It's tough to think of your photography as a product and to learn how to sell it. Especially with action photography. It's no where near as direct a market as family portraits so what do you do? Never fear! APS has created a list of 10 different ways/places that you can sell your images and make money as a professional action/sports photographer!
#1: Magazines. And more specifically, magazines related to the sport you are shooting (though non-industry related magazines will sometimes buy your work as well). By far the most known way and probably the reason you are becoming or have become an action photographer. Don't count on making millions as a magazine photographer, but it is a great way to showcase your work to the industry and make connections. Check out this article for help: Get Published!
#2: Sports Product Companies. Another option you may have already though about. Try selling your images to the companies that make products for the sport you shot. They clearly need them! This can be tough to do since they generally "have a guy" who does thier photography. But if you capture a great shot with their new product, send it in and maybe they will want to hire you to shoot more. Don't worry if they don't contact you back right away, keep sending them consistently great images every few weeks or so and they may become interested. Just don't pester them with daily e-mails.
#3: Stock. Stock agencies will literally sell your images for you and you'll get comissions based on sales. This is a great option if you don't want to spend time marketing your images. Some agencies can be tough to get in, but royalty-free agencies will take almost anyone. Read more about stock agencies here: What is Stock?
#4: Local Newspapers. Depending on where you live, you can shoot events or competitions, or even just cute kids skateboarding and sell the shots to local newspapers. Getting involved with these local outlets can also lead to more sales and contacts. Contact the newspaper and submit a portfolio, then ask if they would be interested in shots from an event. They may want them for free, but try to avoid doing too much free work.
#5: Calenders/Greeting Cards. This industry always has room for more photographers. Contact calender and card companies and ask for submittal guidelines. Also send in a pitch for the type of calender you are hoping to produce. The other option is to create you're own calenders and greeting cards but this will be a costly initial investment.
#6: Athletes. Head to an event or race, and shoot a great photo of all the athletes (usually from one or two cool angles). Make sure their number plate is visible and their face as well. Then pass out your card after the event with a link to the images on your site that are available for ordering. This can work out really well, but you'll want to make sure and pass cards out to everyone. See if the event host can give you an e-mail list with all the athletes addresses for further promotion.
#7: Events. There is a TON of work and promotion that goes into every event. Photos shot at an event one year will be used for the following year as promotion. Talk to the event promoters, hosts, and sponsors. A good way to break into this industry is by shooting some events and meeting all the contacts at each one. Then send them your shots when the event is over for preview. They may love them and want to hire you the next year!
#8: State/Location Tourism. Sports are a HUGE part of tourism in most states and locations. Capture great images that showcase the location and how great it is for the sport. Then send those images to the local and state tourism bureaus. Keep submitting and eventually you will make some sales (assuming your work is great!).
#9. Hire an Agent. Photography agents can land work for you and market your images. They usually only take a commision (maybe 40%) of each job to do this. This is a great way to land diverse work without spending your time marketing. It's important to find one that is a great promoter for action sports. Otherwise you'll sign a contract with them and they won't land you any business, but will take 40% of your existing business profits.
#10. Local Art Galleries. Galleries will showcase and sell your work. Try and find one that fits your style and see if they are interested. Local business (coffee shops, restaurants, etc..) also will generally hang your images on the walls with a price tag just to have some great art. It will take a lot of these to really start making a profit but it makes your name well-known locally.