Limited Edition Learning Curve.



A few weeks ago I posted a photo of Iggy and the Stooges on facebook. I’ve never had such a positive reaction to a posted photo before. Those of you who do not have group or business pages on facebook (like for a band or a photography hobby) may not know that you are able to see the number of “views” a post receives. Not just the number of “likes” and “comments” but views from people who looked and didn’t bother to comment or click the like button. (SIDE NOTE: Just click the fricking “LIKE” button, seriously). I try not to post too many photos per week, but when I do post I am used to them receiving about 50 – 150 views, which translates into a couple-few “likes” and a comment or 2 (SIDE NOTE: Please see previous side note). This photo of Iggy received over 5000 views! This was insane to me. Over 5000? The picture has 193 “likes,” 26 “shares” and 19 comments. This is by far the most attention any of my photos have received on facebook, maybe anywhere … I received comments inquiring about prints as well as private messages inquiring about the same thing. I thought this would be a good time to go for it. I decided to do a limited edition print of this image that was getting so much attention.

I want to say a few things about this decision. I have always wanted to try something like this, just like I really want to do a kickstarter campaign to fund a book … Not to make money, (you’ll see this is true when I get to the pricing) but just to see if I could pull it off. To see if people would actually buy my work. To see if having 5000+ views of an image translates into anything other than people simply looking at a photo. To see the work and research and time that goes into something like this. Just to experience it. I have a few friends who have a few images of mine that I gave to them and, as silly as it may sound, I’m a little proud when I see them hanging in their homes and offices (thanks guys).

I decided to do an edition quantity of 43 and added 7 “artist proofs” to make the number a round 50. Those of you who know me, know that 43 has been my favorite number, and my high school football number, since 1981. Plus I like having an odd number edition. I did test prints at photo labs, I ordered sample envelopes, I got a rubber stamp to stamp the back of each image, I got photo friendly pens to sign and number each one with (thx Weave), I got rubber stamp ink (later replaced with archival rubber stamp ink), I got acid free/archival bags to protect the photos, I checked the postage prices, I opened an “Etsy” page to have a place to sell the edition … All said and done, the images, including shipping and packaging would cost me about $10 each. Multiplied by 50, yep, that’s $500. I thought I should sell them for $20. This seems like a very user friendly amount, and where can you get a limited edition anything for $20? I also figured, if I only sold through half of the edition, I’d still have a chance of breaking even or at least not losing too much money.

I ordered all the parts from the places I could get them the cheapest; envelopes from one place, interior padding from another, acid free bags, rubber stamp, ink, etc … all from different places. Once all of the items arrived and all the pieces were in place, I opened the Etsy store and announced the image for sale … I then decided that I should put one together, the complete package, to see how it looks. I really want the package people receive in the mail to look like I took the time to think about it, because I did and the fact that people are actually buying something from me is something I take seriously. The idea is/was: Each image will be hand signed and numbered by me, each image will be rubber stamped on the back with the official “ribshots usa” stamp (thx again Weave), the photo will them be placed in an acid free bag, sandwiched between 2 cut pieces of cardboard (which will also be stamped), slid into a cardboard mailer (also stamped), insert a thank you note, hand address and ship.

This is getting long, but I’m still going … I laid 30 of the images face up on my cleaned off dining room table. I then signed and numbered each one. Once the pen ink dried, I flipped them over and began to rubber stamp the backs. I stamped all 30 and then realized that the ink was not drying. I waited 15 minutes, still wet, I waited an hour, 2 hours, over night, over 2 nights STILL WET! I can’t put the photos in the acid free bags with wet rubber stamp ink on them! Why didn’t I do a test batch of 1 -5 images? Why did I have to do 30? I did so much research, finding the best prices, I asked photographer and art collector friends where I should sign the photos (front or back), I literally did weeks of planning … And I didn’t pay attention to the fucking rubber stamp ink and not its not drying! Not to mention that the cardboard padding I received is too thick to sandwich the image in and will not fit in the envelope, even though the company’s website said that they were made to go with the envelopes I purchased.
Iggy Edition FrontsIggy Edition Back Stamp
This morning, after stamping the images on Monday, they are still wet. I decided that I needed to try to remove the rubber stamp ink. I used “Goo Gone” and it kinda worked, but not really and I’m not sending out a photo with a big red rubber stamp ink smear across the back. I think I have to re-print the 30 images that I stamped. Today I found some “Archival, acid free, permanent rubber stamp ink” thanks to Gary Hustwit for the tip.

Now I need to re-order 30 images, return the cardboard padding that doesn’t fit in the envelope, pay a re-stocking fee, buy new, thinner cardboard padding, I’ve already purchased new rubber stamp ink … adding about $150 to my costs, or $3 to each photo.

Lessons learned: Don’t use regular rubber stamp ink! Don’t test rubber stamp ink on 30 images! Don’t announce a sale until you are 100% sure you not only have everything you need, but that everything you got fits together the way you thought it would. Don’t think that 5000+ views of an image turns into sales, so far, the purchasers have been my friends giving me support. My friends, whom I feel guilty charging for the image … If they want it, I am honored to give it to them, especially if it might end up on their wall someday. But they’ve all paid – Some via paypal, some saying they’ll “flip me a $20 at lunch” and others bought it through the Etsy page and I really appreciate it.

So far 10 of them are gone (or at least spoken/paid for), 40 are left.

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