in 2002, she left a successful 20-year career as a Marketing Vice President with major corporations including The Coca-Cola Company, and made a life change to become a full-time artist.

Pat's paintings have been in over 65 juried shows and more than 20 one-woman exhibits. Her work has been licensed for greeting cards and home décor products and appeared in the book Splash 11, The Best of Watercolor, published by North Light Books. She is a Signature member and past president of the Georgia Watercolor Society.

Pat's personal painting travels and workshops have taken place in France, New Mexico, Bermuda, Canada, Ireland, The Virgin Islands and Italy. Today we'll focus on how she conceived, designed and published her book "Bella Italia, Italy Through the Eyes of an Artist."       


A.C.T.: What's changed in your art business and art marketing?   

I expanded into oil painting from painting exclusively in watercolor several years ago, and that has now become my primary medium when painting in my studio.

While I still have a lot of collectors who prefer my watercolor, the oils have helped me offer a broader range of options for collectors and galleries that prefer oils.

Oils also give me the freedom to paint larger, and that has helped me with clients who wanted larger work than I could produce on standard watercolor paper.

I'm also teaching more international travel workshops in France, St. Thomas and Italy.

And of course developing and launching the book was the biggest news last year.

Click Here for a larger PDF of the book cover.

A.C.T.: What inspired you to create your book?

I've always loved Italy - my lineage of all four grandparents traces back to Italy - so I have a natural affinity for the country and culture. Italy suits my love of painting light and lush foliage as well as distinctive architecture.

I have taken and taught many workshops there over the years in Tuscany and the Lake Region.

I had always thought I'd do a book "someday" but had not taken action on it. After coming back from Italy in 2012, a fellow artist whom I respect and who had studied in Florence saw my work and said "you should write a book."  Her encouragement gave me the impetus to ask myself "what am I waiting for?"

My intention for the book is to share the beauty and joy of Italy through my artwork. I really wanted to create a visual tour of Italy in a book. For those who have been there it may bring back special memories of good times, and for those who have yet to go, it may inspire them to add a trip to Italy to their "bucket list."

The sub title of the book is "Italy Through the Eyes of an Artist." There is a long history of people going to Italy to study and to create. The light, the diagonals, and the culture the architecture all contribute to the allure. I also include site photos in a chapter to illustrate these aspects.

Of course the book is also a great marketing tools for me.

A.C.T.:  What was the process of creating the content for the book from the idea to the writing and image selection?

I started researching the book process in late 2012 and the book was released in Oct 2013.

I started with images. I first printed out thumbnails of the many paintings I'd done of Italy. Then I physically organized them on a large white foam core board on my dining room floor.

Once I saw there were natural groupings of subject matter and enough pieces in total, I began researching how to go about publishing. I interviewed and got proposals from several people.

As the project progressed, I did additional paintings to fill in as needed or where special design considerations factored in, such as a two-page spread. The final book includes over 80 of my paintings, both oils and watercolor.

Beyond the paintings, I also include narrative that helps people understand why Italy is such a feast for the eyes - the aesthetics, texture, color, the light - how an artist sees the landscape.

A.C.T.: What criteria did you use to do your research for publication?

I've never done anything like this before so when I started out I had no idea what was involved.

I thought about getting a publisher but I wasn't sure that there would be broad national interest in this narrow area of interest of art lovers and Italy lovers.

Next, I investigated self-publishing options.

Quality of presentation and color accuracy/consistency were of primary importance since this is an art book with 80% images and 20% words.

I own print on demand books from several artists whose work I know or collect. Some books were pretty good and others did not have a faithful reproduction of the color palette that I knew the artist actually uses, so I had some concerns about the lack of consistency with print on demand. Not only does the color vary by supplier, the colors also vary from day to day, so I could not count on consistent color throughout all copies.

Although print on demand required less out of pocket expense upfront, the cost per book was much higher and would have been prohibitive for selling it at a price that I felt was broadly affordable for people. I decided on printing a quantity to sell, so I had better quality and lower costs.

Then there were lots of decision to make along the way - how long, hard cover vs. soft cover, paper stock, dust jacket design and art, cover colors etc.

A.C.T.: What about the process and people involved in review, editing, indexing the content?

I interviewed three different people who were in the business of helping artists self-publish art books. I learned what questions to ask, what questions they asked me and what was important to know and do.

I chose to work with Michelle Morton of Morton Media Arts since she had specific expertise in developing art books. She was the most expensive, but quality was important to me.  I also knew an artist who had worked with her and gave a good referral.

Michelle and I did about 95% of the work ourselves. Toward the end she called in a graphic designer to help optimize fonts and layout and a copy editor to clean things up a bit, but there really weren't a lot of people involved.

Michelle suggested I arrange the images and text in a loose-leaf binder to show the order I wanted. This was helpful as a mock-up of the final book.

I really appreciated her attention to detail, especially as we approached the home stretch, for example, the last chance to proof read pre-publication.

A.C.T.: What tips do you have for artists who want to do a book about the way to get the best images?

There were a few headshots done by professional photographer John Murray here in Atlanta and maybe a couple of photos of me painting on location that students took in Italy, Other than that I personally took the photos of all the Italy scenes and all my own artwork on my Canon "point and shoot" camera.

I took the photos outdoors under natural light (but not direct sunlight) upright on an easel. Most images were 300dpi, but I took them in a fairly large size so they could be reduced and still be crisp. A few were scans that I use for my reproductions since they are already high quality. I sent them to the publisher either on a CD or via Dropbox on-line.

A.C.T.: How did you select a printer?

Michelle at Morton Media Arts did the research to identify a suitable printer. We decided on using Jostens in TN. I preferred working with someone in the U.S., even though I know a lot of books are now printed in China, because I wanted to make sure to check that the quality was there at every stage. I did not want to get the books back from a foreign printer and be stuck with something I would not be proud of or that would not represent the quality of my art.

I actually went to the press run to color proof the book as it was being printed. It was fun, a learning process and Jostens was excellent to work with.  I would definitely use them again.


A.C.T.: How do you take orders, package, ship and handle payments and receipts?


  • I am personally fulfilling orders from my studio. It's not been too labor intensive because I get a few orders at a time.
  • I have a page on my website dedicated to the book where I have a PDF that is a preview of a few pages of the book.
  • I set up a PayPal link to take orders, accept payments and issue receipts.
  • Once I receive notification from PayPal that I have a book order, I contact the buyer to see if they want me to inscribe their name in the book; I'll autograph it and add a personal message to the buyer or gift recipient.
  • I ordered boxes and bubble wrap from U-line that the book fits into perfectly. I have a few boxes put together at all times so that when an order comes in I can take a book, sign it, pack it and quickly get it ready to be mailed.
  • I usually go to the post office once a week, although right before Christmas I made some extra last minute runs for people who wanted books sent as gifts.
  • I include a thank you note with an image of one of my paintings and also made bookmarks with images of several of the painting from the book and information on how to order. I ordered them from Overnight Prints on-line. They did a great job - good quality, easy to work with, shipped quickly and reasonable prices.

Book Signing Frameworks Gallery

A.C.T.: How do you use this book to market your work?

  • I launched with a book signing and opening of an art exhibit at one of my galleries that was featuring some of the paintings in the book.
  • Since then I have done other book signings and talks, have gotten local newspaper and radio press.
  • For the book signings, six months ahead of publication, I approached some of the people I have already partnered with in my business-galleries, my local art supply store, art centers and then other groups and venues knew about the book and approached me. I kept them posted along the way and they put the signing on the calendar just as they would any other event.
  • For the initial launch, I wrote the press release and got input/approval from the gallery. They sent it to some of their local contacts and I sent it to some others.
  • Some newspapers called me for an interview and others just ran the press release with photo of the book as submitted.
  • My art supply store - where I am a very good customer - had a vendor day called Art Folio in November and I took part in that. They also sell the book.
  • I was a featured speaker at our local arts organization where I did a book signing and talk called "Travel and Art - Perfect Together." They needed a program and I got to market my book.

A.C.T.: What have collectors and buyers said about your book?

People have loved the book and been inspired. One student even made me a hand made card with her congratulatory note. Here's what a few people have said:

"Thank you for getting the book to me so quickly and for inscribing it as well.   Congratulations!! It is absolutely gorgeous!!! You are so talented (which I already knew) and you have put your art into a really lovely volume. I plan to sit down with your book and a cup of tea this weekend and remember how much I loved our trip to Italy and how much I can't wait to go back!!  Best of luck with the book release. I hope it is a big success for you!"

"Pat! I got your book today and just finished reading the whole thing. It's really lovely. Very well organized and presented. Your prose is easy and engaging to read. I'm not sure I could tell you my favorite section, but if I HAD to, I think I'd say it's the urns. Maybe. I well remember some of the places, particularly Pienza. What a gorgeous day we spent there! It's an elegant accomplishment. Congratulations, my dear friend!"

I have had several collectors not only get a copy for themselves but ordered books to be shipped as gifts. I even had an on-line order from someone in Ireland and she was one of the first people to order. She has been following my blog and learned about the book there.

A.C.T.: What was your budget for the book?

I invested about $12,000 upfront, mostly for development costs and printing, with the expectation that sales of the book at $35.00 will more than repay that investment over time.

I used past earnings from my art business to fund this project. I saw it as a business investment, just as you could do advertising (which is intangible and less durable), to take my business to the next level, as well as fulfillment of a dream and a way to share the joy of Italy with a broader group than just those who join me on my workshop trips.

The two major expenses were design of the book and printing. Other expenses like shipping materials were minimal.

A.C.T.: What worked as you hoped or better?

Collaboration with publisher and printer were both excellent. In both cases the people I worked with were professional, good communicators, responsive and great at customer service.  I felt that we were working in partnership and didn't have to track them down - they replied quickly to calls, emails etc.

There was strong attention to detail and commitment to producing something of quality, and they shared my vision of creating something beautiful that would inspire others.

A.C.T.: What didn't work as well as you hoped?

Can't think of anything - except maybe timing.  It took longer than expected to go from art to the PDF handed off to the printer due to some extenuating circumstances, but it was more important to get it right than rush it so I tried to be patient when faced with delays.

Life happens. There were some personal / family emergencies that came up along the way which slowed things down by a few months. But in the end, a few months of delay was inconsequential. In business we used to say, "Don't rush to failure!"

It turned out well that the launch was in October and that helped pre-holiday season orders.

A.C.T.: What would you do differently?

I would have taken more pre-orders.

With the initial enthusiasm of the launch people are excited and say they want to order but as time goes on it may not be top of mind.

It would have been easy to set up a PayPal pre-order link with the very first communication of the book, which I shared on Facebook.

A.C.T.: What advice would you give to artists who would like to produce an art book?  


  • Make sure you have plenty of art to choose from to fully represent your body of work;
  • Be open to create new paintings for the book (and maybe use a book as motivation to create new work);
  • Take the best quality photos you can;
  • Be prepared for a lot of work;
  • Take time and pay attention to detail;
  • Figure out where do the people interested in your book mingle;
  • Plan how can you create a way where all of you benefit.

When I did promotion, I also mentioned other partners. The idea is to create winning exchanges.

It is really a labor of love but it is well worth it if this is a dream of yours.

You can learn more about "Bella Italia, Italy Through the Eyes of an Artist" at