Just a quick reminder that if you’re planning to produce calendars to sell at the end of the year / beginning of next year, this is the time to start. Here’s what you need to get moving in the right direction…
As time goes on, I become more and more convinced that this is a tailor-made Print-On-Demand (POD) project. If you release a POD calendar and you sell a huge number of them, you should think of moving to an offset run. But remember — calendars have a very limit shelf life. Your entire sales will fall between November and January. If you take the risk of printing too many copies in an offset run, you take the risk of eating that extra cost.
When I released my 2010 calendar, it was November. And, truthfully, I figured this was plenty of time. One of my readers was very upset with me for releasing it so late.
I was perplexed. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to purchase a calendar before November, and yet, there was clearly a segment of my readership who had already completed their calendar-shopping for the year — and given the choice, they would have chosen my offering if it had been available.
So, this year, I offered my calendar in early-October. And my sales have been brisk.
But my new recommendation is to release your calendars at the beginning of September! I’ll get into why in a moment.
I realize that this advice is coming to you too late for this year, but you can put it in the back for your head for next year. (I’ll try to have a Friday Archive Dive on this post next year to remind you!)
But there’s an even better reason for having your calendar out early: Conventions!
How did I overlook that?!
I brought 20 calendars to New York Comic con this year, and I was sold out either Saturday night or early Sunday. They flew off the table.
Calendars have an edge on the convention table:
- Low competition: Not many of your fellow exhibitors will have calendars on their tables (other than your fellow Webcomics.com subscribers). So this merchandise stands out.
- Uniqueness: It’s different from the usual book-and-a-T-shirt merchandise you find at conventions.
- Early bird: Offering calendars at Autumn conventions means you get a purchase from somebody who says: “Geez, I’m gonna buy a calendar this year anyway… I can cross that off my list now and get something cool and unique.”
If I had those calendars on my table in Baltimore the month before, I’m convinced that I would have made a killing.
The personal touch
About midway through the convention in New York, one guy who was buying a calendar asked for a sketch inside it — the way I do with books.
How did I overlook that?!?
Thinking on my feet, I asked him what month his birthday fell in. He said “April,” and I flipped the calendar open to that month and did a special sketch, with one of my characters delivering birthday wishes.
Every calendar after that had a special sketch on purchaser’s requested month.
Even if you’re not planning to attend conventions in September, October or November, you should still plan to have your calendars prepped and available by September because if you do, you can order yourself a small stack and offer them on your Web site as Artist Editions.
Most storefront solutions include a way for the purchaser to communicate with the merchant. In PayPal, it’s “NOTE TO MERCHANT.” Advise your readers to indicate the month they want the illustration drawn in — and any birthday messages (if this is a gift for someone else, for instance) — and you’ve got a rock-solid early-Fall merchandise offering.
And your sketches could be simply your characters, or they could deliver birthday wishes, or they could contain references to the person’s astrological sign… the possibilities are endless.
Heck, you could do a very limited number of calendars with sketches on each day and sell it for a premium price.
And don’t forget this important tip from our original POD calendar discussion: List all of your planned convention appearances for the upcoming year on the calendar. Mark the ones that aren’t set-in-stone as “tentative.”
It’s Not Too Late
You can complete a POD calendar in an evening. If you have a convention coming up before the end of the year, you could have this project turned around within a week or so. You can still take advantage of this strategy at your upcoming appearances. And, truthfully, you could feasibly offer the Artist Edition calendars by mid-November and still do well. It’s not too late to put this to use for 2017… and it gives you plenty of time to get prepared for 2018.