An Ethel Among Mermans (thornwolf) wrote,
An Ethel Among Mermans

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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?
Tags: business tips
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