When I invested time in my entrepreneurial endeavor in editorial publishing, I never took one moment to recognize the risks and challenges I would face; the only things I focused on at the start of this adventure were my thorough knowledge of the Independent Publishing Renaissance and faith in my vision. I did not think about the consumer from the beginning.
Independent publishing has become more prevalent in the Millennial Age; offering independent authors and artists the opportunity to voice their opinions through literature and cater to narrow audiences. Traditional media tends to be broad in regards to audience; tackling an array of topics to appease a multitude of interests. With independent publishing, the capacity exists to focus on one specific topic and develop loyal readership. Whether the topic be on holistic wellness for women of color, sexual wellness for single mothers, or self-confidence in a woman’s natural build; having a refined mission allows an artist to create a strong community that gravitates towards their product.
While there are some benefits to starting your own business and launching your own book, there are also challenges and risks we’ll soon have to come to terms with.
Challenges to creator and consumer
Challenges such as finding a publisher to partner with, building a community, seeking the funds to continuously invest in developing content, and, most importantly, encouraging an audience to invest in your idea. This last challenge is particularly difficult to surmount with mass production retailers undercutting the independent artists of the world.
With self-publishers like Lulu offering a means for independent authors and artists, the first challenge is no challenge at all. Next comes the networking, the interactive engagements and social media.
So, what about selling to our audience? What do we do when our audience thinks our price is “too high?”
While it’s important to do a competitive shop and analyze the price points of other authors and competitors within our industry of choice, we still need to have the courage to stand our ground and eloquently convey our reasoning for pricing. As small businesses and independent artists become more visible in the market, consumers are more inclined to learn about the origin of these unique brands.
Personally, as an independent artist who started my entire idea from the ground, I find it disheartening when consumers love my product, yet they feel it’s not good enough due to the price point.
To the consumer
Magazines like Vogue or Elle have low price points because their primary means of revenue is through luxury advertisements. Other magazines team up with publishing partners which allows them to leverage the price of their product. Larger companies have the capacity to offer low priced products, so why are you comparing a brand as large as Time to a mission-driven, independent artist trying to tell their story? Why compare one person who is putting all of their personal earned investment into creating their product?
In the New Year, while we, as artists, continue to discover a variety of means to market to our potential consumer, the consumer who is interested in supporting independent artists and small businesses should take some things into account.
With that, I’ve created an accountability New Year’s Resolution list for that consumer:
#1 Understand the Brand’s Image and Mission
If you’re seeking interest in investing in a product, ask yourself why. What intrigues you to pick it up? Is it the quality of the product, the topic it addresses or both? Are they ethically responsible, do they invest in quality materials? After acknowledging these thoughts, ask questions to the sales person to truly understand the brand and its mission before purchase.
#2 Never Speculate
Questioning the pricing of an artist’s product should never come off as smug. If they priced it there, it was for a reason. There’s a considerate way of inquiring about the making of a product. You never know if the book, magazine or what-have-you that you are interested in purchasing was created by the hands of one individual. Inquire about the story behind the product before reprimanding it.
#3 Check Your Wallet, Not the Seller
Recognize your financial capacity when considering a purchase without making the artist or author feel their product or work is inadequate. Making statements such as ‘I could get something similar to this at ‘xyz’ store for a lower price,’ isn’t going to make the artist change their mind, especially if the product was made from scratch. If you’re comparing a price of a product you saw in a value retail store then maybe the product the artist is selling isn’t for you.
#4 Refrain from Bargaining
The artist isn’t selling vintage clothing, they are selling something that was handcrafted meticulously. Saying a price lower than the actual retail price is not only a blissfully ignorant suggestion but it can come off as insulting. Again, if you don’t see yourself paying the price on the tag then it’s probably not for you.
#5 No, You Can’t Get it for Free
In the new Millennial Age, you may have many friends who have started their own venture. Whether it’s clothing, books, or a service business, you are surrounded by people who have decided to embark on their own path and define their destiny. Since a lot of the money that goes into an independent venture comes out of pocket, one thing artists love the most while starting their own business is having supportive friends; those friends asking for comps are not included.
You cannot get it for free
An artist taking the initiative to offer you their product comped is one thing. However, asking someone for a discount up front, or a wave on shipping, or just blatantly asking someone for their product/service for free is beyond being inconsiderate. It’s just rude. I mean, honestly, who do you think is paying for all of the operating costs? Manufacturing costs, shipping costs, labor costs, advertising costs; artists can’t pay for all of these expenses while simultaneously appeasing you just because you don’t feel like paying $5 for shipping. Let’s leave this in 2018!
I started my fashion magazine with the idea to create visibility for Afro-models and creatives of color in the fashion/beauty industry. I wanted to tell the stories of the Afro-person through fashion photography; it was something I hold dear to my heart and have had the pleasure of continuing to triumph in.
All photo shoot coordination, talent castings, wardrobe direction, exclusive interviews, and magazine design are completed all by me. I’ve been able to continue to roll out this magazine quarterly for exactly a year all because I believe in my mission and am passionate about my work. So, if you’re wondering, yes, all of the above suggested resolutions were instances I’ve experienced. Yes, as an artist, it hurt my feelings. I think I can say all artists are passionate about their work; it’s like a newborn child that you will always protect as it gets older.
In sum, I write this post, with love, to say thank you to those consumers who have been interested in learning about someone’s product. Yes, we appreciate your genuine inquiries. No, you cannot get it for free.
Amanda Moore-Karim is an independent fashion editor who specializes in curating content such as fashion photography, conducting interviews, and fashion show reviews. Ms. Moore-Karim produces her own fashion publication in print where she continues to address socio-political issues through fashion photography while simultaneously giving visibility to models, fashion designers, photographers, and other fashion creatives of African descent.