Monday, January 3, 2011

My CafePress/Zazzle Shops

Well, I hope your new year went well.  I had (or should have had, since this post was written in advance and released on a schedule) a good game of DND  on the first.  I may write about that in a later post.

Anyway, this is the second post in my series about my various projects.  Today, I will be writing about the second project on my list, my CafePress shops.

I started a long time ago so I could offer products besides prints for my photos, such as custom stamps or mugs.  I never sold any of my photo items off of it, and frankly forgot I had it for a long time.  Years later I had another idea.  Or more accurately, finally found an acceptable execution for an old idea.  I had been thinking for a long time (several years) about the "girls-gone-wild" phenomena and trying to come up with some bumper sticker that could be placed in the more mainstream environment of suburbia.  When I first started thinking about it, my children were young.  So I had been trying to think of something that would be obvious to women old enough to respond, but wouldn't be something that mothers would have to shield their young children's eyes from.  I finally came up with the phrase, "Earn Your Beads", with a simple picture of a camera surrounded by Mardi-Gras beads.  I created shirts and bumper stickers and added them to the HFCSPhotography shop.  I even managed to somehow sell a bumper sticker the day after I created them (and only got $0.50 from CafePress for it) and I still don't know how.

My second shop was for my daughter.  She says she wants to be a manga artist when she grows up, and she's doing a good job of it so far.  (Although we keep trying to get her to practice realistic drawing, but we can't seem to convince her that it will improve her manga.)  She draws constantly, which isn't that uncommon I suppose.  I drew constantly when I was growing up.  But she actually practices and learns instead of just doodling.  She finds other peoples drawings online and such and learns how to draw like they do.  And then she incorporates that knowledge into her own work and sometimes posts it up on deviantART (here).

Anyway, she drew a blue bunny that her friends liked.  They wanted it on t-shirts (she sometimes draws or paints her own shirts) and she decided she wanted to put it on cafepress to let her friends buy them.  A normal (free) CafePress shop can't have more than one of the same product.  Which means that if you already have a basic t-shirt with one image on it, you can't create another basic t-shirt with a different image.  I had already started creating my "Earn Your Beads" gear in the HFCSPhotography shop, so I had to create the shop for her t-shirt.

The third store was opened because the name of the first store sucked.  Over the years of giving people the address of my website, I found that HFCSPhotography is a very bad name for a website or url of any kind.  It doesn't have any meaning to people and has too many letters that people misunderstand when you say them (or at least when I say them).  For instance, people tend to confuse F with S.  So I was looking for a new name anyway.  And, I needed to separate the "Earn Your Beads" items from my photography stuff.  When I originally created the "Earn Your Beads" t-shirts and bumper stickers, I was doing test searches to make sure they showed up in the cafepress marketplace.  I found a lot of different Mardi-Gras shirts, and several were variations on the phrase "bead whore".  I had seen this before, but what I realized was that I had never seen the other side of that coin: Bead Pimp.  I realized that that was basically what I was working on supporting, so I created my third shop,  I moved all of the t-shirts into there.  If I have time, I'm going to try to market them to mard-gras venues this year, and may even go to a couple myself to try and sell them.

Now, in the long run, I don't think I'll have that many products at CafePress.  I have created a couple of IPad cases out there that aren't available on Zazzle.  I'll leave those types of things on CafePress.  But everything that has a product on Zazzle as well, I'll probably move there.

Click show if you want to see my soap box about why:

Cafepress has really screwed over their shopkeepers.  What they have done is decided that if anyone finds your product through a search on the main site, CafePress will set the price, and you only get 10% commission.  So, for instance, take a simple bumper sticker (which I actually did sell).  The base price is something like $3.49.  I can set the markup at any price above that in my shop and I get the extra.  So I can set the markup to $2.00, the customer will pay $5.49, and I'll get the $2.00 markup.  But that ONLY works from your own shop now.  Meaning only if someone goes to and purchases my product from that page.  If someone goes out to the cafepress main site and searches for "Earn Your Beads", they should find the bumper sticker there.  The first thing they see is that CafePress set the price to only $5.00, not the $5.49 that I specified.  On top of that, I only get 10% of the selling price.  So I don't even get the $1.21 over base, I only get $0.50.

So the only way a shopkeeper can really run their shop now is to mark everything so that it isn't listed in the marketplace at all and run their own site outside of CafePress to drive traffic to the shop.  It cancels out the primary reason I am starting to concentrate on CafePress and Zazzle in the first place; that I don't have time to run my own site anymore.  Even if a shopkeeper does get most of their traffic direct to their store anyway, they still are almost forced to lower their prices to those that CafePress dictates in the marketplace.  Because if they don't, any smart shopper is going to go out to the main site and search for the product there instead, where they can get it cheaper.  The shopkeepers are now in direct competition with the CafePress main site, instead of being partners of the site.

Anyway, time to get off of my soap box.

I still haven't done the math related to the deviantART products vs CafePress/Zazzle products.  It looks like deviantART has a fixed commission schedule instead of allowing the artist to set the markup (I have recently heard that that may not be the case with the premium membership).  If this schedule coincides with what I want to charge, then I'll leave products on deviantART.  Otherwise, I'll put them out on Zazzle or CafePress.  Even that math, though, will take some work, as I really have no idea what my work is actually worth.

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