It usually begins around late October.
Customers shopping early for Christmas presents start sending me messages on Etsy and Facebook, or asking me directly at the Farmer’s Market:
“Do you ever sell calendars of your artwork?”
“You really should! I bet they would sell like hotcakes!”
I have considered selling calendars, as many of my artist friends already do. One year, I even tested the idea by printing and stitching together one all by myself. While it was an interesting project, it was very time-consuming and expensive.
As a small business tiny business owner, I can’t purchase my ink or paper in large enough quantities to make calendar printing affordable for re-sale.
By re-sale, I mean “make a profit” ~ even a little profit ~ on all my work, rather than simply giving them away. Setting a retail price with a bit of wiggle-room means I am able to run sales and/or mark-down leftover calendars in June 2015. LOL
All of the artists I know (with one notable exception) use professional labs to print their calendars. Pro-labs print large volumes of orders, enabling them to purchase materials in greater quantities than we independent artists are able to afford.
When I checked into printing calendars via online companies like Shutterfly or Adoramapix, or even print-in-bulk companies like PSPrints and OvernightPrints, the price per calendar still seemed unreasonably high.
The only way to purchase custom calendars at a cost comparable to other retailers was to invest in a giant truckload of them. Maybe if I ordered a pallet of 1,000 calendars? The kids don’t need a 3rd bedroom. They can share. :P
Again it boiled down to that evil thing called money. Buying 1,000 calendars is quite expensive, even though the price per calendar is very reasonable. The proverbial Catch-22 kept me chasing my tail for two years, until I discovered Kickstarter.
Earlier this year, I participated in a collective art project named 78Tarot ~ 78 artists from around the world, each contributing artwork for one Tarot card. Mine was the 5 of Pentacles.
The entire project was funded successfully through Kickstarter; the decks were mass produced in October, and are currently being shipped from overseas… on a boat. :P
The idea of “Crowd Funding” had never occurred to me before, but it makes sense! If customers wanted to purchase calendars of my artwork, why not allow them to pre-order and use the funds to buy calendars in bulk?
I narrowed my choices down to two companies, and then polled my friends for info. One of the companies has a solid reputation; a friend of mine who paints popular fantasy art confessed that she has been using this company for several years. She has well over 100,000 fans on Facebook, and is extremely picky (in a good way!) about the quality of her merchandise… so her endorsement was important to me.
What I really enjoy about this company is how flexible they are. Although they do provide a few simple “drop your photo here” templates, for people who have no design inclinations, they also allow adventurous creators to design and upload fully customized calendar layouts. The template that I downloaded for Photoshop included transparent blank files for designing my own calendar, and an instructional file with guidelines for image dimensions, safe area, and bleed edge.
I find designing products to be a challenge very different from painting portraits. There are font styles and borders to consider, and whether to make the image full-length, or highlighted against a background. It was very stressful in the beginning ~ I agonized over that cover featuring Mr. Bennet! LOL And I changed my mind about my font choices after completing several months’ layouts, and had to re-edit them all. :P
Overall, though, I enjoy playing around with ideas, and in the end, I am proud to say that this calendar will be 100% designed by me. It’s really the next best thing to actually printing it myself. :)
I was nervous about launching my own Kickstarter project, because marketing myself isn’t something I feel comfortable doing… although I told my husband that if I couldn’t convince 35 people to buy $20 calendars, I probably shouldn’t be making them in the first place. My video is cringe-worthy, so hopefully my work will speak for itself. LOL!
The 2015 Literary Cats Calendar Project went live on October 31st, and after its first weekend, I have already received 50% of my initial goal of $700!! Yay!
This amount will allow me to purchase an initial 50 calendars and ship them to 50 addresses within the US, (Kickstarter requires domestic shipping to be included), plus pay their associated fees.
I will order additional calendars if needed. I’ve also added several Rewards perks to entice early backers, such as free 8″x10″ prints and greeting cards!
I will also be painting a special Christmas-themed portrait for the month of December. The sketch and work-in-progress images will only be shared with backers of my project, and the ORIGINAL PAINTING itself is a Reward at the $160 level! I will share the image with everybody else once the calendars have shipped.
The campaign will run through November 21st. I am hoping to have the calendars ordered by the 5th of December (Kickstarter, working with Amazon Payments, holds the funds for 14 days!), and have them ready and delivered to my house by the 15th at the latest.
In the meantime, I will address all the mailers, and stuff the Rewards inside… so that when the calendars arrive on my doorstep, I can quickly ship them back out. :)
Fortunately, many of my current backers live on the East Coast, and will probably receive their orders within 1-2 days. :)
These are Limited Edition calendars, as I will only be ordering them once. Any leftover calendars will be placed in my Etsy shop, sold through eBay, or at spring shows. I can’t guarantee that I will have many left, so the best way to ensure that you get one (or several) is to place your order through my Kickstarter page.
This has been a really fun experience so far, and I definitely plan on doing another crowd-funded calendar next fall!