Thursday, May 16, 2013

Calendars Have Arrived

I am so excited, my calendars already arrived!  They were on the porch yesterday morning, no idea when they actually showed up.  I suspect they arrived on Tuesday and the FedEx guy just didn't bother to knock.

There are 200 of them, so I have a couple of these big boxes in my living room.  I've started signing them already, and I am planning on taking some with me to MisCon next weekend.  They will go up online after DragonCon, assuming there are any left after all the summer shows.

They are even more beautiful than last year's calendars.  I think my printer just gets better and better every year.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Controversies: eBay & Adobe

Two big announcements have been made in recent weeks by two corporations that impact a lot of artists.  The first was eBay, who announced several changes that I'm actually pretty happy about, and the most recent was Adobe, who announced possibly the most asinine business model I've ever heard of.

Let's start with eBay.

Previously, if you had a store subscription, you paid a base monthly price, and then an additional fee for each item you listed in your store, and an additional fee or commission for each item you sold.  When I first started my store way back in 2006, the price to list something in your basic $14.95 a month store was $.01.  I listed a lot of stuff, but I wasn't consistent enough with it, and I closed the store for a while.  I tried reopening it in 2007, only to discover the price had increased to $.02, then $.03, then $.05, and I think for a while it was as high as $.20.  That's a pretty ridiculous price to pay for putting something into a store, for which you already pay a monthly subscription.  In that time the subscription prices also went up a little bit, making it more ridiculous.

Eventually my expenses were so high for all the artwork listed in my store, that it was worth my while to go to the second level of subscription.  At $49.95 a month, it would still cost me an additional $.05 for every item I put in my store.  My fees were a little bit lower, and I had better exposure and more design options.  It was still stupidly expensive, and in order to get more traffic into your store, it was a good idea to have more and more items in it, making it more and more expensive to maintain.  Some months my fees were as high as $180 (excluding commission), regardless of whether I sold $200 worth of art or $2,000.  Pretty silly, right?

Then eBay announced that if you DIDN'T have a store, you would get 50 listings free each month.  Hang on a minute!  I pay a huge fee, and I don't get anything for it, but people who don't pay anything get more free stuff?  I closed up my store and tried listing free for a month, but I didn't get as many sales.

I re-opened my store a while ago, and finally last month eBay announced that starting May 1st you would get a certain number of free listings with your store.  But, they also increased the subscription prices from $15.95 to $19.95, $49.95 to $59.95, and lowered the highest from a staggering $299 a month to $199.95.  If you commit for a full year, you'll get the $15.95, $49.95, or $179.95 prices.

But the part that really upset a lot of artists was eBay's "new" policy on watermarks.  For years, eBay has said that watermarks on images should not contain URLs.  I have always used URLs on my images so people could find me easier and credit the work properly.  eBay has never punished me for this, even though they could.  Now they say you can watermark your images, but the watermark must not be more than 50% in opacity, and must not contain a URL, but can say something like "© Tiffany Toland-Scott."  This has been their policy since at least 2009, but they've been pretty lax about enforcing it.

This upset a lot of people who wanted their URL on the image, but it's not a bad idea to watermark with your name, actually.  Your name will probably never change, but your website address may, and then you'll have to re-watermark all of your images, and all the stuff that's out there with a URL on it will be inaccurate and it may even be impossible to figure out where it came from.

eBay has also reenforced the policy of image size.  The image needs to be at least 500 pixels on the longest side.  That's a pretty puny image, and no one is going to be able to make a good print from something that size.  Plus, your customers probably won't buy your art if you are displaying it that small.  Customers like to be able to really see something before they buy it, and a 500 pixel image can hide a lot of detail that may actually sell an image for you.  Again, this is a policy eBay has had for years.

All things considered, I think this is a step in the right direction for eBay.

Now... let's talk about Adobe.

I've been a loyal Photoshop user for years.  10?  11?  Something like that.  Adobe recently announced that Photoshop and all other Adobe products are going to The Cloud.  Barf.  Why does every program developer think that every person wants to have all of their business in the almighty Cloud?  Maybe I really hate it and won't do it?  Because that'd be the case, not just for me, but apparently most of Adobe's customers.

I have yet to hear from a single person that thinks this is a good idea, probably because Adobe now wants an exorbitant $50 a month to use Creative Suite.  Once their customers started flinging the proverbial poop at them, they offered $9.99 a month to current users, but even then it goes up in a year and will cost at least $240/year just to use Photoshop.  If you never upgraded (like me) this is a tremendous increase in expense.  For what I do, I really only need layers, paintbrush, and eraser, and the likelihood that I will upgrade is pretty much zilch.  The suggestion that I should use a subscription-based cloud service is shut the front door territory.  I don't like to be connected to the internet when I work, and I don't allow my computer to connect and send data of its own accord, so the activation nonsense that will be required of users like me makes my inner grumpy old woman rage.

Plus, I'm not spending $30 a month for something that currently costs me exactly $0 a month to use.  And who had the stupid idea to go to a monthly subscription for a customer base that largely lives paycheck-to-paycheck?  I can afford $250 to upgrade once in a while, but $30 a month might be my coffee and creamer during slow times, and I won't part with that until I'm dead.

I'm sure it's high-fives all around at Corel, and probably Google who recently acquired a software developer that primarily makes image-processing software.  Adobe's stock has been falling since the announcement, so if you have any of it, it might be a good time to sell.

I am not sure why these idiotic corporate goons don't look at examples like Netflix and realize that you are never too big to make a game-ending decision.

Friday, May 3, 2013

As Promised: Kickstarter Vs. IndieGoGo

For my first crowdfunded calendar, I used IndieGoGo.  Here's a basic summary:

  • We barely reached the funding goal, and there were almost no contributions that came from IndieGoGo.
  • There were very few visits to the campaign that came from IGG.
  • The fulfillment system was clunky and horrible to use.  There was no way to contact people through IGG, you had to e-mail them directly.
  • The payments came from IGG without any information attached to them as far as who they were from, except for e-mail addresses.  The e-mail addresses only rarely had any indication to the person's actual name.
  • The support was not great.  I experienced a glitch while setting up my campaign that made my campaign end much sooner than I selected.  I asked support for help, and they told me they would help me this time, but in the future you can't change the end date of your campaign.  It seemed they didn't understand when I repeatedly told them I hadn't set it to the date it was set to by their site.  They also seemed to be bothered by my request for help, and were not friendly.
  • Because they sent the payments in such an odd way through PayPal, I wasn't able to generate shipping labels through PayPal for the payments.  This would have made shipping much easier and quicker.
In the end, I chose not to use IGG again, and to try using Kickstarter the next time.  My original plan had been to use KS the first time, but Amazon Payments couldn't confirm my identity since my mailing and street address are different (stupid, right?).  I eventually had to use an address I hadn't lived at in 5 years to verify my identity, but by the time it was worked out, my IGG campaign was almost over.

This time around I used Kickstarter.  Here's a basic summary:

  • I experienced no glitches after the initial fiasco with Amazon Payments, but that's not Kickstarter's fault.
  • I received a lot of traffic and several hundreds of dollars in pledges directly from Kickstarter, which also brought in some new fans.
  • The fulfillment system is very streamlined and easy to use.  I can poll people who pledged, contact them, post updates to them, and so on.
  • The payments were disbursed to my Amazon account within a day, and within 3 days they were in my bank account, ready to be used to order the calendars.
  • I haven't had to contact support for any reason, so I don't know how their customer service is.
  • People can adjust their pledges or cancel them, which I found very obnoxious and a little upsetting.  At one point it nearly unfunded my project.  One person kept adjusting their pledge over and over, and eventually canceled it.  They don't have to give a reason for doing this, either, so you get no feedback in these cases about what you could have done differently or why they changed their mind.
  • You can only make one pledge.  With IGG, you can order as many different perks as you want.  With Kickstarter, you can only adjust your existing pledge.
I will use Kickstarter again next time, in the end.  I really think it's overall much better than IGG, even though I wasn't happy with the people who canceled their pledges at the last minute, and the inability to purchase multiple different perks.  I also think KS is a better site for things like fantasy art.  IGG seems to be a lot of hipster projects and eco-friendly inventions, but KS is more geared towards gamers, sci-fi and fantasy lovers, and retailers.

I plan on launching my next Kickstarter near the end of June, possibly in early July.  This time it will be for a 40-card oracle deck, and I'll post another update when that campaign is all wrapped up.

If you have any questions about my experience with either of these platforms you can ask in the comments below, or e-mail it to me at tiff @ tiffanysrealm dot com.  I'll do my best to help you, but I can't provide technical help for either of the websites, or tell you how to set up a campaign.