Monday, January 26, 2009

Selling art online - print on demand services for artists

The next post in my series of blog posts about artists selling art online focuses on the various print on demand services - where the technology and the files are all online.
  • Are you interested in having your artwork printed using print on demand technology?
  • Do you want to check out who are the suppliers and what people think of them?
I've collated the information I've got to date about services which are available on my new information site Print Art on Demand - Resources for Artists.

Find out about:
  • what is print on demand / publish on demand
  • suppliers of print on demand services for art - and reviews
  • suppliers of print on demand services for printed publications (eg marketing materials and books)
The site starts by reviewing what is 'print on demand' (POD) and why it has become so popular.

Here are some of the reasons why artists use print on demand.
Print on demand frees up time:
  • no need to spend time making contractual arrangements with a printer; POD is offered 'as is' with a menu of options for additional services at fixed prices
  • no need to spend time on packaging and posting prints
Print on demand reduces risk:
  • no need to sink capital into getting a work printed in the conventional way - which could be a waste of money if you don't know what its sales potential is
Print on demand keeps your space for producing art rather than storing it:
  • no need to find storage which keeps conventional prints in good condition
It then starts to look at the various webware sites which offer to print and market your artwork - on demand - as fine art prints, posters or on various every day items.

Next I look at the options that are available for 'print on demand' when it comes to producing printed publications. Things like: calendars, exhibition catalogues, marketing portfolios, brochures for commission clients, greeting cards and calendars.

I'm aiming to include more reviews - and more sites as I become aware of them. Please do leave a note either on the new site or at the end of this post if you know of a new site or have posted a review of your use of a service on your blog.

What I'd also like to do is a summary post at some point about your experiences with print on demand services do please let me know (leave a comment) what you think about print on demand services for artists and this way of selling art from the perspective of:
  • the services you have used - and what you thought of them
  • the general concept and its impact on your 'business' of being an artist
Send me an email if you'd rather your comments were anonymous!

Note about information collecting

Do you ever feel miffed that I haven't referenced your site? Have you ever thought how easy it is for me to find information on your site?

I look for information all the time on all sorts of different sites. However I don't spend long on sites where it's not easy to dig out the information I want.

This is what I NEED (see below). If you've got all of that (and Empty Easel is an excellent example of a non-standard site which makes it easy to find useful posts about selling art online) then you stand a good chance of getting referenced! If you don't, you won't! So - do you
  • offer a search facility?
  • use a sensible set of categories (which actually deliver) to label your blog posts?
  • tell me fast what the blog post is about (if related to information you want to share and get referenced/linked to)?
Resources for Artists - The Art Business

I also have a new group which will include all my 'resources for artists' information sites which relate to the art business. Check out Resources for Artists - The Art Business

Links - Selling Art Online:


Anonymous said...

For those who use POD and hope to market it in the event their book is successful (hey it could happen!)...make sure you use a POD service which includes obtaining the ISBN for you.

I believe this is required in order to sell to a bookstore chain etc.

I know the odds of this scenario happening are small but better safe than sorry.

vivien said...

I made a book with blurb and was very pleased with the quality

It's a very long link but it's here:

I was lucky enough to see the quality of Tina's books before deciding which company to go with so knew what I'd be getting :>)

It's sold fairly well :>) and has been very useful. For potential buyers there is a good preview where they can look at a few pages.

Payment is sent well in arrears but on time.

Anonymous said...

We've used Lulu, blurb and ibook to print proof copies in a project to develop a book that we later sent to China and self-published with an initial run of 5,000. Being able to make these preliminary relatively low cost versions kept us from making costly formating mistakes when we went to the larger press run -- and helped us test market, etc. We had good results with all but came up feeling like Lulu had the edge. We've just done a beta version of a teacher's guide for the book via Lulu and ordered 100 copies to test with.
To see the FiNAL result:

Tina Mammoser said...

I've used Blurb for my little books (and a personal Christmas book for my mum!) and am very happy with them. I also published the same book first with Lulu and was unhappy with the colour, paper and cover quality. So I know Blurb is a bit more but I decided it was worth it. In fact in future I will probably use their new premium paper too.

However, I'm doing very small runs mainly for promotional use and am not relying on trying to resell a product (thus having to pass on the higher production cost).

Another thing Blurb has going for it is an own-brand book layout programme that you download - so you don't need any DTP skills or software in order to produce a book with them.

Making A Mark said...

Having been with Vivien when we saw Tina's books I can certainly confirm that they were a very good quality product.

I'd regard it as a good choice for a book to show galleries or clients.

Cindy makes an important point about the ISDN. You can't sell in a bookshop without one - although you can of course sell direct from your own website and/or blog.

When I looked into it there was a choice as to whether you went with a company which organised that side for you - and the ISDN belonged to them. Or you organised getting one for yourself - but only from the proper authority!

Making A Mark said...

Susie - that sounds like a really good idea!

I've also not heard of ibook before and will take a look at them.

Papierflieger said...

I can confirm the positive BLURB-experience.
POD for reproduction prints has been a costly failure for me so far and I don´t follow it anymore.
Catalogs and booklets are doing o.k.,but of course at very modest level. However I see a good potential for niche publications.

Attention: I read somewhere Amazon does only accept POD-Books from their own printing venture.
So doing a BLURB with ISBN-number seems not to be a good idea when you want to sell it on Amazon.

Making A Mark said...

Martin - I've also seen this warning about Amazon and I'm researching it at the moment. The notion apparently is that they want all POD books sold on Amazon to be printed by a company which apparently does NOT have a good reputation for quality - according to the article I read

I've not yet found an update on this and it has still got the status of "rumoured threat" until I find anything more definitive.

However it occurs to me Amazon maybe shooting themselves in the foot if they hand POD sales back to the two companies which are producing the bulk of them!

Plus from an author's perspective, if the audience for sales is primarily going to be people who know them or their own personal websites then they may feel that the income hit you have to take to get sold on Amazon might be something they can afford to do without anyway!

Apparently those revolting against Amazon on this matter are removing all Amazon links on their sites and signing up for online ordering and marketing via Barnes and Noble!

Anita said...

Thank you everyone for comments here and to Katherine. I had produced a book on a photo printing website for myself but someone suggested printing it for sale - I will check Blurb out.

Anonymous said...

I purchased two books from Blurb (Duane Keiser's Painting a Day one and also one by Gregory Peterson-featuring his art collection).

Both were great quality-wise. I wonder how much better they'd be with the higher quality paper? Either way they both came shipped carefully packed and fairly quickly. There was great customer communciation from Blurb telling me when something shipped as well.

I also bought a CD and a book (How to Paint a Vermeer) on Lulu. I liked the shipping and the communications from Lulu.

If I were going to publish a book (I've bounced the idea around a few times) I'd go with Blurb. It's very very easy to use their site.


Making A Mark said...

I've been consulting the wikipedia article about Amazon 9as of today's date) and it states the following:


In March 2008, sales representatives of Amazon's BookSurge division started contacting publishers of print on demand titles to inform them that for Amazon to continue selling their POD-produced books, they would need to sign agreements with Amazon's own BookSurge POD company. Publishers were told that eventually, the only POD titles that Amazon would be selling would be those printed by their own company, BookSurge. Some publishers felt that this ultimatum amounted to monopoly abuse, and questioned the ethics of the move and its legality under anti-trust law.[79]"

Reference 79 is " Telling POD Publishers - Let BookSurge Print Your Books, or Else...". Writers Weekly. Retrieved on 2008-03-31. (which is the article I originally saw). I've also now seen a TechCrunch article and if the responses listed below this post are anything to go by this would not be a popular move - at all!

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