Go ahead, raise your prices
When something you create resonates with someone else, it becomes art. That starts with yourself. If you see your work as art, you’re an artist.
When it comes to pricing their art, people tend to think of their work as a commodity, in relation to other available items. This is a mistake, because you’re putting a price above your art.
When you use print on demand services such as SmugMug, Blurb or countless others, you suddenly have the ability to produce a variety of products with little or no initial investment. The drawback to this is that print on demand is much more expensive than mass production.
So chances are, you can’t compete on price when it comes to pricing your art. If you try, you’re not only cheating yourself, but not really expanding your potential client base either.
Here’s an example. A fine art book with a flexible cover from Blurb will run close to $50, if you give yourself a $10 profit. Out of a hundred people who see the book, likely 90 of them would find it too expensive at $40. So keeping your price there does little to increase sales.
Of the remaining 10 who aren’t put off by the price, it’s entirely likely they wouldn’t be put off by a $50 price either. If you raise the quality by a better paper stock, hardback cover, etc., then you can likely raise it even more.
There is an advantage to only dealing in quality products if you’re at this stage of your career. You won’t compete on price, so go after the people who really love your work. Then stick to your principles.
That said, it’s a good idea to offer a line of products at a lower price, an introduction to your work. Just make sure you draw a fine line under the difference in quality.
“My professional charges are upon a fixed scale. I do not vary them, save when I remit them altogether”
Sherlock Holmes in The Problem of Thor Bridge
The essential part of this strategy however is putting yourself forward as an artist. The buyer isn’t buying a book or print, they’re buying the content, your art. To pull this off you have to be ruthless in your marketing, and not pander to the cheaper crowds. If you portray your work as a commodity on any level, it pulls all levels downward.
When I was about ten years old I read an interview with John Lennon where he talked about Frank Zappa, and called him an artist. I had never heard Zappa’s music, but when I finally did, I heard him as an artist, not just another pop star. So I always saw Zappa that way.
Zappa isn’t most people’s cup of tea. Most of my exes didn’t share my affinity for his music, which led to no small irritation at me. But it taught me from an early age that if you influence a person’s perception before they’re exposed to your art, they see it, and you in a different way.
To stick with music for a moment, the best example I can thing of when it comes to pricing your art is Led Zeppelin. They didn’t release singles, so you had to buy the album. This was because the album was a whole, a work of art. Ticket prices were high because they didn’t overextend themselves, raising the demand. Everything that bears the Led Zeppelin logo today sells for a premium price.
Their appeal is so massive that they could lower prices on their merchandise. But by doing so, they become a commodity. By sticking to their principles, and only dealing in quality products, they keep demand high, close to forty years after they officially disbanded.
And for those will a thinner wallet, the albums are still in the same price range as everyone else, albeit never on sale, so no one gets left behind.
We don’t have the mass appeal of these people obviously. But you won’t go wrong adopting high principles early on and sticking to them. If you do your job right, and have a means of reaching your potential audience, that audience will grow. And pretty soon those ten people who can afford your work becomes a hundred, then a thousand and more.
What’s the perfect figure for pricing your art? That depends. Only you can say how good of an artist you really are.