A few of you may have noticed that I have a CaféPress store called The Cat and Cauldron. I have worked hard on it in the past few years and have managed to get it to the point where, though it is not a luxurious living, it does pay the bills.
But now I'm not so sure.
Yesterday we all got an email from CaféPress announcing a change in the policy regarding the CaféPress Marketplace, that big search engine of theirs. Starting June first, CaféPress will be setting the prices of products in the Marketplace at a set rate and giving the artist/designer a flat 10% commission.
See, now, this is how CaféPress has always worked: they have a product, say a white t-shirt, that they charge a set price for (they call it a 'base price'). This price includes everything on their end--the actual product, the labor involved in printing it, &c.,--plus whatever they need to make a profit. And then, the artist/designer, the person who has set up a shop with them, adds what they think their design is worth and what they think the market will bear.
So let's break this down. Let's take the example of that white t-shirt. For the sake of round numbers, let's say their base price is $14.00 (that's rather low for the vast majority of shirts, but, you know, round numbers). Let's say then that I add a $6.00 markup (which is about the usual) so that it sells for $20.00.
Under the old system, if I sell a t-shirt I then get $6.00. But under the new system, if that t-shirt sells in their Marketplace for the same price, I will get $2.00. That's one third what I was making.
Now I'm one of the lucky ones, in that I get 70% of my sales through my store, which will not be subject to the 10% rule; still, I'm figuring I stand to see my paychecks drop to 80% of what they were. Some people make 90% or more of their sales through the Marketplace and are now looking at not being able to pay their mortgages and medical bills.
Also, in reading people's stories over at the CaféPress forum (which is really only begrudgingly allowing the discussion there) I am realizing just how much of a Godsend CaféPress has been to people with disabilities. I had just thought it the perfect job for me since I'm an anti-social deeply anti-authoritarian late-sleeping hermit who can't stand the idea of a boss (you could charitably read that I suppose as an 'eccentric artiste' if you like); but I had not realized just how big a difference it was making to people who can't work the standard nine to five.
I am not sure right now what I'm going to do. The loss for me is not huge, though it is still significant; and the nasty moral I'm getting is that I should never have put all my eggs in one basket. Which is unfair, really. If I were working in an office somewhere, and it paid the bills, I would not be expected to have more than one job, would I?
I have already looked at other print-on-demand companies, and I imagine I will be shifting over to Zazzle sometime in the future. But it's a daunting prospect. I have a few hundred designs on, and this floored me when I did the math, some 10,000 products. I'm not going to be able to replicate that somewhere else overnight.
The kicker (and I do mean kicker, as in the phrase kicking someone when they are down) is that in their announcement CaféPress says:
5. How did CafePress determine the commission rate of 10%?
This decision was a combination of what was realistically affordable, what we thought felt was right, and what industry experts recognize as a fair design licensing fee. A 10% commission is lower than the average seller margin in the Marketplace, but fair – relative to current retail design licensing models.
I can think of a lot of four-letter words describing that percentage; fair is not one of them.