Thursday, April 23, 2009


Speaking of shedding skin...

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.


Anonymous said...

Good on you for posting about this.
CP is a greedy company preying on it's shopkeepers.
I am embarrassed about my past standing up for them when they have made bad decisions. NO MORE.

There are heaps of PODs out there, check them out.

They will all be happy to have your business.

Anonymous said...

Oh don't forget that affiliates will now be making more than the person that created the design... since they make 15% on their sales but we will only get 10% ... definately a bit backwards there!

Unknown said...

I'm Blog Rollin' the subject Thalia. It should help people discover the subject in terms of search engines. Best of luck with whatever is on the horizon for you.

Dancing With Fey said...

All I can say is -- ouch. My sympathies.

I'll have to check out your store sometime. Be sure to post if/when you do switch to another place. :)

Thalia said...

Well I suppose I should say I'm not actually opposed to anyone buying from my CafePress store for the time being! :)

The link's at left if you're interested, or you can click here:

Sheryl Karas said...

I'm sick about this, too! We've all put SO much time and effort in. And now I've been kicked off the Cafepress forums for trying to encourage people to speak up!

I've written two blog posts on this so far. The first one is here:

And a truly rabble rousing one -- as a direct result of being kicked off the forums today is here:

Britt Reid said...

As you pointed out, CafePress said.. This decision was a combination of ...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.Except that, in the licensing model they speak of, the licensee (CafePress) would pay an upfront fee, and then pay the licensor /artist 10% of whatever they sell! (I spent over 20 years in entertainment licensing before retiring and doing this in my spare time)
Don't see CafePress fronting us any cash, do you?
BTW, Atomic Kommie Comics will be opting out of the MarketPlace on May 31, and we've already signed with other PODs...

Pax said...


I cannot speak to the cafe-press or publish on demand industry, but given your proven track record and popularity within the community, couldn't you work a more traditional gallery / shop model had get your items printed locally and sell them?

I can understand why this situation is a pain from the Publish on Demand side of things, I just am confused as to why an artist of your stature uses POD?


PS_ When my own job situation improves you can expect a large order on your new POD or whatever you decide... Cafe Press can stick it!

Thalia said...

"Artist of my stature"? Good grief, what have you been smoking and are you willing to share?

The reasons I haven't gone the traditional route w/r/t prints and galleries and such is because I am a hermit. I mean I consistently test 98-100% introverted on those Meyers-Briggs tests. I tell people, and I am not really kidding, that if I had any faith in my bean-growing skills I would pull a Thoreau in a heartbeat. So 'getting out there' and selling my work to actual people and all that is a HUGE amount of energy for me, a HUGE, nasty, square-peg-beat-into-a-round-hole deal for me. I've tried it, don't get me wrong. But it makes me (and I mean this pretty literally) crazy. And over the years I've found that I cannot, actually, change my personality. Not that I would want to.

Which is why pods have been so attractive. They do all that stuff, all the interacting and dealing with people. If I don't have to talk to people on the phone? If I don't have to go to some opening or party and gods, 'network'? That is a HUGE burden off of my shoulders.

Thalia said...

Sorry, Pax, I don't mean to sound so defensive. It's just that I've learned the hard way that a lot of the usual 'way things are done' are not going to work for me.

Which isn't to say I'm not open to options right now; this whole thing is really making me rethink my priorities and direction. Which is a good thing.

ked'a said...

Oh, to use a yucky expression of you-know-who's, someone should crap down their throats!!!

Sorry, bad visual, I know. Have you pondered getting a rep? I think some galleries will take submissions via email -- you may never have to speak to an actual person at all...just thinking aloud. Sort of.

So I have until May 31 to purchase at regular commission rates, yes?

Thalia said...

Actually I don't-know-who, but that's okay.

The stuff through my store will net me the same commission I've always been getting; no need to worry there. It's just the stuff in the marketplace (which like I said is only 30% of my sales usually). Though from what I've been hearing their reporting about where sales come from and how things are tracked is a bit, well, unreliable shall we say. So there's that too.

Man, what a week!

Anonymous said...

Bat Rastards I say.