Print on Demand Newbies

‘I’ve been a member of FAA, Fine Art America for about six weeks and haven’t made one sale. Has anyone experienced this?”

The above is an actual question that popped up on the Fine Art America forum.  This kind of newbie question seems to pop up on a regular basis.  Somewhere out there is fantasy land there is a belief that if you post it, people will simply flock to it.  As if there is some kind of pent up demand for people’s vacation photographs.

And to boot, the person only had nine images uploaded!  Talk about a needle in the haystake!

I’ll admit, I’ve been there.  Way back when, maybe six years ago, I discovered microstock sites.  I had just gotten back into photography and was learning my way around thing new digital photography thing.  I discovered these sites where you could upload your photographs and designers would license them for a few bucks.  I read a couple of books about people who had been in microstock photography in the early days and how they uploaded a few photos and they were sold hundreds of times.
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Well it didn’t take me long to discover that those days were long gone, the market had matured and the professionals rushed in and saturated the market.  You’d be lucky to sell a photo a few times if any.  Originally I thought I’d start seeing sales at around 40 images but it turned out to be closer to 400 images and I had a lot of learning to do about photography and what the market wanted.

But my learning curve was faster than some people.  I’ve seen people on Fine Art America come on the forums with things like “I put a bunch of photos on this site four years ago and then forgot about them.  I just remembered that I put them up and I haven’t sold any, what gives?”

On microstock sites at least there is a built buyer population.  And they are image hungry people – designers and bloggers who need lots of images to create ads, posters, packaging, magazine articles etc.  They subscribe and download hundreds of image a month.  Fine art sites on the other hand are regular people buying art for their home or office, they might buy one or two pieces of art every few years.

What to understand about selling art on print on demand or POD sites

I think people don’t understand a few things when they come on a POD site in 2017.

  1. These site have been around for 10 years or so, some artists are well established on them.
  2. Every day thousands of new images are uploaded every day.
  3. Art buyers need to feel an emotional connection to the work.  Its not enough just to snap and upload.
  4. Art buyers know quality when they see it.  They look at magazines, at billboards, at books etc.  They are not going to hang some crap on their wall.  It has to be professional quality.
  5. There are hundreds of options when it comes to buying art.  Buying online is only one of them and it might not be the most convenient way for a buyer to purchase art.  Or it might be their preferred method – either way they  have a lot of options.
  6. Every vacation site has been covered.  Just because you went on vacation to XYZ doesn’t mean there aren’t local photographers and artist who live in XYZ and are also trying to sell their art.
  7. When you come to a site in 2016, there are plenty of people ahead of you.  In order to carve out a piece of the pie for yourself, you will have to knock off someone else who frankly might not be marketing as much as you or doesn’t have word as good as yours.  But you will have to want it more than guy/gal ahead of you.

Its not impossible to sell your artwork on print on demand sites like Fine Art America but just don’t expect success to come overnight or without any effort.

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