How to sell digital goods

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Why did I migrate from Easy Digital Downloads to WooCommerce ?

I ‘m a webdesigner in love with digitalart. I’m still selling in a comfortable way my images (photos, illustrations, vintage stuff, 3D renderings) at micro-stock and stock agencies.
But my goal is to sell also by myself. As I can buildup websites, I launched AntikStock to sell a niche of mine: my illustrations restored and elaborated from the huge antique book collection of my property.

At a first glance Easy Digital Downloads (EDD) would really look the easy way to sell downloadable goods. But a rather disturbing (arithmetical!) issue (*) popping up changed my point of view and induced me to look seriously for alternatives and compare performances.

While comparing I found out that WooCommerce offers not only a quite solid E-commerce platform for virtual downloadable goods, but also much more interesting features free of charge.

A few examples: :

  • to duplicate a product to sell with WooCommerce is free, on EDD you have to pay 29usd/year only for this simple feature!
  • to comply with the EU VAT rules is free of charge, no way can EDD compete for free
  • cross-sells and upsells are included, no need to pay for the corresponding EDD options anymore.

I could go on further, I would just add that I completed seamlessy my migration owning an elegant new shop with many more features totally free of charge and – the cherry on top – with a beautiful free image zoom.

(*) As you may know, selling digitally downloadable goods in EU imposes a set of pretty complicated rules made by bureaucrats for bureaucrats, but we can cope with them. EDD behaves okay at checkout time unless you introduce a discount. If you do that a sum of round-up errors appears in the VAT calculation; as quite surprisingly the net amount in this case is not shown, the error goes easily unnoticed – until a diligent official remarks such a few cents mismatch and then things are likely to turn interesting. Of course I reported it, but EDD didn’t seem to take the matter seriously.

Good morning AntikStock!

champagne-600 by .

After a brief running in of vintage-nostalgia.com as my experiment was more positive than expected I decided it would be worth taking a step further, treasuring the previous experience. I made a few improvements:
– a more professional name
– a more reliable E-commerce platform
– bigger sample images (still watermarked)
– much more accurate tagging

Then I buried good old vintage-nostalgia in the garden and launched antikstock.com.

I’m pretty confident that, working on a profitable niche of the image-stock market, a professional website of my own shall be the best way to sell exclusive images decently. It is not time yet to say goodbye also to the best stock agencies, but if the trend stays worrisome the lifeboat is ready.

In this shipwreck I’ll have one advantage and one big flaw: I’m passionate about my work of restoring, elaborating, painting, making collages of antique illustrations from my huge ancient book library, which is growing almost uncontrollably.

On the other hand I’m aware that a good promotion on the social is important, and I have little time for that. We shall see…

One promising alternative to the self-hosted site: Picfair

luisa-photogr3-1000 by .

I always hear the same refrain: yes, they are fair indeed, pity though that they don’t sell much…
Actually so far my experience at Picfair had been… fair: for a few years I’ve been putting every now and then some images there, having three or four sales promptly paid in the meantime.

But times seem to be changing, and I decided that I need a personal photo website. I would know pretty well how to set up one myself, but for a small yearly fee Picfair offers me the possibility to have it under my own name, and as a very nice bonus also to sell my pictures as prints/posters/framed. So why not to give it a try?

So be it: luisafumi-photography.com
The presentation of the images is very good, and I can (beside having an URL of my own by them):
– sell prints,
– make albums and feature one on the first page,
– have a local search engine,
– create a splash page with a picture I love
– add external links to the menu (to my blog here, to my other website vintage-nostalgia.com, etc.)
– have a personal watermark. I retained the Pifair standard one, very well thought and designed, also because I am happy to be there in excellent company, as I find the overall Picfair image quality astonishingly high.

Time will tell if such a decision will be fruitful – now it is to early to make a reliable forecast about the destiny of the photo market at all.

Just few days after my new Picfair installation I was rewarded with a pleasant surprise: my first print sale, my splash image! A good omen and a nice startup.

SPLASH-PICFAIR-600 by luisa fumi.

A pebble in the pond: a free Artists’ Marketplace

stock3 by .

For nearly a month (since the infamous 1st of June) a couple of disquieting questions have been bouncing back and forth within my skull:
what are we to do if/when the other agencies follow Shutterstock’s despicable example and start treating their contributors like beggars?
How come a fair agency like Picfair appears to sell nearly nothing even though they offer such awfully great pictures?

I do know all too well what it’s like to set up a photostock agency – I did it. Once you solve the technical problems (quite a hard cliff themselves) and get it to run fine, you find out to your dismay that keeping it up and running – server fees, updating, de-hacking, automation, you name it – is way more expensive (at least in time) than you optimistically thought when you started.

No, I don’t really think that setting up a new agency – with so many small ones out there struggling to survive – would be a solution. What we need is a new concept, something that would entice anyone who needs one or more images having specific requirements. The cue came from Alex Rotenberg as he told us how a customer, unable to find his images on Shutterstock any longer, got directly in touch with him.

So why not to put in contact clients and contributors, thus bypassing the agencies?
All it would take would be a surprisingly cheap and simple no-profit site, a sort of artists’ cooperative dedicated to illustrations, photos and video clips, where potential clients may freely ask for images having some specific features. Their requests appear on a board and get immediately sent per E-mail to all photographers who subscribed (for free).
A mother knows her baby, a photographer knows his/her images: the one who has an image that may satisfy the client (say, a kid playing in a puddle) replies uploading ASAP one or more watermarked images onto a page that only the client may access.

That would be really big news: a thoughtful human response, no AI at all, no 300 pictures of the same lonely puddle in the park taken from 300 different angles. And no time wasted on keywords ( do we all loathe them!)

As far as prices are concerned, that’s all to be seen: fixed price, normal and premium, private negotiation… a matter of taste. However the cooperative rules must be simple and clear, and accepted by all subscribers; that’s important, the one who doesn’t play fair gets kicked out without ceremony.
The site would be extremely simple – though attractive – and wouldn’t require any special server performances, or large amounts of memory, or special skills to run it. The only costs would be:

  • annual server rent (not much).
  • software maintenance (not much if regularly performed, but it must be done weekly to keep the software up to date and to prevent possible undue intrusions, malware and hacking).
  • start-up software development and further expansions if the initiative is successful (affordable).

No commission on sales – we’re talking of a no-profit initiative and this way it shall stay, lest greed creeps in and shatters(tocks) it to crumbles 🙂

The expenditures above would be covered by all subscribers after their first sale; if some 1000 – 1500 artists gather and join, it would be a matter of a few $ each yearly – transparent management, all expenditures publicly documented, no hidden costs.

Of course there should be a page telling the cooperative’s history and its goals, with a nice name (how about “Shutterstock’s castaways”?) and some well-groomed galleries of monographic pictures about current topics, something like the Photocase’s ones.

Maximum publicity to all successful sales on the site.
No a-priori exclusive, though it may be individually agreed with the client case by case.

All the above should obviously be discussed in detail once (if) this initiative takes shape and color. Mine is just a stone I’m throwing in the pond, let’s see now if it makes any waves…

Stock images: is it time now for a drastic change?

Mishmash objects with statue by Luisa Fumi.

The state of the art

Just to feel the pulse and the vibe of the moment, I visit pretty often the wailing wall, a site well known to the photographers that sell images through the microstock agencies. Most of what I read there is mournful whining about the professional degradation and the brutal royalty cuts. Nothing constructive.

Due mostly to the steadily improving quality of cameras and smartphones, the images market is flooded by offers ranging from fair to excellent, a flood swelling like wildfire. The stock agencies, no fools, take full advantage of the situation by constantly shrinking the royalies – offer and demand, inevitably. A tough competition is going on too among the agencies themselves, and not surprisingly the smallest ones succumb.

What’s the use of 100 millions of images?

One microstock agency can count on tens of millions of images (at least). But how could a customer find his way through them all?
How will customers get to the “right” image they are looking for? According to statistics, most of the users while searching give up after the first page, and very few clench their teeth and hold out up to page three.
Rumors have it that the stock agencies, in order to offer a different image variety for the same search, sort them part random, part according to other criteria adjusted and twitched from time to time

I’ve been wondering long if it was worth wasting so much time and effort on the keywording ordeal, by far the most boring and time consuming task of image processing, if the agencies use just a small part of it. And above all: what’s the point for an agency to collect zillions of images when people give up searching after a few of them?
I’m smelling here another crisis looming in the air.

A possible way out?

Now it could be really the right time to reinvent the personal website where one can sell images without the support (?) of an agency.
I am not talking about a website meant to sell generic images the way small agencies do – and are now going through difficult times.
No, I’m thinking of a monographic website to offer many thousands of images focused on a theme of general interest or social relevance.
A well designed site, cleverly divided in sub-galleries, with an own shop. Something very user-friendly that a visitor looking for a picture of sport, touristic European regions, vegan lifestyle, sustainable energies, rock concerts, steampunk art, you name it… could easily navigate almost instinctively.
Perhaps also supported by a blog to make it more lively and interesting.

Think of your passions, of what you mostly love to shoot: in your (digital) drawer you’ll certainly find many thousands of images on the subject. 2000 to 4000 of them could be a good start for such a website.

Like this the awfully boring and demanding work of keywording them all would not go wasted: extracted as page tags, the keywords would be used by Google or duckduckgo to locate exactly your pictures. Take my word for it, I tried it on my own skin and it works 😀

Upon a second thought, why just one website? Along the same lines you could create several others centered on different themes – as many as your interests.
Cheer up: we don’t need million of visitors, nor to spend a fortune on online ads, while we can afford a better alternative and thus pocket the whole loot rather than just a minuscule slice of it.

stock by .

Feel like buying a lake? (EN)

Yes, nothing wrong with your eyes: a LAKE! And a damn beautiful one too, with a wonderful view on the Bavarian Alps, a complete immersion into unpolluted nature, clear waters, plenty of fishes, and as a topping an antique though entirely restored inn right on the bank, enjoyed for holiday and relax (among so many others) also by Sigmund Freud.
All included in the package (well, except for the Alps…)

Thumsee lake

Such an opportunity doesn’t really occur every century, nor does it having to design a website for it.
Et voilà: the Thumsee lake in Germany, near the Austrian border and 20 minutes away from Salzburg (does the name “Mozart” ring a bell?).

Thumsee Wewbsite
Fotos by Kurverwaltung Bad Reichenhall

The adventures of a web hosting wanderer (EN)

After my massive malware attacks at HostGator (see my previous post) I decided to change host provider.

The first condition to do it freely is:
always register your domain names by a registar indipendent of the host.
This way, when you want to change host, you have simply to point your domain to the new DNS severs and it is done, no permission to ask.
Several hosts offer you to register your name for free but then, when you want to change host, they keep it as hostage (bad pun, huh?) and make all sorts of trouble before releasing it. Beware…

Since many years I use directdn.com: I appreciate their fair prices, their smooth service and the easy way to manage my account.

After a look at one of the countless web pages “2017 Most Wonderful Web Hosting Services” (most of them quoting for some reason HostGator at the top) I landed on IPage, attracted by their low prices – though most hosting providers offer impressive discounts at the beginning and then double or triple the price the following years.

Alas! soon after paying my invoice I found out that it was impossible to set an email of the kind me@mywebsite.com (only me.mywebsite@ipage.com was allowed). In order to get a service provided for free by any other host I would have to pay a considerable monthly external fee to Google – once for every one of my 10 email boxes, of course… okay, IPage was definitely not my host of choice: money back, run away and try elsewhere.

My second landing was at InMotion, and here I hope to stay: the customer service looks helpful and nice and they offer a lot of useful literature about all the ghastly things that could happen to your website, their causes and the possible remedies. In case I need something to read before sleeping…

It’s about time for restyling (EN)

I just spent two hellish weeks on my 5 websites, which suffered a massive and repetitive attack of malware at Hostgator.

Repetitive I said: it had to be a backdoor on my hosting place – or, as I suspect, on the whole server – because a few hours after a complete cleanup all sites were infected again. And again. And again.

I decided to:

1) change host

2) dismiss completely SiteLock, which proved absolutely useless (no alert, no communication whatsoever). Only after the disaster, as I was seeking help by Hostgator, I was put in touch with their people instead, and all they did was try to sell me a manual cleanup (! ! !) for $99/month. Some help!
So please think twice before donating your money to them, there are better and fairer alternatives.

3) park my stock images websites elsewhere at the moment, for further consideration

As I’ve been changing so many things, I decided to start from scratch with this blog.
I was looking for something funny and nice for the home page and I run into this lovely movie clip by Jeffrey Wilson. I couldn’t resist, I bought him a coffee and grabbed it 🙂

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