Sunday, 20 November 2011

Round-up of Websites Selling Greeting Cards . . .

 . . . from a designer's point of view.

It’s just about two years since I first signed up to a Print-on-Demand store to sell my greeting card designs. So I thought it might help anyone just starting out – or others who are thinking of expanding, or changing tack – if I try to sum up the pros and cons of the various different options. But first I must stress that this is a very personal point of view and others may have different experiences.

I started with Greeting Card Universe and that is where I’ve had the most sales to date.

Pros:
  • Good quality cards at a very reasonable price.
  • Greeting Card Universe does a lot of the promotion for us, in conjunction with their sister sites such as Big Dates-Solutions.
  • Active forum but not so fast-moving that you can’t keep up with it.
  • Orders now printed in and shipped from the UK as well as the US.
Cons:
  • The review process! Intended to keep standards high and to help artists learn about what makes a marketable greeting card but the inconsistency of the reviewers’ verdicts can make this a frustrating, infuriating process!
  • Making photo cards and custom front cards is relatively tricky but these are new options and bugs may get ironed out over time.
  • The commission is reasonable but easily becomes very low, when there are special offers and customers buy in bulk, both of which happen frequently.
  • Payment is quarterly, provided you have reached the threshold.
  • ‘International Artists’ ie those living outside the US are required to obtain an ITIN to avoid paying 30% tax to the IRS – this can cost time, money and effort to obtain.
  • The images we use for promotion in our blogs etc are very small.

My overall rating: ***


I joined Zazzle shortly afterwards:

Pros:
  • Huge number of products to put one’s designs on, which I enjoy!
  • Sellers can choose their own commission and vary it for different products in their ‘stores’.
  • Opportunity to earn ‘referral fees’ when a customer purchases a product through clicking on one’s link.
  • No review or entry standard – anyone over 13 years of age can set up shop!
  • Payment is automatic a certain amount of time after you reach the threshold. This threshold has been increased recently which of course means waiting longer to get paid, but it's still possible to be paid more quickly than the quarterly payments of other websites.
  • The ability to offer one’s designs on products such as phone cases, mugs and T-shirts means that a smaller number of sales can produce a larger amount of earnings than on a cards-only website.
Cons:
  • If you are not a US seller, various opportunities are withheld, such as the launch of new products and only US sales count towards becoming a ProSeller.
  • Prices and shipping costs seem very high for UK customers, even if the seller keeps their commission to the minimum.
  • The forum is lively and useful but is very fast-moving and there are no notification of replies emails so it’s easy to spend far too much time searching for the thread you were following!
My overall rating: ****


CardGnome  (I joined up in August of this year)

Pros
  • Impressive-looking site from the design point of view – I love the way it looks – it seems to show off our designs at their best!
  • Apart from a banner and profile, artists do not customize their ‘storefront’. I like the clean, consistent look that this brings to the website but others may prefer to put their own stamp on their store, as with other PODstores.
  • The Gnomes are very friendly and helpful
  • Good commission, though subject to occasional special offer reductions
Cons
  • Tailored to the needs of US customers – eg the prices are only in dollars.
  • Designs must be a bit larger than the standard size – ie 5.25” x 7.25”
  • At this time, no possibility of customization, which I think is increasingly expected by online customers these days. But the store is relatively new and maybe this feature will be added.
  • Prices seem relatively high, though they include shipping.
  • I’ve always found the uploading process smooth and reasonably speedy, but a number of artists have had a lot of difficulties – something that we hope will improve over time.
  • Due to the newness of the site, there still seems to be a lot of room for modifications and improvements, such as a way for artists to contact one another outside of the forum.
  • Sales relatively slow so far but hopefully that will improve with time. 
I've downgraded my rating since CardGnome began removing artists who had previously been accepted and then  reduced Artists' commision to 5%, which is very low compared to the PODstores above!
My overall rating: **8
(potentially more when the bugs are ironed out!)


SendaSmile (I joined in October and still stocking up my ‘shop’)


Pros
  • Based in the Netherlands, though there is a US domain and I believe the cards are printed in the US.
  • Very quick and easy system for uploading, tagging, categorising etc – once you get used to it.
  • Designers can offer other designers’ cards for sale in their shops if they wish – and vice versa.
  • Cards can be uploaded for customisation without the designer having to do anything except upload the template.
  • Offers square cards
Cons
  • Designs must be approx A4 size
  • No forum so it all seems very quiet!
  • Takes a while to get replies to enquiries – this is where a forum would probably help as artists give advice to one another.
  • Quite a lot of the website is in Dutch or a mixture of Dutch and English! This caused me some problems initially, when I was setting up my account and opening my shop. But once you’ve figured out what to do, it’s no longer a problem.

My overall rating: ***


Yoodoo

Based in the UK and started by Bob Lesley, of Churchill Insurance in 2004, which is when they asked me to join them, based on my pastel paintings website.

Pros
  • All the artist needs to so is email the designs without any text, no promoting, uploading or ‘processing’ needed. Saves time!
Cons
  • Artists have no control over what happens to their designs – I was horrified at the coloured borders and lettering that were put on my pastel paintings!
  • Very low commission, especially as they prefer designs to be ‘exclusive’ ie not available for sale elsewhere.
  • Since yoodoo changed hands last Autumn, contact for enquiries etc has been very difficult or non-existent!
  • Yoodoo decide which designs to accept and how to use them.
My overall rating: *

Red Bubble
I haven’t made a single sale through this Australian site but then I probably haven’t explored all the possibilities. I set up my account there in order to sell prints of my pastel paintings and haven’t focused at all on selling greeting cards, though I believe others are successful.

Overall rating: don’t feel it would be fair to rate this company as I haven’t played my part in promotion. 
See ‘Red Bubble’ above.



Artybuzz
A UK-based site with the emphasis on Prints but greeting cards and mugs are also offered. Appears to be defunct!

My overall rating: wouldn't want to speak ill of the dead!


I must stress that these are entirely my personal opinions, based on my experience and what I look for in a PODstore. Changes are constantly being made across the board so what applies today, may well not be the case next year or the following year!


You are most welcome to add your own experiences and assessments in the 'comments'. It will all help those who are just setting out down this road . . .




6 comments:

Michael said...

Thanks for the information... I'm currently trying to set up a shop on my site thank-you-notes.com... It seems like Zazzle is the only one that provides the resource to create a store on your own site. Am I right about this? Are there any others you might recommend? I know cafe press has some options, but it seems like a weaker version of zazzle.

Any advice?

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Michael - I'm afraid I haven't tried to set up a store on my own site so I can't really answer your question. I thought all the sites I mentioned, except Yoodoo, operated in the same way ie artists have 'stores' on the main site. But maybe someone else reading this can advise you?

Good luck with it anyway :)

janet davies said...

Hi everyone. I have products on zazzle and find it very easy to use, but limited sales so far.(small fish in big pond? The recession?)Three weeks ago, joined GCU,still waiting for first review! Been on Redbubble long time, no sales. On zazzle you can load a flash panel, see mine at www.janetdaviesartist.co.uk but I don't know if you can sell products through own site, just a link to zazzle, which suits me. Thanks for the info, Jan

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Janet - thank you for your input.

Yes, I think it's important to realise that it generally takes a bit of time to build up sales. I was very lucky with GCU in that they put my 'Snowballing' Christmas Card on their homepage straight away and I had a lot of sales in the very first month. Zazzle took a great deal longer to get going but I've seen progress each year.

Inkflo Chez Inkflo said...

Good information for all of us card designers Judy, but especially for anyone new to it. Thanks.

Judy Adamson said...

Thank you, Inkflo - I think I'll have to keep updating this though as things seem to keep changing!