Last fall's print offering taught me that I had a lot more fans (note the lower-case "f") than I realized. My friend Peter Hentges suggested I take a look at "1000 True Fans" as a model that might turn this into some sort of long-term benefit to my career, instead of just a one-shot windfall. I decided it was a plausible experiment. What I hope to get out of this is a more stable and secure source of income that will let me devote much more time to creating new art.
Here's what I'm offering:
1) You, the subscriber, agree to give me $9.50 a month for a year, to support my art. This is a donation that supports my work, not the purchase of a particular piece of art.
2) At the end of that year, I'll put up a webpage with a selection of digital prints (at least 6 pieces, maybe a lot more). You can choose any two prints. There are no additional costs, not even shipping. Effectively, two prints cost you less than half what you would normally pay for one ($125+shipping). That's your reward for investing in me.
If you don't care for any of those select works, I'll let you apply what you've donated to any photograph at ctein.com, dollar for dollar. (You'll have banked most of the regular cost of a digital print, for example.) There's no way you can lose.
(Fine print: monthly donations will have to go through PayPal. The $9.50/month is only for U.S. addresses. If you hate PayPal or live elsewhere, see the FAQs below.)
Mike commented that he thought that whether or not I did something like this wouldn't affect me creating new art. Wrong. My art brings in a small fraction of my income, so I can only devote 1–2 days a month to making new art. At even the 100-subscriber level, I'd spend a lot more time making art. That's the minimum number I need to try this; the money isn't worth the effort for fewer. If 100 of my "fans" email me expressing interest in signing up for this by the end of the month, I'll give it a go. Please email me rather than posting your interest as a general comment. I'll send the folks who emailed me a link to a webpage which will spell out all the details and options and where they can sign up for real.
I'm still working out some details. Should I make everything a standard 11x14-inch print size, or should I go as large as 13x19"? How much of what I offer in the selection should be new digital prints as opposed to existing favorites from my portfolio? I'll be guided by the subscribers' preferences on these matters, so email me with your thoughts, please.
FAQs after the break....
Q: Why should I pay you money in advance instead of just buying photos that I like from your website?
A: I wish you would just buy my art, please! There are folks who find it easier to buy art by banking a little money each month than paying all at once. Others will find the "two-for-one" value of the donation a bargain way to collect my work.
Q: Will the special selection be second-tier work that nobody would want otherwise? Will it be old work or new work?
A: The special selection will most definitely include the very best art I think I have. Doing anything else would shoot myself in the foot! I want people to be happy enough with this that they'll encourage others to sign up and they'll renew their subscriptions annually. The only way this works, long-term, is if there's patron loyalty and appreciation.
I'm thinking of a ratio of two-thirds new work to one-third from my portfolio (or at least not offered as digital prints before). I'm expecting subscribers will tell me of works in my existing portfolio that they'd especially like to see offered. If many people want a photograph to be included, I'd be foolish to ignore them.
Q: I hate monthly payments. I'd rather just pay you up-front for the whole year. Can I do that?
A: Yes, I'll give people that choice, and you can pay that to me by personal check or credit card.
Q: I hate PayPal. Can I participate?
A: Pay your annual donation all at once, and you don't need to use PayPal. I have no way of automatically processing recurring monthly donations other than PayPal (I can't afford to do manual monthly billing). If readers know of another service that will handle automatic monthly donation billing, let me know and I'll investigate.
Q: I live outside the U.S. Am I left out?
A: No, but shipping outside the US will cost an extra two or three dollars a month. (I'm still figuring out exactly how much.) My shipping and handling time and costs are higher for foreign delivery.
Q: Why do you keep calling this a donation?
A: Because PayPal insists that it be a donation. It's contractual. PayPal can deal with monthly payments in return for merchandise or services that are delivered monthly or with monthly donations where nothing is promised in return (so far as their accounting system is concerned). They can't handle monthly payments towards a future purchase, because that means carrying unfulfilled contractual obligations on their books for an entire year, and they are not set up to do that (yes, I asked.)
Any more questions? Thoughts? Suggestions? Want to give it a try? Here's my email address one more time.