Print On Demand: Is It Worth It?

05/04/2019

If you are just starting out, or want to make some passive income on the side with artwork you’d have lying around otherwise – Print On Demand provides you with a great working model and opportunities to share and sell your work to the world. It gives you the chance to see firsthand how well people respond to your pieces, how well they sell and what adjustments need to be made – all free of charge. Albeit you’re using your time to create said pieces, but there are no physical costs involved for this process.

(image from Society 6: Wall Tapestry artwork by Beth Hoeckel).

Different Print On Demand sites have varying price points – on some platforms, you’ll find all of the prices are fixed and offer the artist no option to amend the pricing in any way. Others offer customised pricing on certain items. For example, Society 6 allow artists to set their own pricing on art prints and other printed pieces, whereas others don’t have this option at all. Partnered with the royalty payout percentages (usually between 5 – 10%) this can sometimes mean you receive next to nothing for the sale of items with your artwork on them.

When I started selling work on my first Print On Demand site, I thought ‘this is flipping fantastic! I don’t have to spend a penny, I’m getting my art out there and making money at the same time!’ – and for a while – this working model really helped me out.

(my prints on products: Green Peace & Yumi via Deny Designs)

 

However, as I became more experienced and established with my art – I started to really analyse how these contracts work, questioning the amounts we were paid in comparison to the sales figures. I couldn’t help but feel a little funny when I saw figures like this:

(these are real figures from one POD site I was contracted to)

Net Sales: What my work made the company.

Royalties: What I was paid.

You might look at those figures and think ‘are you taking the piss?’ – and believe me, that’s how I felt too – but the bottom line is – this is how it all really works. No one ever really breaks down the facts & figures, it’s all just surface level stuff we’re told. The reality is that yes – we are able to get our work sold on items we may not be able to afford to produce ourselves, but the reality also is – if you’re expecting to get reasonably recompensed for any sales your art makes for these companies… you may want to sit tight.

From a personal level, I feel artists should get more. The fact of the matter is – they need us more than we need them. Without us they would have no wonderful items to sell. (This is my own personal opinion.)

It’s great as a stepping stone to start out, but not so practical for those looking to make art their main source of income.

In my case, the payout I received is even less than the 10% outlined at the start – the reason being because what some POD companies do, is outsource your work to bigger companies, cutting the royalty percentage even further. In this case, some of my work was sold on another company platform, shaving some items down to just 5% royalties.

Some pay monthly, some pay quarterly – and others only pay you if you make a certain amount (with either cash or vouchers…). Check the terms – if they pay out artists through vouchers only…man, don’t even waste your time. Those particular POD sites are totally exploitative in my opinion, as they essentially give you nothing.

 

One thing to look out for in any contract is exclusivity. Some of these companies may request exclusivity on certain images on certain items.

For example, they may ask you to agree that you won’t sell a particular print as an art print, or on any accessories for the next 2 years, as it will be exclusively sold by them. This means that all other opportunities for that arena have been forfeited in place of royalty payments from the contractor.

But hey, it’s not all bad – if there is no requirement to sign over exclusivity, you are able to use artwork to generate extra coins in the background while still using/selling them elsewhere.

(real figures from another POD site I was selling on)

As with anything, ya know, it’s not guaranteed you’ll sell anything – and if you do, it’s unlikely you’ll be earning enough to make a living from it (It’s possible, just perhaps unwise to put all your eggs in that basket). It can serve as a great way to get your work out there, spread the word and give you something to put towards your savings, just be sure you read the fine print! They have their great pros and their cons – I just wanted to give a deeper insight with evidence of how artists are recompensed to help you guys make fully informed decisions.

If you want to try out different POD sites for whatever reason – this is perfectly fine, nothing wrong with that! If they’re not for you – again, perfectly fine! As long as you understand at the core of it that you have the power to reach whatever heights you wish, regardless! There are some links to some Print On Demand sites on the useful links page.

If you have any other questions about this topic, don’t hesitate to get in touch!