Friday, 12 December 2008

Zine Time

It's all about the zine right now for me. I've been working away on writing my travel zine. One reason I'm writing it is that joined a(nother) swap on Swap-Bot for a longer zine, and this is the topic I most want to write about right now. The swap is due on 2nd January. I hope think I can finish it by then!

Sister Diane's Christmas Digest zine arrived in the mail tonight too:

It has a hand-cut cover with genuine Christmas wrapping paper decoration, and a personal message from Sister Diane. What a sweetie! I'm having a lot of fun reading it.

I'm also well into my Etsy Swap item. It's a mini monster. One of the ideas was to make a smaller version of something you normally make, so I ran with that. He's in a lovely, sparkly festive colour. Sorry it's a bit fuzzy - I was on the phone at the time I took the photo:

All my monsters seem to have something sticking out of the crotch during the creative process. What's the go with that?

In other zine-related news, I've set up a free (basic) account on ArtFire and listed my zines on it. I'm just waiting to see what happens (if anything). It's interesting to compare ArtFire with Etsy:

Etsy - US$0.20 per item for 4 month long listing, plus 3.5% commission on sales.
ArtFire - Free account: can list up to 10 items. Paid account: flat rate of US$7 per month. No listing fees or commission fees on individual items. (At that rate, I'd have to list over 50 items per month for ArtFire to beat Etsy on fees. That's not taking Etsy's commission into account though. I'm not very good at maths.)

Etsy - Have to fill out 5 separate pages, so it can take a while. Tagging system is quite good though - it gives you suggestions to refine your tags. Categories are very straightforward.
ArtFire - All fields are on a single page. So for example you can download photos while filling out other fields. Very fast. Also has extra features such as 'Inspiration' field and how many hours it took to make the item. Much better! Category system is a little confusing, but they are refining it with user feedback, so I'm sure it will improve with time. With the free account, you can only list one copy of each item, so I'll have to be quick off the mark to relist a zine once it sells. Don't know yet if it has the 'relist' feature that Etsy has or if I'd have to start from scratch each time. ArtFire is more obviously geared towards artists that make one-off items.

Etsy - Has been around for about 5 years; has a lot of word-of-mouth marketing and a huge seller base. Does some advertising in magazines and websites based in the U.S., but many people complain that they don't do enough marketing.
ArtFire - Has only just begun (it's still in Beta, I believe) and is a bit buggy. Not very many sellers yet. This could be a good thing though - not too much competition! However, they've done a huge amount of marketing geared towards buyers already: they've purchased the back cover of Craft: Magazine for the next year, advertised on TV shows in the U.S., etc. People are very happy about this!
Also, thanks to Twitter (where the admin of ArtFire have an active account), I have noticed that they are listening to/acknowledging requests from users, and often tweaking the site to accommodate them, sometimes within just a few hours. There have been very few user-initiated changes to Etsy in the time I have been using it.

Etsy - When a potential buyer does a search, the most newly listed items come up first. Because there are literally millions of items for sale, if your item was listed some time ago, there's practically no chance of a buyer sifting through enough items to find YOUR little gem. Many sellers are tempted to renew items regularly to push them to the top of the list, instead of waiting the 4-month period for them to expire. Of course, this costs US$0.20 per time, eating into one's profit margin. It's a dilemma.
ArtFire - Apparently every item that's listed appears on the front page for a certain amount of time, giving every seller some great exposure. The seller base is expanding rapidly though, so who knows how long this will last.

Etsy - Has the bog standard forums and favourite list. Many people complain that the search feature is a bit crap. Sure, you can search by colour or sellers that have recently sold something, but you can't search by base country of seller. What the? Features such as the Treasuries seem to be more for sellers to play around than for buyers to find what they are looking for.
ArtFire - Has all of the standard features of Etsy, plus a few others such as Badges and a Karma score that can be earned. (I haven't managed to find out too much about these yet.) A big one is that you can customise the currency you want the prices shown in. Some terms are different, e.g. 'shop' in Etsy is 'My Studio' in ArtFire, and sellers are referred to as 'artisans'. There's much more of an inclusive, community feel to it. The categories are slightly different and have more emphasis on different materials and artforms. ArtFire is definitely geared towards artists - of all kinds.

Whether one site is 'better' than the other remains to be seen. This post was a lot longer than I intended it to be, as per usual!

More updates as they happen.

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