An Interesting Printing Service: 8x10

As a photographer, I've been looking into having my photos printed to be sold. There's just a small issue with that idea though. I have no idea what I'm doing. There are many hurdles that I need to clear. Well, even without much of a clue of what I'm doing, here comes 8x10 to try to make things easier.

Let's get this out of the way... this ain't sponsored. I kind of wish it was because that would mean that I'm getting paid but, no, these are just my observations and opinions.

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"A Pro-Artist Platform to Sell Signed, Limited Edition Fine Art with a Single Post"

I don't have much interest in regurgitating the hoopla on how the app/service works. Here's the lowdown: The user uploads an image to be sold with some set parameters; 8x10's app spits out a generated Instagram post; The user puts that Instagram post up and waits for sales.

Above is an example from my Instagram feed. The "frame" is one of the choices the user has to pick from. In my opinion, they seem to have an option that fits most styles. Starting with "15 Days..." is the auto generated text from the app.

8x10 has been featured on Petapixel, and DPReview, and the commenters' responses (excluding those that completely missed the point) have been rather positive. It's hassle-free platform with potentially no risk to the artist. I only say "potentially no risk" because there could be implications with an artist's branding, or something else unforeseen.

The cost of using 8x10

At no upfront charge, an artist is able to have a storefront that is managed by 8x10. That is the "Free" part that people often misunderstand. Take my post above. It hasn't sold once yet, sadly as expected. Thanks to 8x10's model, I haven't lost any money on a flopped product. There is only money to be gained from this service.

How 8x10 makes their money is by taking a cut from the artist's sales. That's pretty reasonable in my opinion.

But how much is their cut? Great question! Currently, at $35 USD (the minimum user set price), 8x10 takes $20.50, and at $500 (the maximum price) they take $67. Well, gee, Elliot, at the lower price points they sure seem to take quite a significant portion. Take a step back and look at the whole picture.

Assuming a customer buys an artist's print with the frame (frame costs an additional $35) at the $35 price point, they will be spending $70 (+shipping). That $70 mark is fairly inline with the cost of a quality single framed image from online printers like mpix, Artifact Rising, Social Print Studio and WhiteWall. Think about it, if you were to use these other printers, you would already be spending close to $70 to make your product, and then you need to add a markup.

Then bulk print the image, Elliot, easy! Well, if you want to sit on inventory, that's your call. For plebeians, like me, I don't have the money or space to sit on inventory. Like my example above, I haven't sold a single image yet. It would be a financial setback if I had that inventory doing nothing. Furthermore, doing single orders from another printer is just more work for me compared to 8x10's service.

If you're really that concerned about 8x10's cut on your margins, price your art higher. I think I would get plenty of people telling me that pricing my images at $35 is cheating myself. So, if I ever get traction, I would try to set a higher price point.

My concerns about using 8x10

The biggest concern is going to be pretty obvious, selling anything at all. Let's look at my follower count on Instagram... 270 followers at the time of writing. That's not a large customer base to try and convince that my images are worthy of purchase.

Since the service is predicated on Instagram, only those who have large amounts of followers really have a chance of selling their prints. Becoming Instagram famous is another issue the artist has to face. Quite frankly, it's hard for me to imagine getting over 1,000 followers.

8x10's website does say the following: "We share your auctions with thousands of potential purchasers." Looking at their social media platforms, uh, they haven't been doing that for anyone yet. Time will tell if they will keep this promise.

The question can then be asked: "If I don't have much of a chance selling via 8x10, where can I sell then?" Well, shoot, I don't have much chances anywhere else online. I do hope to open up a vendor stand at the balloon festivals, but that's a goal that needs a bit of money to start. So all I can do is just post a listing and just hope that I sell something. There's nothing to lose at least.

Some limitations to 8x10

I'm just going to rattle off some limitations currently present on 8x10:

  • United States, and iPhone only
    • They're working on making things work with the banks outside of the US.
    • International customers can still purchase your stuff though.
    • I don't know if they will ever consider other smartphone platforms.
  • Stiff price brackets
    • 8x10 has a selection of prices from $35 to $500. However, this isn't some slider, there are hard price points that the artist has to choose from.
    • Want to sell something at $40? Nope, not happening.
  • Only one product can be sold at a time
    • Some people might have an issue with this...
  • The Instagram post cannot be directly interacted with
    • See the example above. That link... you cannot click on it.
    • This means that the customer has to manually type your link into their browser. A rather major inconvenience.
    • Artists can somewhat bypass this by making their website in their bio the link. That doesn't work for me though as I have my website there.
    • 8x10 has told me that they're working on letting customers interact with the Instagram post once they get their hands on the business account API/SDK stuff. Oh, that means that you would need to set your Instagram account up as a business.

So...

8x10 is an interesting service that takes away the pain of managing a storefront for artists. I think that they've got a model that can work but, it's going to be very dependent on artists actually selling things.

Established artists already have their ways of selling their works. So 8x10 is going to need to convince those people that their service is good to use. People who have low follower counts on social media, like me, will probably struggle and not sell anything at all. There is at least little risk to throwing up listings though. Heck, I may make some money eventually.