Jennifer B. Davis
Budding artists all over the world have dreamt of their first gallery showing. The more commercially-minded of the bunch dream of selling out and having their artwork displayed on a wide array of novelty items and gifts...and those royalty checks rolling in.

Now you don't have to wait to make your dreams come true. In fact, any Tom, Dick, or Harriett can now publish and promote their creative works and get paid. Thanks to the wonder of on-demand printing technology, now no one has to old inventory and so artists are free to make anything available for sale, before a single item is physically made. The gist of the business model here is that third-parties can host the virtual stores, sell the goods with the "licensed" artwork, and then send the artists a royalty when something bearing their image or art is purchased. There are a variety of sites that have aspects of this business model and I'll highlight a couple. I must warn you that I have not ordered from either of these companies, so this is not an endorsement. However, if you choose to experiment, I am very interested in the results you get.

The first is You upload your art and you can create t-shirts, mugs, cards, prints, and postage stamps (yes, real postage stamps) bearing the image. Better yet, you can publish your art into a gallery so that others can buy. You get 10-17% royalty on sales. If you are not artistic but like the idea, they have an affiliate program that pays 7% commission for referred sales. You can create Zazzle flash panels that parade merchandise you select or specify embedded into your website.

Other services of this ilk include CafePress. They have lots of products onto which art can be affixed and they have an affiliate program as well that looks pretty interesting. I'd love to hear a success story (or a failure, for that matter) from any of these companies.

On the lower end of "art," the company called Threadless specializes in t-shirts. Some of them are quite funny (some are not appropriate for a family show, I must warn). They offer nice things like gift certificates and a funky design aesthetic on the site.

So, how can you use all of this?

  • If you are artist, you can submit your art, tell your family and friends, and promote your own licensed product sales.
  • If you like unique artwork and gift items you could go shopping (after you sign up for that affiliate program, so you make money on your own purchases, I suppose)
  • or to combine the above, if you are an artist, submit your artwork, and order presents for the next holiday for all your friends and family. Be sure to include a website in your art design so that admirers can order reprints!
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