Friday, March 16, 2012

On Negativity: A Rant

Be forewarned: this is a giant rant. A rant which you might not want to read as it's going to be lengthy and doesn't have any pictures to break up my whining.

Are you ready? Still here? Well, you should go away, because I might just be ranting about You.

This is your last chance.

I mean it.

Fine. You've chosen to stay. I hope you don't come to regret it.

Do you know what's nice about owning an Etsy shop? Basically, that I get reimbursed for a hobby, that I have a chance to cover myself entirely with glue, and that it's like the first day of kindergarten when they give you those crayons and tell you to color a picture of farm animals--as an assignment!

What I don't love about Etsy? Well, really, it's what I hate about myself: I'm not the most business-minded person alive. I'm that girl covered in glue, not the one giving power-point presentations about profit margins and gross-net-what's-it. Here's the truth: I don't naturally assign monetary value to things, especially not something I've made. Use and sentimental values aren't really that big on my radar either. So, most of the time, my natural inclination is to give it away for free. Unfortunately, I've come to rely on things like my apartment, food, water, and school books. That means I SELL stuff I make. That means I've had to learn to value my time and effort and craftsmanship. Granted it feels strange to me, but I have to do it.

Now we come to the crux of this rant. And that is negativity--especially as regards either my pricing or the quality of my books. Let's start with the pricing.

I've heard a lot of competing views about pricing, and about mine in particular. Many on Etsy say to keep your prices high, because it denotes the true worth of your object. Depending on what book I'm making, it can take anywhere from a few hours, to a few days to complete. Since I've been on Spring Break I've had the opportunity to spend a lot more time on bookbinding, and I just finished the Tyrion Lannister journal an hour ago. It took me through an entire Ocean's Eleven marathon (all three movies) and the first Twilight movie to complete. That's nearly 8 hours, a full work day. If I'd worked a normal shift, earning as much as I did for a glorious summer job I had a few years ago ($10 per hour), I'd have made 80 bucks (minus taxes, of course). Now account for the cost of my materials: leather ($14), thread ($2), PVA glue ($1), davey board ($1), artist paper endpages ($3), sketchbook paper ($5), cord ($1), and kraft paper ($1), that comes to $28. So, this book should cost about $108. (Oh and this does not even take into account the time I take to photograph, edit, and post information about the book on Etsy, or how much time I spent learning the techniques needed to do it in the first place).

The real problem, though, is that I need to sell this book to earn rent money (hence the name of my shop) and often I'm plagued with the idea that, oh yeah, no one wants to buy a book for $108. So, I end up reducing my prices hugely. This one I'll probably list for 60 or 70 dollars, despite the fact that, even then, people will still see it as not worth that. Goodness it's frustrating.

I suppose that if people think my work is too expensive, then they just won't buy it. But nooooooooooooo. That's not all they do. Some friends and customers (who you'd think would be supportive enough to say I need to increase my prices instead of lower them) have put me down by saying that my books are too expensive. It's one thing to say that you don't have the money; it's another to say that they aren't worth it. I understand that not everyone wants a journal that costs so much, if they even want one at all. I get it that there are other, less expensive alternatives, which still look awesome. And to those who want such journals, I say "go buy those and stop complaining about mine" (read "f#*k off").

Here's the truth: I'm not a press. I'm not a manufacturer. I don't make things whole sale. I bind each book individually. I don't have a tool more advanced than an awl or needle. My entire process occurs at my 3'x2' desk in my 10'x12' bedroom. I sleep a few feet from my glue collection. I'm the epitome of small-business.

So, if you want something cheap, made by machines, wrapped in cellophane so that the first human hands to touch it are all means, go to Barnes & Noble and buy one of their lovely mass-produced journals.  In the mean time, I will continue with my absolutely unique, one of a kind, imperfect journals that have my cooties all over them.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, AMEN! Glad I'm not the only one to feel/experience this. Wish the WalMart generation appreciated what we do more.


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