How does a POD site work?
You can think of a POD site as a store shelf. Your artwork sits on the shelf until someone wants to buy it. Then they take it down and sell a copy to the customer. Then the artwork goes back on the shelf to be sold to the next customer.
Basically you open and account, upload your artwork and the POD site does all of the order fulfillment when an order comes in.
Is it really that easy?
Unfortunately no, it is not easy to sell work on POD sites because all of the marketing is up to you. Sure you can get the occasional random sale from the sites search engine but the chances are slim. Many of these sites have over 100,000 artists with thousands signing up every single day. All of these artists are uploading new work at astounding rates. The chances of anyone finding your work is about the same as finding a needle in a haystack, depending of course on several factors including:
- The quality of your work
- The key wording and descriptions of your work
- The quality, key wording and pricing of your direct competition
- The popularity of your subjects
- The rarity of your subjects
- How well known you are
And so on. Its no different than the challenges faced by product companies like Johnson and Johnson or Unilever when they bring out new products. They don’t just toss a new product up on the supermarket shelf (footage on the shelves are bought by the way), each product launch requires a great deal of promotion – news releases, coupons, advertisements, product giveaways, contests, etc, etc.
The same goes for selling on Print On Demand sites. The site doesn’t do any promotion of individual artists. Mostly the artist is a commodity to the POD site. They don’t care about one artist over another. The only thing that matters is that the buyer purchases something, anything, that they can earn a commission on.
In fact if you notice how POD sites market themselves, they rarely talk about the artists, most of the marketing is not aimed at buyers but rather at sellers. They all need a constant stream of new artists to upload new work because every artist will then be out there promoting their stuff and driving more traffic back to the mother site.
The reality is also that making consistent sales on POD sites takes a lot of work and most people give up before they have a chance at success. It has been said that any new business enterprise takes three years before its successful and the large majority of people throw in the towel before even the first year.
So you have this tremendous and nearly impossible task of being found among the millions of pieces of art being offered for sale online and most people are not up to the task. As one might expect, the POD sites have a tremendous amount of “churn” as its called in the magazine subscription industry. People dropping out or not working hard have to be replaced on a constant basis. Thus the need to constantly advertise for new artists with the goal of building up their numbers of “hardworking” artists in the sense of artists willing do a lot of self promotion.
This is completely different from a gallery model. In a gallery situation the artist mostly has to promote themselves to the gatekeepers or gallery owners who select their stable of artists. Once selected the artist agrees to a commission structure in the order of 50% of sales. For this the gallery is responsible for showing and promoting the artist to its cultivated audience of art buyers.
Most POD site don’t have any “gate-keeping” they allow anyone to upload and rely on sale-ability to bring the good stuff up to the top. Unknowingly, “artists” with poor quality work see their offerings drop to the bottom of a black hole only to be seen if they have a particular location or unique keyword.
End of Part One