I'm late getting to work this morning (up all night with a fractious doggie), so just a short update post first.
2013 was a banner year for our print sales; among other high points we were honored by the presence of the distinguished Caponigro père et fils. However as you might remember I made a bit of a SNAFU of the mechanics of the last sale. (Origin of that term: WWII, for "situation normal: all fouled up." The f-word in that phrase can be subject to modification.)
I've been working diligently in the interim to correct the situation. We're working toward letting a fulfillment firm handle both the e-commerce and the packing and delivery of prints.
Having learned my lesson (I'm slow, but not stupid), we will be doing a small "test sale" next. This will consist of a signed print of mine, of a picture I've already shown here that people seemed to like. Because it's only "a test of the system," the price will be very low. However, there will also be a limited number of prints on offer—it won't be an open edition. I've informally dubbed it the "80x80" sale: eighty prints for eighty dollars each. We're hoping it will sell out, so we can get timing metrics on shipment and delivery. The print Ctein made (we've gone back and forth with proofs and minute variations) is really beautiful, and I'm enormously pleased with it—it's the best B&W print ever made from a file of mine since the dawn of digital.
I'm not going to be making a very big deal of it, so you'll have to keep an eye out. When it will come along depends on when all the systems are ready to go.
If everything doesn't go right, then it's back to the drawing board—we'll keep trying until we do get it right. That would mean more tinkering, a second test sale, and a delay on our other plans.
If everything does go right, next up would be a larger "group sale": 100 prints of one photograph each by six different photographers. The details aren't ironed out yet, but this will hopefully include some gems that I've been eyeing for a long time, including a gorgeous Leica S example print (the sale will include a very limited number of extremely large prints); a black-and-white "social documentary" picture by a regular TOP reader and commenter that I've loved since I first published it; one of my favorite pictures by old friend Kim Kirkpatrick who taught at the Smithsonian for many years (and whose work is not normally for sale); and Ctein's extraordinary bird impression picture, which is a great example of a print that has to be seen to be believed—it looks exponentially better in print form than as a JPEG.
Also coming up—remember when Ctein was musing about what to do with the matrix sets from all his dye transfer pictures? He's going to be offering all those, for a nominal price, to anyone who wants a set. Largely historical artifacts at this point, each set will consist of the dye matrices, a notated test print, and a printed explanation of what it all means. I'm planning to contact my local art museum to see if their photography department wants a set or two, and if so I'll donate them. Among other things, this will be a great way to see a dye transfer for yourself, if you haven't yet, for almost no money. Watch his column in February for this.
Another post later today, after I've recombobulated myself.
ADDENDUM: If our fulfillment plans work, it will make it much easier for us to have smaller but more frequent print sales—and by a wider range of photographers.
I've been accused in the past of only having sales of prints by my friends. That charge is of cronyism, which is a bad thing. But if you'll think about it, there's a very good reason for it indeed: with a large, unlimited sale, where the prints are made to fulfill the orders after the sale, I have to be very, very sure that the photographers will come through for me—that is, I have to know they're capable of doing all the work (and it's really hard work, make no mistake about that), and professional enough to be diligent. This does indeed tend to limit the sales to people who are well known to me—the better I know them, the more assured I am that we're safe, that our customers will be served in a timely fashion and aren't going to be left in the lurch. I've lived in fear of the day when we have a print sale by a photographer who just can't get all the work done for one reason or another. That would make a real mess, one I know I'd be working for months to put right.
With smaller, more limited, more frequent sales, we could potentially get all or some of the prints to the shipper before the sale. This would greatly limit the fulfillment work required of the photographers: they'd have fewer (or no) prints to make under pressure, no sales or money to monitor, no customer service to do, and no packing and shipping to do. And this would make it not only very feasible but easy to have single-print sales by photographers I don't even know personally: I'd just ask them to make some prints and send 'em to the shipper (well, it's a little more involved than that, but you know what I mean), and then we'd announce that we have that many prints to sell: easy as pie.
So what I foresee is more freedom in the print sales: we'll be able to open them to more photographers, have sales more frequently, and be more adventuresome in offering things that are more offbeat. For instance, whenever I include a picture in a post that lots of people really like, inevitably, in the comments, a few people will say that we should have a print offer of that picture. Well, in the future, maybe we'll actually be able to be just that responsive. I'm really looking forward to that future.
Original contents copyright 2014 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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