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Re: [BKARTS] Etsy?

I've had things on Etsy, although have better success in person.  But I'd
say the difference from having your own website is greatest if you're not
doing much to promote yourself -- people can come across your Etsy page
through the "pounce" function or from searches, while your website may get
lost in the series of tubes... several people (both books and letterpress)
that I know of have moved "up" from Etsy to their own site, however.

As for pricing -- I've seen some books that look quite expensive to me (I
have pretty much no discretionary funds, however, so my bar is low), and
they're from Etsy pages where there have been many sales; and I've seen some
that are quite cheap and from sites with no sales; so self-promotion does
play into it.

As for under-pricing: as with any product, if you're making something
substantially similar to someone else's, and people are shopping from that
someone else rather than from you, the easiest way to get people to shop
from you is to charge less.  (That's for people wondering *why* someone
might charge less for their items.)  Also, if you're in need of funds
immediately, and it's not a long-term goal, you might sell under cost --
it's basically what's known as a fire-sale, or a going-out-of-business sale
(or if, as with my crochet work (which sells for a charitable organization,
not Etsy), you love the creative process but aren't interested in keeping
the results, and just want it gone as quickly as possible, you'll price it
to sell fast).

Who knows but there may be some beneficiaries of the practice of people
selling under cost (and all parties find the transaction acceptable, else it
wouldn't take place).  Consignment stores often see clothing with the tags
still on it, where the person hopes to recoup maybe a fifth of the cost, and
someone who can't afford a suit from a department store gets a great one (my
father was married in a thrift-store tuxedo).  Someone was eager to get out
of town fast with some ready money, so offered his house with an asking
price much less than the appraised value (and quite possibly less than he
originally paid for it), so I'm now able to live in central Houston.  And,
more to the point, someone who's never even considered buying fine
hand-bound books might find one going cheap, get it on a whim, and fall in
love with the concept.  Booksellers often gripe about antique-store owners
that don't research the books they put out for $5, or eBay sellers that
don't remember to set a starting price above $0.01, but how many life-long
book collectors get their start looking for high-end top-dollar items, and
how many start off charmed by an unlikely find at a bargain price?  (Plus,
booksellers, if everyone sold at your desired price, you'd never make any
profit, as you'd never be able to acquire stock for less than your intended
selling price!)

Even for the advocates of control, someone would always find a way around
it.  There are strict testing and licensing requirements for the sale of
"soft toys" in the UK.  A friend of mine, who makes small animals out of
soft materials, tried to market "soft toys" before realizing that the
restrictions made it too onerous for the handcrafter, where each item is
unique (and must therefore be tested individually).  So, she, like many
others, markets her creations as "softies," with no difficulties.  Even if
some group were set up to make sure that no hand-binder could sell a book
for a price lower than what someone else wants to sell for (and isn't that
one of the things that lengthened the great depression?), someone whose
goals are more to make money for himself than to please the organization
will call his creations, say, a Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge Device,
and will succeed.

So, in short, some people are very successful on Etsy, and have even quit
their dayjobs to craft full-time.  Others have dozens of items and no sales
for months.  There's a ton of lower-end stuff that sells very well (there
are dozens of these: http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5536994 and these:
http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5402253 ), and there's also higher-end
items (http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=6725441 or
http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=10903347, for a start).

You have to know your market, though.  I was at a fair with a girl making
gorgeous books (the first I linked under higher-end, above), with
hand-carved zebra-wood boards, etc., and she sold not a thing, while my
dinky ones sold out -- but, at the fairs where she's more successful, people
would have looked down their noses at my junk.  I've set minimum prices for
(non-book) handwork in a charity auction, and am not nearly as dissatisfied
when it doesn't sell as I would be if it had gone for less than I'm assured
of selling it directly (my charity handwork always goes at its asking price
when sold from us directly, but can get lost in a big auction -- and the
money goes to the same place, so it's better to sell it for more!).

If your things aren't selling in one place, either work on your marketing or
try a different place.  If your things aren't selling anywhere at the price
you want, your price is too high.  If you believe you can't afford to drop
your prices but there is no market anywhere for products at your prices, or,
put another way, you'd rather sell nothing at all than lower your prices...
well, either you're independently wealthy or you'd better consider changing
your business model!

Best of luck to all, Etsy or not (and my friends who sell handcrafted items
-- and have a larger market than I have, so can actually tell about such
things -- say there's much more business now than a decade ago, as people
are tending toward meaningful rather than mindless consumption, so perhaps
there's good luck coming to us all)!

--Marguerite Radhakrishnan

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