Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Holiday Season

The Nutcracker 2014 commemorative ornament with Clara
Has a tendency to sneak up on us no matter how hard we try to be well prepared. ^^;  I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way.  Anyone who has retail experience knows how horribly hectic and unpleasant things can get.  I feel for workers at malls and busy retail shops this time of the year.  The customers get all stressed out, and they can get real mean...  ^^;

Many years ago, when I was still teaching ballet, I started out selling my ballet watercolor images on a single web page (This was back in 2001.).  Back then, I made everything at home with my printer and handled all customer service and made my trips to the post office.  This was all doable because, back in those days, there were four additional US Postal had branch offices placed throughout town, and it was relatively convenient for me to make multiple trips per week.

In 2005, I discovered CafePress and set up my shop.  And let me tell you, back then, things were FUN!!  I'm sure a lot of shopkeepers felt the warm fuzzy feeling as they made products with their images and set up sections to their shops.  Back then, the royalty percentage you set was honored in the 'market place'.  No weird commission math was done to our earnings - no, nothing like how it is today.   Then things started to get sour when CP started targeting the content providers (= shopkeepers) as a profit source to be manipulated as they grew in size.  First, their bonus structure got tweaked, then came the announcement that all market place sales will have the flat 10% royalty percentage "because that's the industry standard".  Then came, 10% sales fees imposed on your earnings unless you choose to pay shop fees upfront.  More recently, yet another tweaking of rules - unless you add a new design at least every 3 months, your earning percentage can plummet from 10% to 5%.  Yeah, ... no warm fuzzy feelings there these days. LOL

Waltz of the Flowers (Nutcracker 2014) 11 oz mug
Lots of CP shopkeepers ditched and migrated to, or at least expanded into setting up shops at Zazzle (I set up my shop, too.), the biggest competitor in the Print-On-Demand business.  At that time, they were still touting how we can set our own earning percentages with a good bonus potential, etc.  They did have a wonderful bonus program with reasonable tiers.  Things were going well.  Until a few years ago, when they started phasing out the bonus program, changing up the general layout (to the point of looking rather sterile, devoid of personality), optimizing for mobile devices.  Once again, things took the same course for the shopkeepers.  Generally much less fun, more tedious and time consuming to make a listing - all for much less money.  Gone were the warm fuzzy feelings.

I feel lucky that I do well on Etsy, so my shops at CP and Z have taken a complete backseat to my general operation as an artist these days (I've dropped Red Bubble and all other POD places because they simply made no sense when I analyzed the 'return on investiment' in terms of my time to these venues.).  Holiday season, however, is when I see a spike in sales from these two places.  The reason is that my ballet watercolor designs are of The Nutcracker.

I have not been able to update and add new designs as much as I've liked over the years - either busy teaching or painting my fantasy art.  But I usually managed to work on it in September to get ready for the holiday season.  This year, though, I completely, utterly FAILED.  ^^;  It was an email from CP customer service, which was forwarded from a customer who inquired about a 2014 version of a design! ^^;  I grudgingly got myself into action and started updating the commemorative gifts section.

Dance of the Snowflakes (The Nutcracker 2014) teapot
Ended up updating a lot of extra stuff. ^^;  Made some wrap-around designs for mugs and teapots.  My few years of selling tubed images came in handy to revamp some of my original watercolor illustrations with new backgrounds and giving my images new aspect ratios to fit a wider range of products.  ^_^
Nutcracker & Chipmunk Ballerina 2014 Ornament
Nutcracker earrings
Nutcracker mug (15 oz.)
Nutcracker mug (11 oz.) 
Nutcracker Pendant Necklace
I guess it's still simple and easy that it's kind of fun (minus the warm and fuzzy feeling, mind you).  ^^;  I needed to update some stuff over at the Z place, too, but it was a big disappointment that their previously already tedious way of making a listing got even more so after their "upgrade" to make things mobile-friendly...  Customers can still personalize stuff (well, at least those who are Internet savvy can, anyway...), so I'll keep my shop open and probably add new products/designs from time to time.  But I kind of miss the time in my life when all this was a lot more fun.  I feel a bit sentimental, looking back at the early days of my art making and attempting to make some money.  But things grow and change, and people do, too.  My art business has certainly grown, and the POD shops have become a very small portion of my income - still much larger than licensing my images to other companies.    It's kind of funny that CP and Z have become kind of like distant  relatives you only see during the winter holidays.

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