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April 2006

April 2006: Seeds



  • EMG News:
    April: Seeds
  • Wombat Droppings:
    The Process (As Promised)
  • Healthy Green Artists:
    The Artist, Globalisation, and the Cultural Creatives
  • Behind the Art:
    The ABC of Watercolor Brushes
  • Myths and Symbols:
    The Sun, Part 3


  • What on Earth is an Art Card?
  • Online Marketing, Part Four: Resources
  • Writer's Boot Camp, Part 2: Word Warriors


  • Poem: Dragon's Tooth
  • Boot Camp: Boot Camp Exercises


  • Movie: 9 Naga
  • Movie: Underworld: Evolution

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  • Online Marketing, Part Four: Resources
    by Liiga Smilshkalne

    With most of the theory covered, the following section will focus on separate resources that deserve a special mention, in no order whatsoever.


    I am not excessively familiar with ebay, but from my observations, it can be great for selling originals and sculpture, while awful with selling prints. The main trick about ebay is getting noticed. Often many auctions end unsuccessfully because of lack of hits. It is possible to purchase listing in several categories for additional fee, and it is said that two categories are usually a good amount for your product to be listed in. But without excessive advertising outside ebay - especially if one is new to it - it may be very hard to make decent profit from it. There is also an element of unpredictability, as you don't know the final selling price, and in some cases you may end up with a net loss, considering the cost of materials, advertising, and listing. Prints are hard to sell there, but collectors' items go reasonably well.

    The problem with ebay is that people usually go there to look for cheap things, so the amount that they are expecting to spend is considerably lower than what you might get for selling your product in a store. Also, it isn't an entirely art-orientated site in its essence, but it is reasonable to assume that some do go there looking for original art that they would not find elsewhere, as is often the case with auction houses.


    Although Elftown was briefly mentioned in the text already, due to its peculiar nature and increasing popularity I felt it needed to be elaborated on. Elftown originally was meant to be a community for Elfwood's artists and writers. Since then, the community part has remained, the artist and writer part is somewhat there, and the Elfwood part has almost died entirely.

    Both the strength and the weakness of Elftown are its diversity. On one hand, it is extremely open-ended, and members have a lot of freedom concerning the contents they post, for as long as they remain legal. Elftown uses a Wiki page system, which is something like simplified HTML. It lets you design your own Wikipages (further referred to as wikis) very quickly, easily and ready for posting. There are no ads, no bandwidth limitations. But you must use the preset layout (green background and fonts, as seen on this page, for example). You cannot use any scripts either. So overall don't count on Elftown becoming your host for an online gallery. ;) But, as it was already mentioned, the wikis are open for you to do what you want, you can create as many as you want, and there is a large amount of wikis on all topics imaginable already created by the members. There is also an array of opportunities to showcase your art. You get a little member page where you can upload a photo and a drawing (often enough, two drawings), and you can insert your images in your description, too, if you do it inconspicuously enough. There are many art contests, and a peculiar forum system (among which is an 'Art For Sale' forum). If you are nice and ask Elftown's 'mayor' Hedda, you will be granted uploading rights, which will allow you to upload images to various wikis as you see fit (and not only images). So it can be useful for backing up or even hosting some images.

    On the downside, however, the people who roam around Elftown are also extremely diverse, which can lead to some annoyances or unpleasant situations. For example, there are a lot of requests for free art around, and there are sometimes occasions of art theft. Luckily, the Elftown 'guards' do their best to weed out the art thieves. The forum system also takes a while to get used to.

    Overall, Elftown is a community with a lot of potential, and I have received several commissions from it, and quite likely also reasonable traffic. So while it can be annoying at times, and it is time-consuming, all in all it is quite fun and potentially rewarding.


    CafePress is a site that lets you sell your images on their products. It is rather well-visited and well-known. Everything is easy to set up, the interface is very intuitive, and they have a nice little community on their message boards. You can get a free account with limited layout (like this one), or you can pay them a set monthly fee and get a premium store where you can tweak the design to your liking. They do all the producing, shipping, etc., and the money issue is settled so that there is a base price, and you add some amount on top of that to form the final selling price. When the good is sold, you get the surplus you added. Then at some point (based on the accumulated amount) you get mailed a check.

    The downside to it all is that the base prices on CafePress are seriously high - so either you don't get to keep much, or you have trouble selling your items. And it also takes a considerable amount of marketing to get your shop off the ground. It is particularly hard with the free shops, as DMOZ refuses to list them. Premium shops fare better, and Google will pick your shop up eventually if you advertise thoroughly enough. CafePress itself does not generate much traffic to your site - it does feature some shops on the front page now and then, but that appears to be based on the amount of sales they make - so there's no chance that your store will get there when you're only starting out.


    Zazzle is more consumer-friendly than CafePress, because the prices are lower, and there is a lot of customizing opportunities for the buyer - you can choose whether to frame your prints or not, what color shirt you want, etc. For the storeowner, it is about as simple as CafePress - you upload your image, and then put it on their products, and they do all the selling and shipping. Also, the storefront on Zazzle is more customizable than that of the free stores on CafePress. There are random designs featured on the main page, as well as the most popular ones in some other sections, so everybody gets a chance to shine. There are quite a lot of people shopping on Zazzle, and visitors can leave comments on offered products.

    But there are also downsides. The most apparent one is that you don't set the price. Zazzle has a standard price for all prints, shirts, cards, etc. From that, you receive measly 10% from the sales price or 17% if you referred the buyer to the site. Those 10% usually mean 1-2$ per sale. Another, less obvious, but possibly even more painful downside is that you can't take your products off the site after they've been on for 24 hours. The only way to go about the problem is creating an additional folder (they let you create as many folders for your products as you want), naming it 'recycle bin' or something like that, and hoping that people won't look at it. You also have to do your own advertising, although not as much as on CafePress. I have tested this by not putting a link to my Zazzle store absolutely anywhere. There were still sales, that occurred randomly now and then, at no regular intervals. But with the 10% commission, the earnings with such approach are rather sad.

    Ellen Million Graphics

    EMG is a relatively well-known site that provides a variety of services. There is a store, the Portrait Adoption section, and the printing service.

    The store part of the site is in its function similar to CafePress and Zazzle. The artists submit their designs and they are offered on a variety of items, such as bookmarks, mousepads, prints, etc. The main distinguishing quality of EMG is that it focuses mostly on fantasy, although there are also sections for sci-fi, humor, and miscellaneous themed artwork. EMG generally has a more personal attitude toward both the artist and the customer, making the shopping experience more pleasant and making things clearer for the artists. There is also screening for quality, and size requirements. All artists are required to sign a contract. The moderating of the site is done by Ellen herself, and the works that are rejected get a detailed message explaining the reasons behind rejection. The site does, however, require having exclusive publishing rights for the kind of goods that you agree to put your designs on, over the duration of the contract.

    A downside is that the artists cannot set their own prices - they are pre-determined by Ellen according to the product type. Depending on product type, the artist receives from $0.25 to $5 per sale. So while some products don't create much revenue, there is still a decent chance to make a profit.

    Ellen also takes care of all the shipping, producing, and accounting, and the site provides a reasonable opportunity for your works to be seen. All recent additions are showcased on the front page, and it is possible to browse by theme, use a search function, or even browse by artist name. So, while additional marketing on your own is useful, this site does not require you to do half as much as CafePress or Zazzle do. Additionally, Ellen takes pre-made products to conventions, fairs and bazaars for extra exposure and sales.

    The Portrait Adoption part of EMG works differently than the store, and it is an extremely original approach to portraits. The premise behind PA is that artists put their ready-made portraits of anything they wish up for sale, and customers are able to browse the portraits and see if there is anything that suits their character. In case they can't find anything suitable, there is the submitted description service, that lets a customer submit a description of the portrait they would like, which is then put up for artists to take. Any number of artists can claim a single description, and the works are then put up on the Claim site along with prices, and the customer can choose what they want to purchase. The portraits that aren't purchased are usually put up for general adoption.

    While this site is a fantastic opportunity to avoid the hassle of commissions and re-working images to the customer's whims, it is demanding in some other ways. Firstly, upon signing the contract, the artist agrees to not sell the same portrait as what is sold over PA anywhere else - neither a copy nor original. (It must be noted that PA doesn't sell originals, only copies; according to current terms of agreement, originals can be sold 5 years after the adoption has occurred.) Also, the artist may not display any images of the adoptable portrait online that are longer than 500 pixels on the largest edge and do not bear copyright information - use of the provided PA watermarks is strongly encouraged. This way, it is ensured that the customer does indeed receive a unique print of the image, as it is promised on the site, along with an adoption certificate signed by the artist that verifies this fact.

    There are also rules concerning meeting deadlines of submitted descriptions. From the point a description is submitted, there are 2 months to claim it and get it done. If for some reason the artist has problems meeting the deadline, they may require an additional 7-day extension, known as grace period. Then, there are strikes assigned if one fails to meet the deadline, either one or two, depending on the type of failure. Upon receiving three strikes, one may not claim any submitted descriptions for 3 months.

    On PA, there is a good chance for your work to be seen. The new additions are displayed on the front page, there is a search function, and options to browse by price, subject, and artist's name. There are plans to add commission forms for all artist pages, as well. Marketing on your own is also encouraged, and it is possible to settle commissions that come from outside PA through the claim site, and Ellen will still take care of the printing and sending.

    The artists get to set their own prices, and PA keeps a relatively small commission fee depending on the price of the portrait, which can range from $2.50 if the portrait's price is $4-9 to $15 if the portraits price is $100-$115, for example. (Yes, it is possible to price your portraits as high as you want.)

    The EMG Printing service is exactly that - a printing service. The artist submits their works to EMG, specifies what products they should appear on, Ellen checks them for the right size and resolution, and then mails them either to the artist, or straight to the customer. It is also possible to get on-demand printing done, where the file is stored with EMG, and prints are made and shipped as and when required.

    Naturally, for this service one has to do all the marketing and advertising oneself, and it is not meant for selling originals, but it helps with getting the prints and other products made and shipped, especially if you reside overseas and want to sell your works in the USA, as EMG is located in Alaska.

    Online galleries

    Elfwood is being omitted at this point, because it was discussed rather thoroughly at the very beginning of the article series. Also, there are quite likely a whole lot of other galleries that I am unaware of, but this list should cover the major ones.


    DeviantArt, as most of you have probably found out, is a gallery of randomness. There's a lot of art of extremely varied quality on it, because the submissions are largely unmoderated (with the exception of administrators removing stolen art, etc.). There is an opportunity to sell prints if you purchase a print account, and you only have to upload an image that meets the print quality guidelines, and they take care of all the printing and shipping. There is an opportunity to join and found clubs, put people on your watch list, and in the forums there is a very large and active community.

    The big downside of DeviantArt is that due to the excessive size, you will have a hard time getting non-member traffic without extra advertising on your own. There is a system of 'daily deviation', which displays a picture picked by the team on the right side of a whole lot of pages (every day gets several pictures, and they display a random one), and also of 'featured deviation', which features a number of pictures and prints on the front page, according to the highest numbers of 'favorites' achieved. The big problem with these is that daily deviation often goes unnoticed due to the randomness factor, and it is not often that one receives it, and the featured deviations are only possible if you are already well-known enough to get the necessary amount of favorites. Other than that, the chances that a non-DA member will see your works are slim. Another problem is with the prints—a lot of members are younger people, or 'starving artists'. So, not many will actually have the money to purchase your prints regularly enough. Add to that the cost to have a print account and the fact that you only get the surplus amount the same way as on CafePress, and it isn't all that profitable in the end.

    As for the forums, there is a section where people with job offers can post, and a section where artists looking for job can post. The job offers are often ridiculous, with such pearls as 7 pictures for $20 (no, not $20 each!), a logo for $50 (make it a contest at that!) and so on and so forth. The section where artists post is looking rather sad as well, and anyone asking for respectable prices will most likely receive no reply. Such is the sad reality of DeviantArt.

    GFXartist is a rather large and continuously growing art community, with a focus on artist interaction. Although it is in its essence an online gallery, there is a large stress on exchange of comments, criticism, and ideas among artists. An interesting point is that it mostly takes place in the comment area under each picture, and the forums were rather empty until recent, when they have started to liven up.

    The bright side of GFXartist is that it is extremely rewarding if you want to improve your skills and get honest, sometimes brutal, but nevertheless constructive criticism from fellow artists. There are many professionals there, who will often not shy away from sharing advice with others. The forums have a WIP section that is very useful, as well as job offers section. There have also tags '[PAID]' and '[UNPAID]' in topics for jobs.

    On the down side, a lot of posts on the job section are offers of future exposure. Also, all of the commenters on galleries are member artists, because the site doesn't let you comment or vote for pictures if you haven't registered. You do get your time to shine as thumbnails of all new additions are displayed on the main page, and there is a link just underneath them that leads to bigger thumbnails of all new additions - you can even view them sorted by section (which include painting, photography, 3d modeling and a few others).

    However it remains a mystery of how well GFXartist does at generating sales of your art. At least, for all the time that I have been a member of it, no commissions have come from the site, and the incoming traffic to artist personal sites from there is under a question mark.

    Epilogue - who hasn't heard of Epilogue? It is famous for its strict quality control, the tight community, and the proud statement of being the 'best in fantasy and sci-fi'.

    Compared to the aforementioned sites, Epilogue is more focused toward attracting outside traffic. Non-members can freely comment on art, there is a fairly refined search function, new additions are browsable by day when they were added starting with the most recent ones, there are featured submissions every day that are picked randomly by the editors, and there is a featured artist of the month.

    On the down side, the big problem of Epilogue is its slowness. The servers often crawl, and lately there has been a lot of downtime. This unreliability might make you want to think twice before providing the link to your Epilogue gallery in your ads - at least, until it is for certain that the problems have been fixed, which hopefully might happen in near future. The search engine is also affected by the immense slowness, and there seems to be a glitch that when you click on a result, after viewing it and pressing backspace you are greeted by a 'page expired' error message and have to start over. Opening the links in a new window fixes that, but it is something that the engine should really do on its own. There is also a lack of staff for things like developing new features and doing the same old moderating job, as many members of the staff are very busy artists themselves, so there are often delays. However, they are doing a commendable job with the resources available, and here goes hoping that in the future Epilogue will be able to withstand the task it has taken.

    On a happier note, there are plans of creating a feature section that would be focused on art publishers and other people that would be seeking for artists for professional jobs, where artists would be able for some fee post a resume. Let's hope that this project meets the daylight, despite the delays.

    DigitalArt is a strange gallery. On one hand, there is a lot of high quality art there, and there is some quality and content control, as all entries get moderated before they are posted on the site. (Sometimes to a ridiculous extent - I have had an image rejected because there were semi-naked breasts visible in it, somewhat covered by jewelry, with no nipples showing.) There are also pictures marked as 'standout' for each batch that is posted, and there is one that is featured on the front page for being of extra high quality. That is all very nice, but otherwise the site is very slow and some parts are close to dead. The news section gets updated extremely slowly, with months in between. The new submissions are for some reason added in batches, with few days in between. The average waiting time for an image to be posted is around 4-7 days. It is hard to comment on how well the site attracts commissions and purchases, as it seems to be low on traffic, because of the slowness. So while it can be worth a shot for extra exposure, generally it is not to be expected an important source of income.

    Renderosity is a rather large community, with a multitude of members and its own marketplace. There is a featured artist of the month, featured merchant of the month, and contests that are usually centered on holidays. Most members are quite active on posting comments, and a picture can be voted into various lists that increase exposure. The site is mostly focused on 3d art, but 2d has a decent chance as well.

    However, Renderosity has one serious problem: non-members cannot view art. Now, I have no idea what the creators of the site were thinking, but if you aren't a member and attempt to follow a link to someone's artwork, you are greeted by a little form that invites you to log in. Perhaps it was meant to attract more members, but it serves as a large annoyance and most people are likely to leave the site when encountering such a nagtag instead of actually signing up. The marketplace is centered on various props and brushes. They include models, textures, backgrounds, hair brushes, etc. There seems to be no art being sold there, which would include prints or sculptures. This renders the site largely useless for external exposure. It is unlikely that even Google will be able to pick up links from image descriptions due to the requirement to log in.

    The forums, while existent, have poor organization, and are uncomfortable to use. The site generally suffers from poor navigation that mostly consists of drop-down menus on the right side of the page. A lot of navigation is counter-intuitive, and generally takes some getting used to. has definitely grown over the last few years. Now it has slightly over 9000 members and presumably the number keeps growing. The staff is rather active and there have been a lot of innovations to keep the site expanding - you can sell prints (although you have to do all the shipping and printing yourself, similarly as on Epilogue), there are frequent contests the winner of which is displayed on the main page, and there is a Top 10 page that displays the highest rated images from various time frames. There is the option to upgrade your account to receive all sorts of perks, from custom layout to unlimited number of portfolio images.

    As for marketing, has done some very nice things, like the opportunities to be on the main page, the contests, the book, etc. But there are a few things about the site that cut down on the advantages. One of them is that for unknown reasons the background is a texture of light blue cubes. There is something about that solid gray or black color that most sites have chosen for their backgrounds that usually leaves a much more solid impression. Perhaps it's the fact that any colors look good and stand out on neutral background. The light blue sometimes works, but sometimes it does not. Also, there is a certain lack of a common theme for the site; it is between being a site for customers and for artists, it has no common genre, there are no quality guidelines, and the "jobs" section on the message board has posts from 2003 right on the first page.

    So overall, while can be good for exposure just like any other online gallery, it is unlikely that it will become one's main source of traffic and/or revenue.


    That concludes this insight into the world of marketing. A lot of this came from my own experience while operating a CafePress shop, Zazzle shop, looking for commissions, and being a member of all the mentioned art sites. I am not claiming perfect knowledge on the entire issue, and there are probably tips and tricks that have gone unmentioned, and some information is likely to change with time. Hopefully these articles will prove useful in your travels through the art market.

    Liiga Smilshkalne is a person who likes to do an intimidatingly large amount of things, preferably all at the same time, but she's been devoting enough time to drawing now to dare call herself an artist. She works mostly digitally and has designed posters, brochures, logos, CCG cards, magazine illustrations and plenty of character portraits.

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