Art supply sets being resold at a loss on eBay soon!

About $120 worth of brand new, unused art supply items, are going to be listed at prices that are only 55-65% of the amount I paid for the items, and with free shipping.

I’m trying to get my eBay shop to new heights, and most of my recent ratings are as a buyer, not as a seller. I’ve got over 200 ratings by now on eBay, 100% of them positive, but only about a third of them have been as an actual vendor/seller. I’m hoping to draw in about a dozen new ratings on eBay *as a seller* this week and ideally also one or two on Etsy soon as well.

To that end, I’ll be advertising heavily, for both my art shops and my near-release game ‘Miniature Multiverse‘ and I’m expecting a torrent of web traffic during the next 12 days as I post:

-a bunch of art-supply listings at excellently low prices.

-a handful of auctions for substantial original made-to-order personalized artworks.

-a couple of new artworks on Etsy as well.

-a final batch of articles filling the ‘articles page’ on TriumphantArtists.com – the last incomplete section is currently being written, that is, the one on ‘game design/development’.

-Chapter One of ‘Another Road Taken’ as well as early parts of the ‘Troop 4Uncensored, pt. 4’ comic book, filling out the fairly weak comics section of TriumphantArtists.com and in the process also further improving the Troop 4 site.

-House Trek episode 6 posted on HornbostelVideos.com, and also a Miniature Multiverse video trailer shortly before launch.

-Revision/update of my still art gallery on TriumphantArtists.com.

-And actually launch ‘Miniature Multiverse‘ on major digital gaming shops!

‘Miniature Multiverse’ launch pushed back but mostly there’s good news!

Miniature Multiverse will now launch in mid-late November 2017, another delay.

Good news though: The project, once released, will be far better value.

The program will be priced at $1.50, with six worlds at launch, not three.  I.e. I’m essentially doubling the scope of the project and also trimming the price by $0.25. All updates will still be free.

Obviously, adding an additional room to Lokus and two entirely new worlds (Cliak and Sedest) plus another sixth world, will be the focus of much of my time the next two weeks. But once that effort is complete, the launch may be far better for it.  Bonus: I plan to launch on Steam and the Humble Store as well – I’ve done a bit of market research (thanks, SteamSpy!) and reached the conclusion that a Steam release will be worth the additional cost and effort. Maybe the project will be trashed by Steam buyers, but hey, if you don’t like it, just refund it [Steam has a refund policy that allows games to be refunded as long as you’ve spent less than 2 hrs. running them)… and in this case, that refund policy means you can see pretty much everything in this initial launch for free.  And if you decide you want to hold on to your copy of ‘Miniature Multiverse’ for later updates [there’ll be a lot of free updates over time for buyers] that’s great.

That said – I’d encourage people to go the Itch.IO route.  Their review process for indies is leaner and faster and less backlogged so despite the fact that I’m submitting to Steam first, there’s a high likelihood that the Steam version won’t go live until nearly the end of the year. It’s also possible Valve will find some nitpicky reason to reject my project – the HornbostelProductions.com shop release is 100% certain, the Itch.IO release I’d say is 95% likely to work out, Humble Store 80%, Steam 75%. These are just my best guesses at this time though given the available information.

Miniature Multiverse GIF
Miniature Multiverse

In other news, my video site HornbostelVideos.com is live now!  There’s not a lot there yet – basically just YouTube vlog entries and revised House Trek episodes – but more will be added over time.  Well worth a look.

House Trek TOS space battle
House Trek space battle

 

Release schedules [Miniature Multiverse]

In answer to some valid questions about the Itch.IO release vs. free version vs. the benefits of being a member on this website, the plan looks like this:

Sept. 2017: Vyrsul, Pryme & Lokus, made available both to members on HornbostelProductions.com and also Itch.IO.  I know I’d said the members would get access to new content before anyone else, but that’s mainly true with updates, not the initial release.  As for free non-paying visitors, nothing released for them in 2017 as far as Miniature Multiverse goes except for some video content from the project and a few screenshots and maybe a limited demo only containing the world Lokus.  Sorry!

Online stores, like mine, and Itch.IO, where people actually pay for the game, will get released content well before free players. When a new update is released, it’ll go to these stores first, and the paying players, then free players typically about a year later.

November 2017: Revised launch date. Six worlds available for buyers at a price of $1.50 that includes all future updates to the project.

December 2017: Stripped down demo containing only Lokus is posted for free.

January or February 2018: Additional batch of areas/worlds added, essentially doubling the project’s size and scope.

April-May 2018: Another additional set of worlds added, increasing the size of the project to 3x its intial scope.

September-October 2018: The last core update posted, meaning the central storyline in the game and all the essential puzzle material is complete, and the game is 4x the scope it had at first launch.

December 2018: New free version posted with all the November content.

January 2019: Another update for paying customers if things are still going well.

March 2019: First update made available for free.

April 2019: Another paid players’ update

..and so on, alternating months, as long as it’s viable.

 

The rate of production will be adjusted based on the success or lack of success of the project. If the project is failing horribly as a sale item, it might have to slow down and may get shut down at the end of 2018.  If moderately popular, it’ll keep on going, and if it’s doing really well it may actually expand the rate of production to updates of more worlds per update after a while.  I intend to have 23 or more worlds in ‘Miniature Multiverse’ by end of 2018. Whether it continues beyond that, that’s up to all of you.

There’s a possible growth spiral and I aspire to make that a reality, where the more updates, the better the product looks to people and the more sales it makes, thus funding more updates, and so on.  If I can get things going in that way that would be awesome. This might actually run for half a decade or so in the best case scenarios.

 

Miniature Multiverse launching soon on Itch.IO!

A few quick notes on what had earlier been teased.  Firstly, Miniature Multiverse, a project mostly stalled since 2011, has moved forward, as I’ve realized that I can now get it done – I have a new high end camera setup, better than what I had during the Kickstarter – and I’ve gotten much better assets and experience with Unity, so… all that was missing was some specialized miniature materials and a few additional weeks of work and I could get this out there.  So that effort began in earnest a few weeks ago.  And now I’m publicly discussing it.

There’s an Itch.IO page and a website that is active again:

MiniatureMultiverse.com.  The site needs some work in the hours/days leading to actual launch.  The Itch.IO page does too, but once the updates to those two pages start flowing faster, you’ll know release is likely just hours or minutes away.

Miniature Multiverse launching in a few days
Miniature Multiverse is launching in a few days

I’ve changed my method of panoramic capture, but the good news is that the last-minute change will improve the visual quality of the tour – and it also means that I’m working through the process of photographing the tour and I’ve figured out the best available approach.  Which in turn implies something is there to photograph… and in fact, all of the three worlds in the initial version of the tour have been assembled as extensive miniature environments.  And by extensive, I mean usually about 4 or 5 feet from one end to the other, with a lot of varied detailing but in a small enough scale that I can get my arms out to my camera over any part of the miniature, and also big enough, that the camera can be carefully positioned in the various nooks/crannies of the landscapes.  They look beautiful BTW, and I’ll post a lot of material related to the project shortly.

But for now, here are some key things to consider.

One, the tour has well over 50 nodes across only three worlds [Pryme, Lokus, and Vyrsul] BUT those worlds are restructured to be a bit bigger than had initially been envisioned, so there’s actually plenty to explore here, despite the fact that the first release only has three explorable locations.

Two, I’m selling this on Itch.IO for $1.75 (plus a tip if you’re so inclined) in hopes of covering the costs involved in expanding the tour to include new worlds, so that the project can grow over time. Those new worlds will, if funded, be released as free updates to the tour!

Third, it has no HTML5 release, only Windows / Mac OS X / Linux versions. I’ll package all those into the $1.75 download archive, so there won’t be any need to buy multiple copies for multiple platforms.

Four, as stated earlier, I am not using the single-shot capture method I started out with anymore, and this image explains why that was a flawed method and inadequate graphically in my view:

Miniature Multiverse happening?

One thing you should know about me is that when I’ve latched onto an idea, I rarely abandon it. Even if that means chipping away at obstacles to completion for years on end.

One good example? Miniature Multiverse.

For those who don’t know about this, it was a concept that I ran a Kickstarter campaign for in 2011, and the campaign was poorly promoted and weakly managed and failed to raise any real funding. That said, the concept was sound and Kickstarter staff gave the project a ‘Projects we Love’ designation. I still get occasional messages and emails from people who only discovered the KS years after it failed but still want it to happen.

Well… I have gained a lot of experience using Unity as an engine since 2011, and have acquired a lot of good assets and tools connected to it. I have a better camera than what I had in 2011, a Sony camera with 20.1 megapixel photo capability, and I’ve figured out a great camera rig setup that is suitable for this project. I also have a lot of miniature supplies now and am actively and rapidly scratchbuilding the baseline content I aimed for in crowdfunding, now quite efficiently on my own dime.  It also helps that I have no physical backer rewards to worry about shipping! And I have a strategy to launch both the HT:TOS DVD and the Miniature Multiverse first three worlds, by September 20th, in just fourteen days.  Two. Weeks. From. Now. And that is also when I post online chapter one of Another Road Taken and the first limited set of video stuff is posted on HornbostelVideos.com.  Nearly all of this is already completed and in position now and all that really still needs to be done is a few final changes and then uploading those things.

And yes, I know I’ve drastically miscalculated timing on projects before – but I think this is so close to ready that even if I miss the mark it won’t be by much.

One catch: I want to build more worlds. Miniature Multiverse was always intended as an ongoing thing. So is the [similar type of project] ‘Panoramic Worlds‘.

There are even other things going on beyond all of that that involve making 3D worlds, including one-off 3D game productions such as Spiral Skies, Isola, and the church project that some of the Redeemer church people fully funded, and a few larger long term things I can’t discuss easily but they’ll involve fan art and more info on that will be known on Sept. 24.

But to make worlds – a lot of them – for everyone to explore, sometimes means funding is necessary [in the case of Miniature Multiverse] or at least helpful in getting things done a bit better and faster.  Now, not a lot of funding is needed, but if I had, say, at least fifty or sixty subscribers as members supporting my work consistently while also benefiting from it enormously through exclusive content and deep discounts across my shops? That’d enable me to get a new world built for Miniature Multiverse every month or two, ongoing. That’d be pretty awesome, no?

Members would have access to the newest builds of Miniature Multiverse – months ahead of everyone else. So subscribing premium members and shop buyers will be able to see some things sooner than the general public. Same with videos.

And while the House Trek DVD is going to be available for purchase, to non members, it’s free [digitally] to members.  Members will get things cheaper or earlier than everyone else. And if you’re a member, you provide a degree of momentum here that is exciting – every member makes things move forward faster across the board for a variety of reasons.  So if you want to help, remember to become a member! 

Not all bad news – good news, bad news post!

Bad news: As stated in the previous post, the transcription work I have been depending on to pay the bulk of my bills, is going to dry up soon.

Good news: It’s still mostly around for the moment, and isn’t gone quite yet.

Bad news: The eBay shop is still losing money each week.

Good news: I made 8 sales there in the past 60 days, and that will hopefully push my ratings to 200+, perhaps leading to higher bidding totals and items breaking even or even being frequently profitable?

Bad news: I thought that’d happen at 100 positive ratings, or 150, so how will 200 be any different?

Good news: It’s different because the frequency of bids on my auctions IS increasing over time, and because traffic on my websites is climbing too.

Bad news: The large wave of bids is concurrent with a hurricane [Harvey] that will likely dump near 20 inches of rain on Houston, flooding everything and stalling all outbound mail.

Good news: I already notified customers that there may be unavoidable delays related to this, and they’ve so far all been okay with that.

Bad news: Two items will sell later this week, and those customers may be confused and frustrated if power goes out here and no communication is possible.  They’ll be wondering ‘What is going on with this Matthew Lyles Hornbostel? Why is he not responding to my questions?’

Good news: Power is not that likely to go out, and I am in a great position to grab a bit of epic hurricane footage that could perhaps be used in my upcoming short art video ‘Storm 2’.

Bad news: This also delays recording of ‘The Annoying Magician!’ and some fragments of ‘Tinyville 2’ until a month from now.

Good news: Plenty of work to do before then anyway.  I am posting the articles section pages a bit at a time on TriumphantArtists.com, plus am closer than ever to to launching a first batch of [fully legal and self-created] content on HornbostelVideos.com, plus the comic ‘Another Road Taken’ and some game/interactive media material is on the way too.  Watch for the Spiral Skies update – showing some more of the small Unity 5.6.3 engine based adventure/puzzle game – to appear before long on SpiralSkiesGame.com, plus some largely empty fan art pages fixed and filled with content, and some even bigger updates regarding the church virtual tour program, as well as a little top-down racing game I’ve been debugging.

In case you are curious here’s a teaser for the historical preservation effort related to the Church of the Redeemer Episcopal in Houston, Texas – the entire building, which is largely demolished now, is being actively reassembled in a virtual realtime 3D form thanks to some $360+ in donations for that purpose from various church members, covering the entire cost of the project.  Too bad the crowdfunding process that worked here, failed on the far more imaginative project ‘Miniature Multiverse’ years ago – but whatever.

Parish Hall of Church of the Redeemer, recreated in 3D
Parish Hall of Church of the Redeemer, recreated in 3D

My transcription work will vanish during the next few months

I’m facing a loss of the transcription gigs I’d been using to pay the bills.  It’ll likely have vanished entirely by mid-2018 and quite possibly before that.  The AI breakthroughs in intelligent speech recognition have occurred sooner than anticipated; Microsoft’s R&D division has come up with an AI capable of understanding conversational context and automatically transcribing large volumes of audio with an error rate equivalent to the average human transcriber.

The best human audio transcribers are able to maintain error rates just below 4% given typical batches of audio – with overlapping conversations, and faint background conversations, muddy static or sudden jarring noises in the mic audio, and really obscure jargon, comprising most of the mistakes made by transcriptionists, and this newly announced program (a new form of Cortana) will have a consistent 5.1% error rate with similar audio.  It’s close enough that it’s not worth paying humans to do the work anymore; the AI can do the task almost as well as any human can.

What this means for me: I was pulling the bulk – roughly 55% – of my income, from transcription gigs. Other scattered chunks of revenue came from unrelated freelance work (10%) and 35% from online sales of art products.  As for where I was spending? 45% of my spending in the past year was tied to ramping up that 35% of my income. Repeat: The art sales were losing money, as in: 20%+ loss margin when the low average sale prices, the shipping, eBay fees, mailers, and other materials, were all factored in.

So basically: My effective total cash flow will collapse soon.  And I was making well below $10k/year to start out with.

I need to figure out a promising new business option soon, ideally by November, or this web network and my creative work in general, is at risk of going under entirely.  What I’m hoping for is consistently available work in the $2.50/hr range or better.  But realistically I will settle for half that much.

Last third of 2017 – eBay extravaganza

Okay, I’m working towards offering you some ridiculously discounted items.  I’ve made it clear that I’m putting a fair amount of time each day into freelancing, and that the bulk of that, the most reliable and consistent segment, has been transcription work.  I also have indicated that most industry experts believe that type of work will be entirely automated by 2020.  So at this moment, I’ve got a source of steady income and know it’ll be gone in a couple years, so I’m leveraging that income as a means to set up a list of things which I *hope* can sustain my online presence and productive work after all the transcription gigs are gone.

Because I WANT to finish my videos and games and creative stuff and I WANT to get it all online for you all to enjoy.

From now until Sept. 7, there’ll be a TON of new auctions posted on my eBay shop.  They’ll all start at really low prices, typically in the $0.50-$5.00 range.  I’d like to get my ratings on eBay, currently 195, up past 250, maybe even above 300 by the end of 2017, and in pursuit of that goal, I’m willing to burn through over two hundred dollars to get there.  In other words, an average loss for me of $2 or so on every item I sell.  I’m literally buying large batches of the best value items I can find across the internet, and reselling them for around 25-35% LESS than I paid for them.  Less than any other vendor will sell them for.

That is, I’m ready to LOSE over $200 overall on my eBay storefront, in the next 3-4 months.

If the gambit works though, it just might propel me into a far stronger position by the start of 2018.

So I’ll benefit from this insofar as I’ll ideally gain ratings faster… further establishing my reputation on eBay.   Obviously, the main upside for you is that you could get some incredible-sounding but very real bargains on items that normally would be expected to cost far more.  These fall into various categories.

Category #1: Used books, some of them vintage and potentially valuable. The pricing of the currently listed books will drop even further tonight [dropping 20+% in addition to previous price drops over the past month] and some more vintage or otherwise somewhat valuable books from my personal archives, will be listed soon as well.

Category #2: Art made to order.  You all might have noticed some recent works like this one, which was a pet portrait made to order, personalized for a customer on eBay, for just 80 cents:

Pet portrait, oil pastel – 16″x20″ dog in garden.

It still amazes me how few people take advantage of auctions like these.  There are some that end with ZERO bids even though the size of the item on offer is substantial [requiring 3-6 hours’ labor on my part] and the opening bid price is below a dollar with free shipping.  I have a 100% positive feedback rating on eBay, which I suppose somehow makes me a risky person to buy from or something?  I don’t quite get it.  Maybe I’m just really bad at drawing/painting.  Everybody says my work turns out great – but not many people will pay a whole dollar for it.  It’s puzzling.

All the same, I’ll be posting a lot more such auctions over the next 2-3 weeks especially.  Around a dozen of them, a new one almost every day!

Category #3: Art supplies: Dirt cheap art supply items, flipped at a loss for me, things like pastel sets, charcoals, sketch pads, paint sets, colored pencil sets, etc.  These will mostly be $2-7 on my shop that ordinarily would be priced at nearly double that.

Category #4: Other one cent auction items: As in a single penny per item, with free shipping.  These include DVDs of ‘House Trek’ [the DVD is almost ready to launch] and the personalized made to order museum.  Even some newly 3d-modeled variants of that museum for different types of occasions are now days from release.


The one other note you should keep in mind is that traffic to my site TriumphantArtists.com has been booming over the past week.  That’s no accident – I’ve been ramping up some huge ad campaigns and they’ve yet to hit anything close to the actual expected peak.  By huge, I mean I’m now expecting 120,000 visitors to the site by the end of the year.  The site already gets about 5000 visitors per month in recent months, but that should spike to 20-25,000/month starting with this month.  So do keep in mind that there will be people looking at the site, and the auction listings. I hope a lot of these dirt-cheap items do actually sell.

Between the ad campaigns, and the active redesign of the site – the eBay page has live updated listings from my shop now, and all the pages load faster… and the articles section is being steadily filled in with some new stuff now… and ‘Another Road Taken’ goes online later this week… yeah, I’m optimistic that there’ll be some items sold, and that some of what sells will ultimately result in ecstatic ratings from buyers who are stunned at what they got for next to nothing…

Take a look at my current eBay listings!

Multi-item discounts, and ongoing website updates

As you may have noticed, the Oil Pastel art page now looks different from the other listings on the HornbostelProductions shop.

Specifically, it now includes a noticeable price reduction on larger items, and a far more staggering bargain available for any order of multiple items of the same size and medium.  It’s occurred to me that my biggest cost as a seller on all such listings is in the process of shipping and that if I offer listings with two or three items made to order at once, not just one, well, I can reduce the per-item price considerably for customers simply due to the fact that in such a situation, multiple items can be shipped together in a single container.  So, as I add this option to all my made to order art listings during this next week, think about the prospect of purchasing three items at once, for the price it’d previously cost to buy two.  Great idea especially for situations such as Christmas.  Say you’d like to order gifts in advance for a long list of family members, there’s now the option of getting handcrafted gift items, personalized in nature, focused on subjects that appeal to those specific people, an order of three of them, for a single, really stunning low price.  These artworks can depict nearly any subject you want, so long as it is not extremely disgusting/obscene/offensive content wise.

That said, you could certainly ask for things like, say, a portrait of a person you care about, a landscape, or a portrait of a pet, a view of your home, indoors or out, or a view of a place you once visited, an imaginative sci-fi or fantasy scene, or something silly or unexpected, maybe fun and oddly specific, like penguins playing with a soccer ball:

Penguins playing with a soccer ball

You probably shouldn’t ignore the opportunity to do this, as it’s a fantastic idea for holidays or other occasions, but it’s also possible to order a set of two or three items designed not as entirely individual works to split up but as parts of a larger cohesive aesthetic display – a ‘diptych’ or ‘triptych’ that can be posted together along a wall in your house, or in a set of two or three rooms, as matching decoration!

Also cool – I’ve updated a LOT of the pages on TriumphantArtists.com, but the articles section is mostly notably absent from the revised structure.  Well, that’s about to change, with a substantial overhaul of the articles area, plus new content in comics and a fun minigame all aimed for release by about the end of July.  And there’s also some video production effort going on lately, which is a long way from making it online but I’ve got plans to get things online, batch after batch – dozens of elaborate videos I’ve made over the past two decades, revised and uploaded.  Generally speaking, sales of handcrafted art are a big key to keeping those projects moving forward, so any customers who order here are greatly appreciated.

As mentioned (somewhat incessantly) I do have nearly 200 ratings now on my eBay account, all positive, and that’s a solid indicator of my integrity as a vendor.  But I’d really love to see that expanded to my Etsy shop and to this shop on HornbostelProductions, so anyone willing to take that leap will find some great deals on both and will be glad they made the decision to try out my storefronts beyond eBay.

 

Website updates – using Google Fonts and other methods to improve loading times.

I’ll be implementing Google Fonts on my websites, beginning with TriumphantArtists.com, as text links, with images behind them – as opposed to using images *as* the links.  You know those buttons at the top of every page on TriumphantArtists.com?

They all look the same except for the text, and if I separate the text from the rest of the image I can use just one button image as the base for every link, thus shaving a few hundred kilobytes off the page load times.

This – and other similar optimizations – are important because they can improve bounce rates.  There are some people who visit the site for the first time, on slow connections, and immediately leave when it takes more than a second or two to load.  That’s a problem!

I’m also going to compress the main page video further too, making it a bit smaller in size.  The more I can make things load faster while still looking nice, the better!