marketplace

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While I was researching where to get the 2009 whipup calendar printed, I came upon a lot of options, but I had a list of things I considered necessary and some other things that I could do without. [note there are ton of self publishing sites out there - but I am limiting this post to sites that also double as a marketplace - who handle the sales of the product as well as the production]

My necessary list:
1. reasonable international postage costs: considering that I live in Australia and that whipup is an international site with readers from everywhere, and that the contributors for the calendar were also from all over the globe, this one was at the very top of my list. I was going to go with lulu.com but when their shipping went up (by an extraordinary amount) I really needed to reconsider my options.

2. great quality: I wanted the finished product to look great – I read about a zillion reviews of all the different print on demand places – and tested out two options – by getting proof calendars printed.

3. easy to use interface: I signed up at a lot of these print on demand websites and some of them were so clunky to use – I had difficulty working out what to do and wasted a lot of time. I consider myself reasonably internet savvy and so if I have trouble navigating a website then I think others might too. Uploading images needed to be efficient and the calendar templates needed to be simple to use.

4. Marketplace: It had to have a shop front that handled payment and checking out. I wanted to be able to sell these calendars to the public through the print on demand website I was making them with. The checkout needed to be really simple, and available to everyone.

My not so necessary list – but would be nice:
1. I thought that having a few calendar options to choose from would be nice – perhaps paper options and calendar templates – with options to include extra information in the dates area – put in holidays and special occasions, and also to include text if I wanted – to caption the images. And it would be nice to have the back cover show all the images that were on each month.

2. I didn’t really want to make a lot of different products – but having the option to make prints, cards, t-shirt, badges etc would be nice down the track. I also was thinking about small booklets or photo books – and plenty of places do these – but not many do all of these things – and if they do then the quality tends to suffer.

So in inclusion:
1. Redbubble: was my chosen print on demand site for getting this calendar printed. It filled most of my requirements. Reasonable shipping costs, the base price for the product is more than other places (eg lulu.com base price is $5 less, but shipping $100 more!). Shipping within Australia (for 1-2 calendars) is $5, shipping to Europe is under 4euros, shipping to the US is about $5 as well. As the Australian dollar is so dreadful right now – international buyers get quite a bargain!

There is only one calendar template with redbubble and it is not configurable at all – but the calendar template they do use has a clean and simple design and they good quality art art paper. Uploading images and using the site is super easy – setting up an account to sell does require filling in a lot of information – including tax info. Checking out is easy – with a calculate shipping option after you put in your address. Redbubble don’t do a lot of different merchandise, cards, prints, calendar and t-shirts is it, this means that have more quality control – but if you want more you will need to look elsewhere.

2. lulu.com: Is wonderful in so many ways, which is why I was quite heartbroken when they chose to increase their international shipping from $15 to $120 for one calendar – you can see why I couldn’t use them in the end. However if you are in the US or if they ever do return to sanity with the shipping, then they have some very good options – lots of photo book and 3 calendar options. I have had 2 different sizes printed with them – the small cheaper calendar and the big linen one – both turned out really well. The small one is gloss only but the big one has a linen paper and gloss option. Also the calendar making wizard is easy to use – highly configurable with lots of templates available and inserting dates and extra text is simple – and there are discounts for bulk orders.

3. Other print on demand sites:
- Image kind: for selling framed prints – I didn’t get very far with this – they do cards, but otherwise its only prints but have heard good things about quality.
- zazzle: I was really considering this option – I had read good reviews about the quality and service – and there are lot of options for different merchandise. I was a little put off by the busy website. But I did like the fact that you can test drive the products – create a calendar – almost instantly, without first signing up. Their are lots of calendar options – cards and badges too – and the calendars have a few templates to choose from and are easily customisable.
- Cafe press: one of the first print on demand marketplaces – mostly consisting of commercial slogan based products and novelty items. However you can set up your own shop front and link to it directly from your site. There are a few different calendar options available – none of which I really liked – but certainly there is choice.
- blurb: is a print on demand book site – mainly used for photo books – you can also sell your products in their marketplace. You need to download the blurb software, which has pre-determined themes and layouts – I have heard that it can be a bit difficult to use (quirky with some bugs) and sometimes limiting, but that the overall product is excellent. I have heard also that international shipping can be very expensive (and they don’t do calendars).
- createspace: is owned by amazon which means you can make your book available for sale on amazon. I have heard mixed reviews about the quality, shipping and the service and some unhappy reports about the amazon link up. I am still not sure about this one… anyone had any experience? (uhm no calendars either).
- viovio: a photo book publisher and marketplace, I have read some excellent reviews about the outstanding quality of the print and binding, lots of sizing options available. There are also lots of options to create your book, you can upload a pdf that you have pre-designed, you can use their drag and drop templates/wizard or their design software – all this allows for complete design freedom. Prices seem competitive – I have not heard any bad reviews at all (but no calendars).

Please add your experiences with on demand publishing services in the comments.

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