Moon Views Calendar 2009
Last night I made my first, second, and third products to sell on Zazzle. For those not familiar with Zazzle, it is a print on demand / product on demand online service that allows people to create products to sell for which they then receive a commission. My first two products were different sized versions of a calendar composed of images of the Moon. The third product was a mouse pad featuring the image used for the calendar cover.
The Moon Calendars and Mouse pad
The two calendar products I created are:
The source images that I used to create these calendars came from the Apollo Image Atlas at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (http://www.lpi.usra.edu). I first contacted the Lunar and Planetary Institute to make sure that there were no copyright problems. I took this precaution because while these were NASA images, they were being distributed on a non-NASA site.
Assured that there were no copyright concerns, I then selected a number of Apollo images of the Moon that appealed to me. For each of these images I carried out the following steps using Photoshop to produce the final image:
- cropped and scaled the image to its final size
- cleaned up image imperfections, the background sky and painted out the reseau marks
- applied a series of filters to the image in order to produce the painted effect I was after
- retouched the final image where necessary
- added curves and hue/saturation adjustment layers with masks to achieve the desired contrast and coloration
Once I had created the two calendars, it was a very simple matter to resize one of the lunar images to create a Moon Mouse Pad.
Choosing Between CafePress and Zazzle
Zazzle’s main competitor is CafePress (www.cafepress.com). Another competitor with respect to certain print products is LuLu (www.lulu.com). In order to decide which of these three services to do business with I examined several criteria. First I looked at how these sites ranked on services like alexa.com and quantcast.com. Their numbers showed that CafePress was the most popular, followed by Zazzle with Lulu a distant third. I also looked at the variety of products offered. Both Zazzle and CafePress have a much larger selection of products than Lulu. One product unique to Zazzle is the ability to produce your own U.S. postage stamps. However, in terms of total product offerings, it looks like CafePress offers a slightly larger selection of products. I then looked at the tools available to content creators and their ability to customize their product pages. While Zazzle offers certain customization options for free, you must pay for that same capability on CafePress. As luck would have it, one of the customizations available from Zazzle was that of an Earth rise over the Moon. Finally I googled to find out what others had to say about CafePress and Zazzle. With respect to those pages that I actually visited, it seemed that Zazzle came out ahead of CafePress.
The Product Production Process
I immediately encountered a problem with content creation. Basically I couldn’t. Zazzle content creation relies on Flash and my system was fairly current having Firefox 2 and Flash 8 installed. Upgrading Flash to version 9 did not fix the problem. Upgrading to Firefox 3 did solve the problem. One thing I do not like about the process though is that you can upload no more than five images at a time. Each upload box is limited to one file and the system stops at five input boxes. The smart way to have done this would have been to have one entry box that could hold multiple file names so that you only have to browse your file system one time to select the files you want.
Marketing of products is in my opinion the greatest challenge faced by content creators. As of this writing there are a total of 2,470 calendars for sale on Zazzle. Also as of this writing, Zazzle states that there are over 9 million products. Clearly in order to succeed on Zazzle, not only must you offer a variety of quality products but you must market those products outside of Zazzle. For example, blogging about your products is one method of promotion.
The process of setting up shop and creating product to sell took more time than I thought. And of course there is now the additional commitment of marketing the products. I expect that I will be spending a fair amount of time reading Zazzle documentation and browsing the forums in search of the knowledge that will help me to improve my gallery’s effectiveness. In the meantime you can help out by visiting my Artsnova Zazzle gallery and buying a product or three.
If you are in the Chicago area, I’ll be speaking at the Morton Grove Library Sunday Nov. 30 about Space Solar Power. For details see Chicago Society for Space Studies 2008 Holiday Party and Space Solar Power Presentation.
Ad Astra, Jim