In recent years, Print On Demand (POD) technology has made it much easier to get reproductions of artwork into the hands of collectors. POD means just that: a print is made on demand, when the purchase is made. POD means that artists no longer have to invest heavily in print runs, warehouse their prints, and hope to sell enough prints to make back the cost of the printing. The risk and expense are mostly gone, but marketing is just as important as ever. In pre-POD days, the rule of thumb was: “whatever your printing costs, plan to spend that same amount on marketing, or those prints will take up permanent residence under your bed…or in your garage.” Which shows how important marketing was, and still is.
POD works like this: you create an account on a website such as ImageKind or Redbubble, upload your images, set your prices, and sit back, waiting for the checks to roll in. The website will do all the promotion for you, right? Wrong. Just because a site has thousands of visitors a day doesn’t mean they’ll be seeing your work. All successful artists participate in their success. They schmooze. They network. They get out and meet people. They write press releases. They write articles and blogs. They do whatever it takes to get their work noticed. So a website that helps you with marketing and promotion is bound to be more valuable than one that simply prints and ships your work out. I’ve found such a site, and it is called Fine Art America.
Fine Art America has much the same offerings as the other sites we’ve profiled in the past, but it offers some services none of them have. For instance, you may have heard of the email mailing service Constant Contact, which allows you to create customized HTML emails and send them out to thousands of email subscribers. This is quite a specialized service, and it is all that Constant Contact does. I used them for several years to send out a monthly newsletter, at a cost of $50 a month (I had a small list). Fine Art America offers this service FREE to all members. In fact, every thing about FAA is free, except for the optional $30 per year fee to use their POD service. As we’ve seen before, some sites are charging that much per month.
Another service from FAA none of its competitors offer is a shopping cart that you can use on your website. I really can’t emphasize how important that is. With all the other sites, you have to drive your customers to their site to buy your artwork. FAA gives you a shopping cart (for free, no less) that you can imbed right into your OWN website, allowing you to sell your work directly to your visitors. How neat is that? Imagine how impressed potential buyers will be.
FAA has a unique feature in that it shows online browsers the work of local artists. If you live in San Diego, it shows you work by FAA members in San Diego. This is really helpful for traditional artists building a clientele for original works. It’s also a way to find artists in your neighborhood. FAA uses this same technology to send out tailored weekly newsletters to subscribers. For example, you can post an art opening on FAA’s online calendar of upcoming events. The next time a newsletter goes out, all of the readers in your location will read about your opening.
The community aspects of FAA go way beyond what any similar site offers. In addition to the usual forum, there is a blogging section, there are groups moderated by other artists (or you can start one yourself), and an online chat area. You can discover what’s going on with other artists by checking the unique Graphs area, which shows hourly activity for comments, recommendations, visitors, and favorites. There’s also a Jobs posting area. Recent print sales are displayed here, so you can see what’s been selling.
Of course, FAA also provides you with gallery space and custom page-building tools, as well as image hosting. They have a unique zoom function that allows shoppers to see exactly what a portion of your image looks like at full resolution. Zazzle has this functionality, but it’s not as nice as this. The zoom function will help to assure potential buyers that the final image is of high quality. If you choose to use the POD capability, you’ll find that the framing and matting seems very reasonably priced (which means they’re not price-gauging there to make profits). There is a solid search facility, as well as grouping by tags, media, color, and subject.
At this point, you might be asking yourself, “Gosh, if they’re so great, how come no one’s ever heard of them?” That’s what I’m wondering. And it does make me leery, to see so much being offered for next to nothing. Maybe I’m getting cynical in my old age, but I’ve always believed the saying “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” On the other hand, their traffic numbers show they are about to overtake both Imagekind and Redbubble. They have 12,000 members. Maybe they are just what they seem to be. So I’d like to ask our readers for input. Have you had any experience with Fine Art America? If so, please leave a comment and let us know. Thanks!