The advantages and drawbacks of adding fine art books to what you sell, and how to do it
The drawback of selling fine art prints is that most of the time, most people aren’t in the market to buy one. You’re an artist for Christ’s sakes, you want a decent price for your prints. But those who are in a position to pay that price likely don’t have many open spaces on their walls. They have to love your art more than what they already have to replace it. So why not offer them something else as well?
When people think of fine art photography, they think of two things – prints and books. The good thing is no matter which one they’re exposed to first, it makes a great gateway drug to the other.
I had previously tried this with calendars using RedBubble, and it had a promising start. Unfortunately RedBubble dropped calendars from their product offerings. Not wanting to go into the order fulfillment business at this time, I dropped calendars.
I spend most of my time writing, rather than photographing. My partner in the Wytchery, Cate Davies does beautiful photography and it much more salable than my own work. So we combined our talents in a batch of books.
We prepared three fine art books, based mainly on photography with quotes and other extant writings for the text. Then we collected two magazines worth of articles from my blog site, and compiled two magazines.
Magazines might seem like an odd choice, but they’re cheaper than books, and you can get the same quality image reproduction, and are a good size. That gives us two price points for potential customers, and the ability to expand a third higher one by printing on higher quality stock and going hard back.
The images already existed on our SmugMug site, so it was simple to collect them into galleries based on what appears in the books. In fact, we were able to expand on the number of images that way, which would be of interest to those interested in the books.
So we had the products, and we have two storefronts, SmugMug and Blurb. Of the two, SmugMug allows you more customization, so we can effectively market the book and the prints on the same page. That’s useful because you’ll get traffic directly to SmugMug, as well as Blurb, either via search engines or each company’s own ecosystem.
But the main source of traffic into my own world is through the blog. I get over a quarter million page views a year, and the majority of them are to the blog. So when it came time to build a home for the store, the blog is the natural choice.
What I hate is that there is no central location where a person can buy all of our products. Ideally they could purchase the books and prints from the same shopping cart. But till SmugMug starts allowing that, or till I go into fulfilling the orders myself, I have to live with the two cart system.
It’s a more profitable route to be certain, because you have slightly larger profit margin by ordering yourself, especially with books if you order about ten. If you keep your eye on Blurb, you’ll see many discounted offers, including 40% off art books. So a $10 profit per book can easily turn into a $15 profit. And you can customize the books, prints and their packaging however you like.
If you’ve ever noticed Apple’s packaging you might have missed one essential fact. It’s gorgeous stuff, but you don’t see it till after you’ve made your purchase in most cases. It’s not to sell the product, it’s to reinforce your purchasing decision, and make you eager to buy from them again.
But that takes time, and time is short around here.
SmugMug offers several products which can tie in with your book, and the one I chose to go with was greeting cards. They’re as effective as postcards, but also have the benefit of being something that can be shared on a more emotional level. If your loved one just loves the card you gave her this year, you’re likely to go back to the same place for the card next year.
So we have our products, a storefront, secondary storefronts, and that leaves marketing.
Obviously we’ll be doing the normal social media posts. But we also created video trailers for the books. People click on videos, so if you can do it, it makes sense not to skip this step. And chances are, you can create them yourself. We created ours with iMovie and Photoshop.
The only startup cost to this exercise is the cost of ordering one book each from Blurb, to keep them alive on the store. We were helped with that by selling our first book before it was technically on sale. Which is a promising start, though in reality just one of those twists of fate that gives you the idea you’re wandering the right side of the universe with what you’re doing.
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