Welcome back and thank you for taking the time to read our updates. We hope that the previous posts were helpful to you and now we’re back to tell you about some changes we’ve made since those posts went live.
You may have noticed some of those changes: our hardcover books are no longer available on Amazon, Bookshop, or other retailers (more about that in a future post.) Our merchandise store has also changed substantially and is now offered through our website. (Check it out here.)
With that, we’re pleased to announce our Book Business Phase 1.5 series that will walk you through the why, what, and how things have changed for us over the last six months or so.
So without further ado, let’s talk about our storefront.
The Shop: Why Has So Much Changed?
You may be wondering, “Your business just started, so why would anything change so drastically in such a short period of time?“
Being able to change and adapt in order to provide the best service and product is absolutely fundamental to our existence.
But, also, we’re just learning as we go. One thing we learned? We didn’t really like RedBubble all that much.
There were some core issues that we had with RedBubble:
- Store front organization did not exist.
- We had no real control over sales or special offers.
- The store was hosted separately from our website.
- Quality issues with select products
These issues, as well as a smattering of others not mentioned above, can be be divided into two main categories: Control and Quality.
Your brand is a representation of you, and when someone holds your product, be it a book or sticker or art print, you want them to feel happy and satisfied. You want to feel like you gave them the best representation of your creative idea that you could.
But whenever you outsource any part of your business, you lose some control. It may be the quality of the product, the delivery of the product, or your brand placement – you have to give up something.
It’s hard to recommend RedBubble because the storefront is disorganized at best. You can’t run a sale or offer coupons to your repeat buyers. Yet RedBubble will often run their own sales which cut into your profits since revenue is calculated as a percentage of their base price.
It was less than ideal especially once we realized some of our products had quality issues.
To be fair, not all products in our inventory from RedBubble were bad (many are quite good) but one sticker in particular stood out to us. Since we also use MakeStickers, we sent the same design and size specifications to them.
Here’s the original design, an illustration by John called Little Bang.
Below, we have a quick picture of the two sticker prints side-by-side. On the left, we have the RedBubble sticker. On the right, the sticker from MakeStickers.
Here are the core differences when viewed up close and personal:
- The RedBubble sticker has tons of noise and thus lacks definition.
- The RedBubble sticker colors do not closely match the original design.
- See the stitches? On the left, these just look like lines but on the right they are still clearly defined.
For the artists out there wondering if this was a file problem, the design was illustrated as an 8×8 300DPI CMYK file and the stickers are a 3×3 print. We would expect some loss of detail shrinking things down so much but that level of noise and bad colors? Nah.
The Shop: What Now?
Walking away from RedBubble meant we had a problem to solve since we still have a desire to sell our art and products based on our art.
Thus, we’ve had to transition to a hybrid model.
When you take a look at our shop, you’ll see a variety of products being offered today. We have T-Shirts, Tank Tops, a pillow, Art Prints, and sticker sheets. We can’t afford to have a massive inventory of these goods, so how are we doing it?
After many hours of research, we found Printful.
Printful is a print-on-demand service that integrates with various storefronts (Shopify, WooCommerce, Etsy, etc.) to take orders, print the product, and ship it on behalf of the store front. Specifically, if you buy a t-shirt from our shop, that order is fulfilled and handled by Printful – not us.
This service is convenient but introduces crazy shipping costs, which leaves us the option to either pass those costs on to the consumer, or include them in the cost of our products and offer “free” shipping. We’re trying to find the right balance of offering our products at a reasonable price while still making a profit and not hitting consumers with a whopping shipping cost when they’re ready to check out, causing them to abandon their cart. This was one reason why we walked away from using this service to provide art prints of any kind – the shipping costs did not balance with the cost of the product.
Hence, our hybrid approach.
In our store, you’ll now see a selection of art prints like this one here. These prints are produced by a proper fine art printer on archival quality paper. When they come to us, we wrap them for protection in archival bags and make them available for sale online. When someone makes a purchase, we drop them off at the post office.
It’s not the best system, because 1) We have to purchase and store this inventory in advance. And 2) We have to ship it ourselves and handle any potential returns.
However, it is currently the best way to ensure that we’re getting products to you that properly represent our business.
Okay, What About Your Books?
We will be writing more on this in our next article The Book Business Phase 1.5: Distribution Updates but to give you a little preview: we are moving away from IngramSpark.
Over the coming months, you will see our books added to The Shop. In fact, they may be added before this blog post becomes official.