…so, as promised:
An actual email about actual HEADLINES.

What >> Why >> How

What, why and how are the basic information offering in a headline. You need to demonstrate, in your headline, that you have RELEVANT & VALUABLE content for your audience.
The what >> is what you’re offering (art, story, information, tips).

The why >> is why they care (it’s the benefit of your ‘what’ – we want to have your art, we feel good about your stories – they make us feel inspired and connected, your information and tips are helpful and make things easier for us).

The how >> is how we get the results (get inspired by reading the story, get better results at framing by reading the tips… the ‘how’ always points to clicking the link).


  • “How to Frame Your Art for More Sales”

  • “Guns, Gangs & Gamboge: Your Favourite Yellow Has a Checkered Past”

  • “Protect Your Art! The Top 5 Tips to Prevent Damage”

All three of these contain the what, why and how of headline construction, AND they fall into 1 of 5 categories of headline “types”.
(The types are not carved in stone and often a headline will use bits from several different types.)


1: Danger! Secret! Attention!

News agents regularly take advantage of this type of headline – it’s the scare tactic headline.

ie. “What You Don’t Know About Household Cleaners that Could Kill You”

It implies that they have knowledge that will keep you safe.

  • Warning signs
  • Avoid Mistakes (make you look stupid, ruining your business)
  • Lies
  • Hoaxes/scams
  • “the truth about”
  • questions trust
  • creates common enemy:
    “5 Proofs that the Conservative Government Doesn’t Care about Art and Artists” 
    (Now we’re all bonded in our communal loathing).


Honestly, I hate these headlines.

I think they’re manipulative, sleazy and fear mongering. It’s why I stopped watching the news and reading the paper.

Use it sparingly and only when you’re really, truly concerned about a topic that you want to share with your audience to honestly help them out.

You will break trust in a heartbeat if you constantly use scare tactics to get the readers to open your emails.


2: Solution/Promise

This is a common headline and it speaks to our desires and aspirations.

ie. “Want to Make Art Full-Time? 10 Tips to Show You How”

    They are very active headlines:

  • Take charge
  • Simplify
  • Short cuts to…
  • How to..
  • List / Top Tips

You’re speaking to your audience of potential collectors and buyers of your artwork. Your headlines are going to revolve around the solution/promises about and related to your art.
ie. “In Need of Some Calm in Your Busy Life? Create a Safe Space with Art.”


3: Name Dropping

Align yourself with famous brands and artists. 

ie. “Market Your Art like Warhol.” (That’s something that I would use.)

You could use something like,

ie.“Frida Kahlo’s 10 Ways Art Will Save Your Life”  – ooh nice.

It’s pretty shocking, but also very pro-art – which is something we as artists need to regularly promote – the importance and value of art itself.

  • Do/be/act like the successful brand or artist
  • Secrets of the famous
  • You actually have to know about the art movement or artist so that you can actually make the connection stick.


4: Intrigue & Non Sequitors

This is one that I use a lot.
How many of you have read a headline I’ve sent and thought – what is this about? And had to click to satisfy your curiosity?


That’s the point of a headline – to get you to click through to the article.

The point of the first line of the article is to get you to read the second line.

The purpose of the second line is to get you to read the third…. You understand.

Creating mystery or intrigue is a great way to get people to click through. We are curious creatures and want our curiosity satisfied.

You can use the rule of 3, alliteration and rhyme in this headline (or in any headline – I just find it works best in the intrigue/non-sequitor arena – there’s more flexibility.)

The headline above about Guns, Gangs and Gamboge? – that’s an intrigue headline that used the rule of 3 and alliteration.

“Pennies, Paint and Prostitutes: Are You Selling Yourself for Your Art?”

Haha! That one will grab your attention.

But it’s got to be actually related to your article or event.
You can’t publish an edgy headline like that and then not make the connection in your article and follow through for your audience. 

You can also make up words in a headline:

“Drips, Drops and Flops: The Pollackization of Modern Art”

“Sprayification: The Rise of Urban Graffitti”


I guarantee that creating good intrigue headlines will boost your click through rate.

5: The Cosmo Swipe

Look to publications like Cosmo, TMZ and the National Enquirer for shocking and powerful headlines.

They’ve got a great formula for making you pick up their magazine at the checkout counter or tuning in even after the commercials.

The next time you’re in the grocery store – scan the magazine rack and see how you can apply their headlines to your art purposes.

“10 Ways to Guarantee Orgasmic Art”

“Make Him Squirm: The Rise of Female Sexual Power in Art”


Power Words

Be aware of your adjective (describing words).

These are the “power” words that can connect or repel your audience.

They’re descriptive and associative.

“The Smart Artists’ Plan for a Successful Summer Art Fair”

Compare that to:

“The Artist’s Plan for a Summer Art Fair”

We connect to “smart” & “successful” because we want to be both.

“Strong verbs. Short sentences.”
– Bernadine Healy

Headlines can be a lot of fun to craft. Let your personality go to town on them.
They’re your first and best chance to attract attention and build exposure. They’re not just for articles, but can be used for Facebook status updates, Instagram, Twitters, Pinterest and Tumblr descriptions…
…anywhere where you want to grab attention, spend a couple moments crafting a better headline.

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