Blowing the Doors Wide Open

Flight

Two weeks ago I announced my parting ways with Twenty20. While the wounds are still a bit raw, I feel it’s a necessary step to inform my most loyal following as to why this decision was made.

For some time now, not having control over the pricing of my own products has disturbed me. While I understood my parent company had to make some profit as well, I felt this was only hurting my customer base. After all, if everything I sell is overpriced, who is going to buy it?

The company made it clear this was an aspect that was not going to budge much. My customers always said my products were of pristine quality – so no complaints there. The high prices seemed to be the only concern a little less than a year ago.

How it Worked

Matters seemed simple at first. All I had to do as an artist was create. Easy, right? Wrong. Although they had the difficult part of transferring all of my designs onto the various products, they often changed bits of our agreement along the way. Over time more features were stripped away.

Before the significant changes the items for sale included: {canvases, photo prints,}(various sizes) prisms (glass art), apparel, greeting cards, throw pillows, iPhone cases, and magnets.

The Killing Blow

Late last year all artists that worked with Twenty20 were informed that our work would now become available via Digital Download. What this was dressed up to mean was our art/photography became accessible to vendors who wanted to purchase our designs for their own products. We were told we would retain all copyrights and other legal rights to our work. Sounds like a win-win, right? Wrong again.

What this really meant was our artwork was now vulnerable to these vendors seeking out original art and photography at a cheap price – royalty-free. For those that don’t know much about art royalties, what this basically translates to is the artist or photographer is paid a small sum of the larger profit for every single use of their work.

While we were lead to believe this was a vital change that we’d want to get on board with, what was actually being advertised to these third-party vendors was “Get high-quality digital art and photography *royalty-free*!”

I was furious.

However, after much thought and consideration I decided to deal with this change. Then, at the beginning of February, another change was announced via email.

Grand Opening, Grand Closing Flight

One chilly morning I opened up my inbox only to nearly spill my coffee on the floor due to what I read. The company heads sent an email stating that the future of the company was changing. The CEO announced that this shift would signal the end of all printed products.

That was the end for any hope I had retained for the company. My partnership with them was over. It wasn’t really a difficult decision on my part. My gallery has always been an integral part of CardCastles. The images along with my artwork helped weave and tell a story. That feature of this site was what everything else here was centered around. In fact, CardCastles itself was built upon the “cards” (memories, photos, artwork) themselves.

Restacking the Cards

Now that key content is missing it’s a clear question of where do we go from here?
I’ve decided to open up a viewing-only gallery (temporarily). As the description suggests, nothing will be available for purchase until (if/when) I can set something up with future vendors and/or sites.

Depending on how I set this gallery up (*Most likely a separate portfolio site) You will be able to leave “likes”, share, and use, so long as you link back/give credit to me.

I look forward to rebuilding this part of CardCastles for you. It’s been far too long already.

Thanks for visiting and coming back, as always.

Price Fixing and How it Affects Authors

In April 2012 Apple was accused of working with major publishers to “fix” prices on the Apple e-book store, iBooks. In early July 2013, Apple was found guilty and is reportedly paying a hefty sum. Any author that has a few notches on their belt knows this hurts only one group of people – them us.

No matter what the final outcome in this case is, Apple and the major publishing companies don’t stand to lose much. It is you, the author that will be hit hard in the pocket. Readers and writers alike have to understand one simple fact: the author needs to make a buck from their material. That is, of course, if you want to keep reading their books.

Eventually, this will probably result in prices being knocked down in many online stores. That’s great for the consumer and even better for the store. It’s not so wonderful for an author or someone trying to self-publish for the first time. Most authors and self-publishers earn money by making a cut of the profit obtained from the sale of each book. When you do the math, it’s not a monumental amount. Unless the author sells a massive swath of their product, they’re not going to be swimming in green anytime soon.

What We Can Do

Some veterans to the business would advise authors fight back. Some solution could be found in creating awareness and banding together. Authors and especially self-publishers should have some say in how their books are priced. Not major companies. There is much discussion to be had and some compromising to take place. Hopefully, both sides can come to some sort of an agreement. The industry is already seeing a drop in readers and an oversaturation of upcoming writers. The last problem it needs is petty disputes over pricing.

The Market Now

The sequel to Stephen King’s The Shining, can be pre-ordered on the iBooks store for $10.99. That’s a best-selling author. (Probably one of the most well-known authors ever.) Imagine a new writer getting published for the first time. If prices on e-books are lowered what do they stand to make? 4¢ a book? 2? You see my point. Exclaim

To fully understand this issue as someone outside of the industry, you’d have to look at traditional paperback books. Would you pay under $10 for a paperback book? Of course you would. Although, if you’ve ever browsed a large bookstore, you know some of the best content is usually around that price or just above it. Hardcover books are an entirely different ballgame. Those usually range from $15.00-$25.00 and above.

The Road Ahead

If up-and-comers want to stay afloat we’d better start talking strategy. With a large corporation like Apple being slapped down and choke-held into pricing things “fairly” other big players are sure to follow suit. After all, no one is paying our bills for us. In a profession that many would say is dicey financially, writers should protect themselves and not aid in that uncertainty. Otherwise, one of my next posts may be for a support group called “Writers Anonymous”.

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