Adventures in Self-Publishing

I've just released two wall calendars of my photographic work, and I'm still in somewhat of a state shock for many reasons but mostly because I did it all myself for free!

Here's the background...

I've been an artist my whole life. I started drawing before I could really walk well (seriously, my mom has the Super 8mm movies to prove it).

I've also always had the desire to share my art with others--not necessarily make money from it, but share it with others. I've had a number of ill-fated attempts at trying to do that on a larger scale, but each attempt was not successful. With each failed attempt my sense of worth as an artist decreased exponentially until it reached it's all-time low about 7 years ago when I had no desire to create visually at all. It's a very sad place to be for a creative soul, trust me.

I threw myself into home restoration and remodeling thinking that would be enough of a creative outlet. It was for a couple of years, but the wheels of a visual artist's mind never stop turning. I had no desire to be in that creative space, but my mind kept seeing the possibilities in blinks and flashs--inspirations that went nowhere except into hanging sheet rock, tiling kitchen countertops and shower walls, and re-creating retro plaster with joint compound.

Then my list of home projects got smaller, and my inner self felt less freaked out about embracing my artistic core (thanks to a trip to Hawaii and a fortuitous walk along a beach on the North Shore of Oahu). That little spark that I had almost completely snuffed out blazed alive again.

I got home and started researching like crazy out on the internet. And I found out something wonderful. All those feelings of rejection were no longer even part of the new millenium model of the internet age. Why? Thanks to companies like CafePress and Lulu self-publishing is now a reality. Self-publishing through companies like CafePress and Lulu takes sending large envelopes of slides to greeting card companies and receiving rejection letters in return out of the equation completely! It is the coolest thing!

Since making this discovery, I've taken out all the paintings that were completed 15+ years ago specifically to be published as cards or prints. Those paintings have now been reborn as part of my maiden voyage into this exciting world of self-publication.

Then to add to that, I've been able to compile photographs that I've been shooting recently and turn them into calendars! I never thought I would have that opportunity in my lifetime! I have been able to take my graphic arts training and combine it with my fine arts training to produce actual publications that don't cost me a dime to layout and market to anyone in the world that might want to buy them.

Here's the real perks:

  • I don't have to carry bulky inventory.

  • I don't have to spend precious creative time pounding the pavement hocking my wares to merchants that don't want to see my face anyway.

  • I don't have to pick and choose which works I will publish and which I won't because of the cost of a run.

  • I don't have to over-order a run in order to take advantage of a quantity discount.

I don't have to do any of it! [Insert trumpet fanfare here, please!]

All I have to do is what I love, which is photograph or paint whatever I like, then figure out what product it would look best on. Next, I do up a layout in Photoshop Elements according to the specs I'm given by CafePress, save it as a PNG file and upload it into my online store. Once it's part of my inventory, if someone chooses to buy it, they can and then CafePress produces it on-demand according to the customer's specifications (i.e., glossy or matte, etc) and ships it directly to them. If no one chooses to buy it, it doesn't concern my finances because I don't have to make back any money to cover any initial outlay. If only one person chooses to buy it, that's okay too because I've shared my work with at least one person. It is the best of all worlds.
Man, I love the internet!

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