I cannot pretend to be a total expert on dealing with galleries but thought it might be handy to share what I've discovered so far in my explorations, for any of you looking at ways to get your precious creations out in the world doing their thing.
There are 3 main points that I'm going to expand upon:
1) How to approach galleries and get your work in stock.
2) The gallery commission
3) Pricing your work appropriately.
When Andy took a recent trip into Tiverton, a local town where I now have some greetings cards for sale in a cute little gallery, he reported back to me that there were only a few of my cards left there. This is an exciting yet awkward predicament. I am so chuffed that I have sold nearly all the stock I had delivered. Real people that I have never met have gone and paid money for something I have produced. Not favours from a friend, or support from family; complete strangers. They chose my cards. And sent it to someone in the post, where it will serve it's purpose of conveying a handwritten message, and be put somewhere to look pretty.
Yet, I am aware that I only have a dwindling few cards left at home with which to replenish the gallery. I don't want the shop to run out and me to miss out on selling time, but I also don't want to rush in to getting more cards printed until I'm sure what is the best company to go for.
This is the tricky thing about investing in something you have produced. Reproducing it to sell can be a major outlay. Printing companies nearly always reduce their prices if you order a large amount rather than a few. If you only order 10-50 it means the price per unit is high so the profit will either be low or non-existent. But the risk is minimal and you can watch and wait to see how people respond and use the results as a guide to whether it's worth further investment. Then you go ahead and spend a hefty wallop on obtaining stock that promises to be profitable.
I am at that exact stage at the moment. I used an online company to get 10 each of 7 different designs. They are glossy and cute and the impact on our bank balance was barely noticable. As the cards have continued to sell at craft fairs and in the one gallery I've approached so far, I've been encouraged to find that people like them. Now I need to find a more economical way to print more, to keep the momentum going. Using the same company online is not really giving me as much profit as I want per card, yet finding anything better is challenging.
The slightly uncomfortable thing about working with galleries is the fact that they share in your profits, and take a commission. The most common figure is 40% of the selling price. To me, this has always seemed a bit unfair as its almost half! Being close to the image I have created, using my time, my imagination and thoughts and my materials, I find it hard to accept the share that galleries take, just for putting something in their shop and doing the transaction. Especially when I can have all the profits when I sell at craft fairs. But then I have to realise that I can't be at craft fairs every week and I have no way of selling my cards on my own, consistently and reliably. I am so glad that when I am at work, or playing with my kittens or getting on with drawing, my cards are out there earning me money. It's either give the gallery their dues or not sell any at all. With this acceptance comes even more emphasis on the necessity to get your costs right in the first place.
Don't sell yourself out by committing to expensive costs but low selling prices. Equally, don't put your sale price too high just because you feel you had to pay a lot to make it happen. The aim is to sell, regularly. It can be useful to work backwards. Find galleries that you like visiting, that you would buy from, who you think have fair prices. Decide what you think is a realistic price, work out what your 60 per cent portion would be and see how that sits alongside the research you've done regarding printing prices and see what you'd be left with. Don't forget to check whether prices include VAT, and postage, as prices can be misleading until you see all the figures. In the end, only you can have the final say about what is an acceptable profit but usually it is healthy to aim to double what your costs are. So, for example, if you spend 75p on each card, and your 60 %, once the gallery has had its slice, is roughly £1.50, half of that will be pure profit. And that's fine. The more you sell, the more 75ps come rolling in. Obviously a handful of card sales each month is not going to pay the mortgage, but the more galleries you can get your stock into the more you increase these little selling opportunities. Get in the car and explore on foot. Have a good look round. Talk to people. Try stuff out. See how it goes. Don't worry if it doesn't all happen at first. Go back to your desk. Keep creating. Keep going. Your successes, no matter how big or small, will mean all the more for having worked hard for them. That is something I do know.