'One-point' Lessons

Lesson #23: How to Market Your Prints - "Pricing Prints"

(contributed by Bill Ritchie)

Should prints be priced according to what time and materials went into them, or according to what you think they may sell for?

I see four possible answers, but they all stem from one source: Your goals. Do you have goals? Do you know what your goal is?

For example, if your goal is to be left alone to your composing, carving, doodling or just having fun in a serendipitous way, don't make any plan. If you want to succeed as an artist, and this is the way your instincts tell you to go, then go for it, even if the "it" is nebulous.

If your goal is to meet neat people and have great relationships among other artists, crafts people, designers, publishers, collectors and academics, your costs (and thus prices) will be determined other ways - or not planned at all.

Once I gave a short Web site workshop to some people at a dining room table. When I was done they said, "We want to pay you, even though we didn't talk about this before you came. What do you charge?" They were interesting people, and I was doing it for fun. "Whatever it was worth," I said, and they gave me a check for $300. This is not the same as making prints, but you get the similarity - the only goal in mind was to have a little fun, meet some people, and listen to their ideas.

If your goal in making prints is to get rich, then yes, you (a) will have a marketing plan and, from this, (b) you will make the right conclusion (or your best guess), based on your actual costs of making the prints. There's a popular saying, "To fail to plan is a plan to fail."

Fourth, if your goal is a pastiche of the above three ideas, you may have different plans for different prints, or even for different runs within an edition, or an open edition plus a closed edition. This happens when you are working with a publisher or a dealer, where there are rules that hold in certain instances, and areas where there are no rules. Communication is the key here, and may be expressed in written contracts.


Giving four answers to start things out, and throwing back the idea that it starts with a goal in mind may seem like evasion, but the point is that the answer descends from your goal. If you don't agree that goals are important or realistic for artists (because they hamper creativity) then your own answer will be suspended on a daily basis. You may prefer this way. You may make a new system every day, to suit the weather, your feelings or your horoscope.

It'll drive your business-like associates crazy, perhaps, but they'll get used to it if they are still making a profit off your labor.

On the other hand, if you paid $20 for a self-help marketing and sales book, you're already $20 down a road that assumes your roadmap is for financial break-even or profit.