Printing, shipping, and selling posters

How do you go about printing, shipping, and selling infographic posters?

 

I get this question a lot so I thought I would run down the nuts and bolts of the operation.  My process has changed and evolved over the years but this will get you started.

Printing

You want to make sure your poster is going to be a standard size.  This would be the size of frames you find at any hardware store or wallmart.  Custom framing is expensive so it helps to make the poster 11×17, 18×24, or 24×36.

There are really only four options for printing.

You can use a print on demand service like Cafe Press.  This option sucks, quality is low, and your revenue share will be peanuts, about $1 per poster.  If you are lazy, this might be an option as it requires the least effort.

You can also get your poster printed at Kinkos or some other printshop.  If it’s about 11×17 it will likely be “oversized” meaning they have to use the big printer, meaning you will have to pay big bucks.  Around $7 a square foot.  A 24×36 poster will cost $35 to print.  If you can sell it for much more then great, but likely not.  I sometimes use this option to get a one-off proof to see if any text is too small to read.

My preferred method is offset printing.  This is where the image is plated and then run on as many sheets of paper you can afford to feed through the press.  Offset is really cheap, less than $1 per print, full color.  As long as you get a quantity of 1,000 or more.  You can certainly get an offset run as low as 100 posters, but cost doesn’t start to come down until higher quantities.  It may cost $600 for 100 posters, $800 for 1,000 posters, and $1,000 for 2,000 posters.

There are lots of offset companies but I always use and recommend Print Pelican.  You will not find a cheaper price and they do good work.  If you are familiar with the Death and Taxes poster, it’s printed on 100# Gloss Cover which is pretty thick.  You will have to ask for this and its a bit more expensive than the standard paper they use, but if you are selling a product, its worth it.

Another option if you are looking to sell more of an art-type poster is to silk screen it.  This is where you have a limited number of colors and each one is applied to the poster in layers.  The result is a very high quality piece of work often with a subtle textured finish.  My 389 Years Ago poster was printed this way.  This allows me to sell the poster at a higher price, $50 and generally these runs are numbered so it’s more of a collectors thing.  The main draw back here is you are paying per color and the run size.  So if you can’t get your work down to 3-6 colors it’s not going to be worth it.  I think my posters were $12-$16 each.  Gradients are not easy to do and it helps to know a bit about the silk-screening process if you want to print this way.  I used D&L who are one of the best.  They have done a ton of concert posters.

Shipping

There are a few ways to get your shipping done.

The easiest route is to get set up with a fulfillment company or service.  The posters are shipped to them and they hand the pick, pack, and ship.  This should really only be done if you expect a good volume of sales.  They will charge a monthly fee, $50, maybe a storage fee, and about $2-$4 per poster.  This is on top of the shipping fee.  So if your poster sells for $20.  Fulfillment can eat $8 to $12 of that.  There are a lot of fulfillment services out there.  I used Graphik Dimensions which owns PicutreFrames.com because they could also frame a poster and ship it.  That rarely happened tho as it was expensive, $300+ for the user.  Currently the poster is shipped via Amazon.  While they have their own fulfillment service, the poster is shipped through Amazon proper, which you will need connections to get into.

Or you can do all the shipping yourself.  If you get offset or screenprinted posters you are likely to receive a small pallet of posters.  This is going to be heavy and might weigh a few hundred pounds.  Do not expect to be receiving this in your 5 story walk-up.  You are going to need a workspace to store, roll, and pack the tubes.  And supplies.  Uline has everything you need.  Tubes will need to be bought in bulk if you want a decent price, sub $1 per tube.  Also get at least a 2.5” diameter or you risk the tube getting damaged too easily.  Keep in mind tubes take up a lot of space.  If you order 250 tubes, they come about 30 to a box, which might be 3 feet high.   So all of a sudden you have 8 large boxes of tubes you will need to store.  I also packed each poster with craft paper to protect it.  Get a roll, and also a really good tape gun.

The shipping method is up to you.  Use whatever is easiest.  I was able to print and pay for USPS labels right from paypal and just affix them to tube.  The labeling process is going to take the longest so try to stream line it as much as possible.  Shipping is going to run between $5-$9 dollars per tube.  There is negligible cost to putting two posters in a tube and you actually save a great deal.  That’s why I always ran BOGO offers.  It may cost me $15 to print and ship a single poster, but $16 to print and ship two posters in the same tube.  Yet the customer is getting twice the value, or so they think.  You will need at least a 2.5” diameter tube to get more than one poster in. If you have 3 or more posters to ship to a single customer, just put them in tubes and tape all the tubes together to save on shipping.

It’s also possible to get some local kid or family member to do the shipping.  You still have to pay them a fulfillment fee but at least the money is not going to some corporation and you have more control over the operation.  My dear ol mom has shipping a good majority of the posters I’ve sold.

Selling

There are a million ways to sell your poster and there seems to be a new solution every week.  I have used paypal buttons, e-commerce carts like CRE Loaded and Magento, and other third party solutions like E-Junkie. I really recommend E-junkie as it is super lightweight, has tons of options and you can easily get all your data out.

Payment processors are a bitch, all of them.  I have used paypal payments pro, google checkout, amazon payments, and a standard merchant account + gateway.  For a single product I suggest something like paypal.  Yeah there is a ton of issues with paypal but it has served me fine.  The merchant account is $40 a month I think.  I haven’t stayed on top of all the options out there so they may be something better out there.  Don’t worry about percentage fees either.  You are not likely to do high volume so it doesn’t matter.

Don’t forget about Kickstarter!  It’s a great way to get an initial print run funded.  Remember there is a fractional cost to shipping more than one poster to a person so it works in your favor to offer rewards of multiple posters.  I didn’t need to fund my latest print through Kickstarter but I wanted to give it a shot.  I raised $6,800 on a $3,000 goal so it was a success.  Of course you really should know how to create, run, and market a successful kickstarter campaign.  There is tons of info you there so go find it.

Now go do it!

Where would I be without selling posters?  Who knows, but taking the initial steps have opened up 100 other doors of opportunity.  You will learn a lot about the merchant business from beginning to end. Sales to customer service.  If the above sounds to difficult, it really wasn’t.  I made lots of mistakes but nothing I was unable to bounce back from.

If you have any more questions just leave them in the comments below.

17
May 2012
AUTHOR jess
CATEGORY

personal, projects

COMMENTS 22 Comments
  • Dubsteptoker

    what about copyrights and so forth?  like what prints are legit to print and which ones arent???

    • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

      Well if you are printing your own work, there won’t be an issue.  If its not your work, you need to get permission, unless it has the right creative commons liscences.

      • pd

        how to get permission or liscence???

  • Towera

    Ran across this article not sure if still active but I have someone intrested in buying my poster at wholesale not sure what to charge as reseller on a black and white  technical illustration poster

    • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

      Depends on a a great number of things.  My poster sold for $24 retail, I would charge resellers $10-$14 on orders of 500-1000.

  • Hoss302

    This may sound stupid but I’m being serious about this. We have been dealing with a spirit at my home. The ghost has been using the carpet as a canvas and I have taken hundreds of pictures of “it’s” masterpieces. Some of which are very detailed. I’m interested in trying to sell them. Do you have any suggestions on how I should go about doing so?

    • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

      Take high resolution photos, print them out, sell them. Also look into a litter box for the ghost.

      • Gabriel

        your customers will probably be ghosts

  • http://www.facebook.com/Massamio Benjamin Mcdonald

    Great info. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000514624332 Mark Lange

    Thanks man.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexanderjoo Alexander Joo

    Right now I use OpenPrints.com for my website (fitnessinfographics.com). They’re the best I’ve seen — but I hate that I can’t embed their service into my website. All my customers are redirected to their site to purchase. There must be a print service with a widget (or something) that can be embedded into any site?

    • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

      How is the quality of the paper? I hate the thing stuff that cafepress uses.

      • Alex

        It’s quite high-quality, very glossy photo paper. The thing is, that medium is fine for photos (and maybe art) but not “vector” posters like mine that (and probably yours) that would look good on silky matte stock.

  • Doris Glass

    where can i buy tubes to ship?

    • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

      Uline.com

    • ragt

      I meant to post this here first but I messed up. Personally I like this company the best. They have amazing customer service. http://www.interplas.com/mailing-tubes

  • ragt

    Personally I like this company the best. They have amazing customer service. http://www.interplas.com/mailing-tubes

  • Johnny

    I sell my prints and posters on my site (thespiltink.com) but I’m having trouble getting the site some exposure, what do you recommend?

  • http://cm.org.uk/ Colin

    Some great tips, thanks!

  • Sara

    Thanks for the great tips! I was wondering, how long do you think it would take for 1 person to package up 1000 posters, if you had all the posters and tubes there and the labels printed out?

    • http://byJess.net/ Jess Bachman

      Well if you already had 1,000 orders then I would just pay someone else to pack and ship them.

      I never ordered more than a few hundred tubes at a time, because I can fit thousands of posters on a small pallet, but only 30 tubes in a huge box. 1,000 tubes would fill your garage at least. I would package up 50 or so tubes at a time, then ship them out when I got orders. But, to answer your question, in the best circumstances it might take 90 seconds to pack a tube and apply a printed label. So, 1000 posters would take 25 hours, non-stop. Have fun!

      • Sara

        Thanks!