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Thorn's business tip of the day - The art of Thornwolf — LiveJournal
Thorn's business tip of the day
I wasn't going to post this here but Phil said he'd sit on me if I didn't, and nobody wants that. ;)

Folks ask me "how much should I charge for my artwork?" and its always very hard for me to say becuase it varies from person to person really. Some folks don't do full color, some people don't do backgrounds, some folks enjoy it more than others, its really a matter of "what is it worth to you in terms of time, supplies, and joy?" So here I'm going to explain how I personally do things, this is just an insight into /my/ mind, and by no means me telling you "this is exactly how you have to do it" /but/ I do include some points to ponder.

Just because you're making money doesn't mean you're making a profit

This is something I notice all too commonly in the fandom. Folks will spend a bundle on supplies, mattes, frames, paper, spend a lot of time on an image, only to sell it for low. Figure this:

Say I spend 18 hours on a full color image, and for reference sake I make $12.25 an hour at my day job. Now why would I want to make less than an hourly wage doing something I hate while doing something I love? At this current rate I should make about $220.50 for that piece if I were going by hourly wage. Now, do I generally believe folks should get paid by the hour for art? Aw hell naw, mostly because some folks are faster and some are slower for the SAME AMOUNT of work. I personally am quite fast as a lot of you may notice, so of course I'm on the losing end of this deal. I feel that a set pay for a job such as in an art for hire situation works best, since you figure, how much is the finished product worth, and you pay accordingly. However, this is different for folks who do art as a day job and actually go into an office and make an hourly wage. In this case they are paid hourly, BUT they have a deadline, so everyone is pretty much working at the same pace ultimately to meet said deadline. In this case I feel an hourly wage is apporpriate, but not for illustrative purposes such as childrens books or mural painting.

Okay, so i got my $220.50 guideline, you can charge more or less depending. Now you want to matte and frame it. Now, I dunno about you, but when I go to the matting and framing store they want to rape me up the butt for costs. I go to art shows and I notice these big elaborate frames and mattes. Now, chances are whoever buys the art may not have the same color scheme in their house as you have on the frame, and that, actually, might deterr them from buying your piece. Not always, but might. This is why I reccommend going neutral, such as black, brown etc, with a nice color matte that compliments the picture. But again, please think cost effective, don't spend a billion dollars on a frame they're just going to have to change anyways cuz its gilded with crying angels on the corners. Some pieces may call for it, but for furry art, mmmm...not so much I wouldn't think. So lets say you spend $100 at the frame store, and this is being semi unrealistic if youre matting /and/ framing your piece. IF you can find a frame that is premade that fits your piece, all the better! I like that option better, which is why in the future I'm going to try to not make such unusually sized pieces that, when matted, will need a custom frame. This brings your total cost for this picture to $320.50.

You decide "I want someone to buy this, I'm going to start the bidding low at $200, someone bids, it ends up going for exactly that. $200.

You think "oh awesome I'm going home with $200 extra! Wrong. This is less than your hourly wage you spent on it, minus the $100 it took you to get it framed, you're not making much more than $100 profit on this deal /if/ that and you went through all that trouble to draw, matte, frame, take it to the art show, post it up for...what?

Then comes another situation: publications.

You decide you want to hop on the sketchbook bandwagon as well, only you want to do full color sketches or prints or what have you. That's fine, it will look great, folks will want to buy it more than the black and white, so you figure you'll do 10 prints for $15. The average cost of a print is anywhere between $8 and $12 for artists within the fandom, and this is them making profit off of these. In this situation you're giving folks 10 color images for less than the price of 2. Wow what a screaming deal right? Yeah, for the buyers, not for yourself.

You buy the expensive stock, really snazzy glisteny paper. That stuff is not cheap. I don't even know an exact price number because I've bought several brands but we're talking double digits either way after sales tax. So right there, you lost the money you would get from the sale of one book to go towards your supply costs.

The average black and white copy at your local library costs 10 cents a copy. Color is usually 25 to 50 cents. We'll use 50 in this example. Your print book will cost $5.00 per book to print. So you're only making $10 profit on the second book. No big deal right? It wil all pay for itself eventually.

You spend all weekend printing. This has been my case, I spent more time printing in a day than I did doing anything else, including eating. It takes a lot of time and effort to do, but really once you get a backlog of pre-printed stuff its not so bad, but at the same time I'm aware I could be spending my time making money on commissions or even going to work on my day off rather than sitting in front of the computer all day. So you're losing money by printing. If you spend 8 hours a day printing for one day, and again, at my hourly wage I would be losing approximately $100 for that one day just to round up, by sitting here and printing. This would mean that you have to sell about 8 copies just to make it slightly over breaking even. 8 copies, thats a helluva lot!

Something else I've realized while making this sketch book printed on regular bleached white paper: oh my god...look at how much paper I went through just for 10 copies.

Your average ream of paper has about 200-250 sheets. I've used half that on 10 copies. Fortunately this stuff is cheap, and in fact next edition there's a good chance I may be able to print it on cardstock, but we will see.

But if you see that glisteny nice photo paper, it comes in those little teeny flap packets. That would probably be only enough to make 2 booklets, 3 at the most, so you'd have to buy a shitload of those, making it so you either wont make any profit, or the profit will be so measly that its not worth the hassle to put it altogether. Kudos to you for trying to put something out there that's cheap and that everyone can afford, but at what cost to you? I can guarantee folks will look at that and go OMG CHEAP PRINTS and swarm on it like locusts, so yay, you got your customers you asked for, but nothing to show for it.

So, this is my way of saying, think long and hard about what something is worth to you. For artwork you'd put in a show, think about the minimum price you'd feel okay about parting with it, don't go any lower than that. For printed works, you need need NEED to take material cost into account. Paper, ink, time, binding, it all adds up. All that money you're making might seem like a hefty wad, but how much did you spend pre-production just to get the project rolling?

Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful

31 comments or Leave a comment
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cabbitwocky From: cabbitwocky Date: October 12th, 2005 04:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you thank you thank you for posting this! This is exactly the sort of thing I have been wanting to find out.
foxfeather From: foxfeather Date: October 12th, 2005 05:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well said :)

Many artists I know get paid slave wages for their work, and even a lot of 'successful' gallery artists I know have day jobs as waitresses, secretaries, etc. People don't seem to realize if you sell a big piece in a gallery for $5-10,000, half of that goes right to the gallery (commission prices do vary but for big galleries, that's fairly standard), there's money to pay for packing/shipping, which is NOT cheap, massive amounts of time/materials that go into it, art agent fees, show entry fees, possible travel costs... and on and on.

And the idea 'if you love to do it, it doesnt matter how much you make!' rubs my fur the wrong way so badly. No one asks doctors, lawyers, accountants, librarians... anyone else to do what they love for pennies. Art is WORK and in our society if you WORK you need to get paid so you can eat.

It's sad to me that so many people in the 'fandom' devalue art so much. I guess a lot of it is because there are a LOT of hobby artists who are happy to just make a buck off things they consider 'extra money' and would normally have just sit around, and there are a lot of young artists who don't have real bills to pay and have that same sort of mentality. $10 for a print is pretty ridiculous, in general.
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: October 12th, 2005 05:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
ex-act-ly. And thank you =)

I didn't even really get into the regular non-furry galleries. Quite perosnally I'm too afraid to delve into the area of "fine art" /because/ I know how cutthroat it is. For example, Lee Kromschroeder, wildlife artist, invited me into his studio once when I was a younger budding artist just deciding on if I want to pursue art. The things he told me blew my mind, such as, how much he gets per image, how much time he spends on them etc. BUt then again, he is relatively popular here in San Diego, he's made a name for himself. What about all the other 10's of hundreds of folks who are almost as good if not just /as/ good, who haven't had the luck of getting his kind of exposure just yet? A lot of it is luck, and that's far too unstable for me. Plus he regularly sells his pieces, but that's just, again, luck. If you sell one piece a year for 10k it doesn't mean you're going to do the same on a regular basis, and you shouldn't count on it. doesnt mean don't /try/ of course, but don't count your chickens before theyre hatched so to speak. plus, like you said, a good portion of that 10k goes towards gallery costs, materials etc etc so really you have to take that into consideration.

And to your point of "if you like doing it then it doesnt matter what you make", I agree, that really makes me angry. I had a boyfriend once who always told me that I wasn't doing any /real/ work and that I'm lucky because when people like him do blue collar manual labor I get to sit at home and paint pretty pictures and get paid for it. Not actual work my BUTT! There's a lot of planning and effort that goes into it, not to mention the late nights, wasted time, stress of deadlines and whatnot. Hell, I don't need to tell you...but that is a common misconception of us artists I wish would disappear.
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maggock From: maggock Date: October 12th, 2005 05:21 pm (UTC) (Link)


For large amounts of prints definitely take the project to a professional print service (like www.sircooper.com) It's much cheaper and you don't have to do any of the work involved in the copying.

Also, I've noticed portfolios don't usually have as high quality a paper as an indivdual print, because of the cost issue (photo prints sure are pretty but they're damn expensive!) Ummmm that's it!
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: October 12th, 2005 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Printing

ah yes I forgot to mention a professional printer. Thank you for the link! I haven't been exposed to many professional printing places aside from Kinkos and staples, plus with this project I'm printing directly from illustrator files and I do /not/ trust a printing service with my files just yet until I figure out a better way to do it. Last time I went to kinkos with a photoshop file they fucked it up all sorts of ways.

And yes, with a lot of these portfolios cropping up I'm noticing this too. That's why I feel a limited number of prints is necessary for a good quality portfolio, anything above ohh..I'm g oing to say 15 prints, should be burned onto a CD.
maskedoffender From: maskedoffender Date: October 12th, 2005 05:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
You know, it always bugged me when I'd go to an art sale and people would say things like, "Oh gosh, how can they call themselves 'starving artists', look at how much money they're getting! $300 for a teensy little painting?!"
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synnabar From: synnabar Date: October 12th, 2005 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for pointing me this way! I'm so out-of-it when it comes to online stuff lately. :( Great points, all around. You got it! :D Foxfeather - yes, too! Excellent points as well.

As for frames, i don't have the money to pay to have them done. Instead, I work to a size I know will fit something premade - or, I will re-size a sketch in Photoshop before transferring it to the final drawing / painting surface so it fits. I do take a while to choose nice mats and frames, and I always try to make them look nice so the buyer gets what they're paying for, but yeah, I'm one of those who can't afford to have them professionally done.

As for prints, if I didn't have a professional-quality color laser printer/copier here at work, I wouldn't have printed all those portfolios I was involved in! It's too time-consuming and expensive otherwise, though I do buy my own heavyweight cardstock.

LOL, and yeah, i'm one of "those" artists who has to work a full-time job too. NY is too expensive to live off my art at this point!

Best wishes to you, Thorn! And, my payment's on it's way. :)
cabbitwocky From: cabbitwocky Date: October 12th, 2005 09:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
*squee!* That is one of my very favorite teas!
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thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: October 12th, 2005 06:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
No prob! Please feel free to link =)
From: kilojara Date: October 12th, 2005 06:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yay, I needed this! *insta-add to memories*

ursulav From: ursulav Date: October 12th, 2005 06:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
It constantly astounds me how incredibly undervalued furry art is.

There was a discussion I was in on another LJ, and somebody made the comment that they couldn't imagine anybody paying $50 or more for something that wasn't a personal commission of their character. With great difficulty, I refrained from going into Angel-of-Art-Pricing-Death mode, but still--furry fans just have no idea how cheap the art they're getting is compared to any other genre.

Ah, well...
thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: October 12th, 2005 07:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh dear god..I hear ya..that would have made my head explode with anger if I saw that comment first hand. I don't know how I would respond to that in a civil manner, so I'd probably just bow out.

Youre right though, while furry art isn't really the greatest genre around, there ARE quite a lot of talented talented artists in it that put a great deal of time and effort into something. I've been told I charge too much for my pieces for, exactly the reason you mentioned, its not their personal character. Okay? So don't buy it, I tell them, or "How would you like to work for McD's for 2 bucks a day? I thought not."

The reason for the underpricing is furries don't have much money. That is..the typical fan, from what I've noticed. Folks will /always/ try to go for the cheaper deal, and say things like "oh i wish i had the money for this, if it was $40 cheaper I'd buy it", so the artist, desperate to make /some/ sort of a sale, will sell themselves short thinking "yes!! I won!" when really they didn't. Ive learned that the hard way I'm afraid.
From: blueotter Date: October 12th, 2005 07:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yup yup. It makes no business sense. Which is why in college all of us business majors would glare at the smoking liberal arts people as we crossed in front of each other's buildings. ;)

I do it for fun, and only to recoup the cost of my base materials, postage, and for cons, hopefully the cost of food. I'll always have a day job... I know quite a few artists who made art their job and now hate doing art. I never want to feel that way about what I do for fun.
tengukun From: tengukun Date: October 12th, 2005 08:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
I need to show this to Lola when she gets back from El Paso... she's a GOOD artist and she wants to commission herself for $3 sketches. I was like "~_~;;.... no." Not worth the time logging onto the internet, much less the materials, research time, and actual drawing time. :P
avivashywolf From: avivashywolf Date: October 12th, 2005 08:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
thanks for posting this. Definetly something I'll remember, espacally if I go through with an art career. Thank you Thorn, and everyone's comments.
loriana From: loriana Date: October 12th, 2005 09:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

A universal notion.

First, Silber was right to suggest (albiet rather..hehe. forcefully) that you post this.
I agree, it's a very valuable notion to keep in mind. As if we needed any more examples, recently my mate, Aerofox, bought an original by Kacey Miyagami on Furbid. Quite beautifully done I might add. Anyway I got to thinking first about how much work went into it, even assuming she is fast, there is no way I could believe that piece did itself inside of a single day.. and then I considered the relative pittance that we paid for it, even at auction. I felt bad!! Because there is no way in the world she could NOT have been dissapointed in the price it went for. *sigh* At the very least I hope somehow to 'make it up' to her... the work was too nicely done not to be properly rewarded for the effort.

At anyrate, my subject topic-
The fact is that this applies to anything we do when not on our 'day job'. Costume making is something I upon a time did commissions for, but, not many mind you (for much of the reasons you put forth). At 400+ dollars for materials (minumum)... about 2000 is about the price at which it starts to become worth it---- Not to mention that when you make something that has to function as something wearable (or worse if it has animatronics) you are 'on the hook' if it should need any repair. :P So...uhh.. I dont know when I'll do another commission :/

"No more for me, thanks. I'm driving!"

(sowwy I wrote a book. Thanks for the interesting read. )

thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: October 12th, 2005 09:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: A universal notion.

I actually feel bad for costume/fursuit makers because of how often theyre expected to sell themselves short. I hear folks saying they won't pay more than 500 for a full suit. Well okay that might get you some fur slapped onto some foam, but considering the time one has to spend sewing, fitting, buying the materials NOT TO MENTION the head making with all its cooling implements and eye holes and moveable jaws, well there's a lot of planning that goes into it too. I sure as hell wouldn't do a fursuit for 500 if I were able, and while a couple thousand seems more than reasonable, most people aren't willing to pay it because they don't take into account all that they're getting.

Its a shame really. Thanks for reading.
chenneoue From: chenneoue Date: October 12th, 2005 09:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Its really sad how bad the artists get ripped off. And its sad too...I feel bad for asking a lot for my art.

...I don't help factors at all. <.>
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thornwolf From: thornwolf Date: October 13th, 2005 12:37 am (UTC) (Link)
That's usually what most people think unfortunately. BUT you as an artist deserve to have something to show for your hard work. Folks often think "oh my I want my prices to be low enough that people can afford me", but that is why you have a range of different options you can offer people, some on the low end of prices, and some on the high end of prices.

For example, that's why i think conbadges are a good idea. Theyre a full color personal character commission for cheap but they're SMALL, whereas you can get a full color character commission that is large for a price worthy of its time. Its all about options rather than sacrificing yourself =)
vekke From: vekke Date: October 13th, 2005 12:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for this tidbit of information

It is rather a good thing to keep in mind, it is. I shall have to memorify this one.

Your icon makes me very happy. c:
31 comments or Leave a comment
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