Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Alchemy & Letterpress Business Cards: A Reflection

Ah, Etsy Alchemy, how you've unintentionally wronged and insulted so many artists out there. Recently Adventures in Letterpress asked fellow letterpress printers to submit bids on Alchemy that reflected "real costs." Over lunch, my friend noted that some of the "ideal prices" were insulting to artists. One of the Alchemy requests was for 16 custom fashion illustrations for $200, when an Etsy artist doing the very illustrations desire was charging $300 for 1 custom illustration. I simply take it for what it is. I mean, honestly, if you were to ask me how much I wanted to pay for something, anything, my answer would probably be, "My ideal price would be zero."

But we went on to bitch about letterpress business cards, the hot topic of the moment ever since there was an Alchemy request for 50 business letterpress cards for $20.

I, for one, love doing business cards. But the smaller the piece of paper, the harder it is to letterpress. And at a certain point, clients are paying more for the labor than the paper. I was so surprised to learn that there are letterpress printers out there who will print only 50 cards, and for such a small cost (probably not $20, but nowhere near Joie Studio prices!). So different from...ahem...certain letterpress printers who will take your arm and leg (plus your fiance's) for wedding invitations. There are so many fixed costs in letterpress. I mean, wow. The time it takes to design the card and handset type, if that's what they're doing, then to set up the press and then to clean off the ink after you're done. For me, all this takes WAY more time than printing 50 cards. And mind you, it takes at least the same amount of time to print 50 business cards (sometimes more because of size) as it does to print 50 invitations.

I'm not in the business of ripping people off -- that's hardly the way to engender love from your clients. I'm looking to build my business with fair prices for me and for my clients. I will tell you now that everything I do is custom work. Even if you pick a design and say, "I want the same colors, the same fonts, everything." It's still your text, your name, and I make sure that the layout is perfect, the fonts fit your names, and that the designs are placed to best show off your project. I mix all the ink to make sure that it matches the color of the paper from the lot that your paper comes from. I obsess about whether your ink matches your paper or not. I ask everyone who walks in the door if they notice any flaws with the printing. I annoy my neighbors by printing past midnight sometimes. So as much as I would like to, I simply can't offer 50 letterpress business cards for the same price as others. My minimum pricing is based on 250 business cards, although you can certainly request a smaller number.

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