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.
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:
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.
Some of my fixed price listings have been sitting for a full year without any orders. It’s been just over a month since the last sale I made on eBay.
So – all of that considered – I think it’s a good time to lower prices a bit.
So if you’re interested in an original work by Matthew Lyles Hornbostel, now’s a good time to order one.
Most of the custom made-to-order art on my eBay shop is now 10-20% cheaper. So go take a look!
Also – the Etsy items are also on sale still and cheaper than they were. An automated Etsy notification was sent to me actually warning me that based on the statistics for similarly sized items in the category, “you may be substantially underpricing your work” and that most other items in my category are priced higher, and therefore able to make a viable profit.
WELL THANKS A LOT ETSY, BUT THERE IS THIS LITTLE THING CALLED A “LOSS LEADER” BUSINESS STRATEGY.
I amwell aware of the fact that my prices are low and that I may be losing money on many of the items I make. That is intentional. I did that on eBay too for the first three years or so, so I could gain the first batch of ratings from customers and establish my shop as a credible, trustworthy venue with a positive reputation! After that I could start to incrementally raise prices over time – while still keeping them lower than almost all other vendors’.
Quite frankly, I would rather make under $3-6/hr doing painting or pastel work, or visual effects, video editing/post, game art assets, etc – than make the same level of income doing long strings of tedious tasks like transcription of audio & video recordings for subtitles or other purposes, or repetitively tagging the content of image files on Mturk so people can search and sort through them easily [on various websites, search engines, etc].
And by the way, I HAVE done those things, and they’re a mind-numbing waste of the [creative] talent I have. But they do pay the bills in times when nothing on my web network is selling, and they do keep the whole thing afloat and inching forward during rough stretches. I think it needs to be clarified that such income streams, while taxed by the government, are not applicable to [paying actors]. That should have been stated in the actors’ pay post, it was a detail I overlooked… the fraction of my income generated outside of and unconnected to my web network and unrelated to creative work is not considered ‘web network’ revenue and none of that goes to cast members.
ACTORS TAKE NOTE OF THIS FINE PRINT:
This distinction matters; it means that the total revenue generated by the web network I run is the baseline that determines the size of residuals in a given year for each actor on each video or other project.
So while transcription and other similar grinding non-creative ‘in between’ work have generated around $1260/year the past three years, for me, on average… that doesn’t add onto the other income made elsewhere.
The only numbers that count for actors are the other revenue sources that now constitute the majority of my income:
-eBay sales [avg. $360/year the last 4 years but generally trending upward over time]
-Art sales I make locally at craft fairs, or elsewhere, or on this website shop, including DVD/Blu Ray releases of video collections and video games. [booming like crazy – over $400 the last 12 months locally, but no success on this website shop yet]
-Etsy sales [none yet despite a strong effort to list items and promote them there, at really low prices.]
-third party or affiliate ad revenue if ever applicable [negligible – under $5/year the past 5 years]
-Freelance work involving creative effort; i.e. videography, vfx, 3d game assets, web graphics, previz, etc. [$240/year on average, over the past 3 years.]
-printed swag like T-shirts on Zazzle/CafePress [minimal so far]
Do keep in mind that most of the art I’ve sold on eBay ‘made to order’ has resulted in enthusiasm, even ecstatic responses, and that if you buy something there you’re likely to be happy with it [judging from past patterns] but that while I am able to do fantastic pet portraits and landscapes, cityscapes, water scenes, still lifes, fantasy/sci-fi work, etc, lots of things I work on turn out well but portraits are a bit of a risky thing to ask of me as the depictions of the people involved will often look a bit ‘off’ from the real people I’m trying to paint/draw, despite my best efforts.
PROBLEMS PAINTING PEOPLE
It’s well known that the human face is generally the hardest image for artists to recreate correctly by hand, due to the enormous portion of our human brains that is wired specifically for the purpose of recognizing who other people are and identifying their emotional states. Our minds are finely attuned to facial recognition of [humans] and that’s why the phenomenon of pareidolia is so common [seeing faces in randomly patterned things like clouds or wall textures] and why we can tell hundreds of people apart very easily but can’t tell individuals apart anywhere near as well when it comes to other species. If the image of a non-human subject is very slightly off, nobody will notice. If it’s an image of a person, though, the image will seem ‘wrong’.
For example, there’s this portrait of my sister Sarah and her new husband (they got married a few days ago – as of early June 2017 – and it was a beautiful wedding. We jokingly called it the Sarah-mony.). The portrayal of the couple in pastel looks a little odd and most people will say so but few can say exactly why; it simply doesn’t quite capture the appearance of the two people I was trying to depict. It’s close but not close enough to break through beyond the uncanny qualities.
So yeah – keep all of this in mind. There are amazing bargains on custom, made to order work on my eBay shop. However, there is a risk that portraits (in particular) which I make may, despite best intentions and a lot of careful effort, may not look quite like the people I am attempting to draw. But I’m generally getting better at it over time.
And to all those of you who want to see my video work, I’ll begin posting it on a little domain I’ve acquired (HornbostelVideos.com) well before the end of summer 2017. There’s also another new domain – SpiralSkiesGame.com – showcasing the new minigame I’ve been developing, and while nothing’s loaded onto either domain yet the websites will both become active soon enough with a bit of content at first and more posted over time.
Items such as the kitten artwork [colored pencil, faved a lot on Etsy but not bought by anyone there] and the Easter chick sold, so it seems my depictions of animals were well received as usual.
I’ve also sold a spectacularly large item on eBay, made to order for a customer there.
That was a colossal 5′ by 8′ item on canvas, I’ve shipped it and it’s on its way to the customer. It cost them $108.
So – all told – I’m in good shape to push things beyond where they were before. I’m ordering a new GPU (video card) for my computer and will try to set that up soon. I’ve also acquired a few other smaller things that I need, and much of that is related to a virtual tour of the former Church of The Redeemer meeting location. That’s one of a handful of Unity 3d projects being developed in tandem, so any shaders, plugins, etc, used for this will also be useful elsewhere.
The Redeemer DVDs were generally very popular and the Blu Rays less so even though they look amazing on a high-def TV. 1280×720 video may not be flawless resolution but it’s well above 720×480. If you’re online asking for a copy, keep in mind that aside from a teaser for the virtual tour, pretty much everything on those discs is church service footage only of interest to the aging people who attended the church prior to 2011.
It’s not exactly a seat of your pants, high octane thriller.
But – it may well lead to some exciting videos making it online, ones that are shorter but way cooler looking and faster-paced, than a church service.
Right now I’m slashing prices on all of my Etsy listings by 20-35% (until May 10) so that’s worth a look. The eBay listings also have mostly dropped by 5-10% as sales there have slowed down slightly lately. A lot of that kind of stuff ebbs and flows. Sometimes I see 3 or 4 people all commission unique artworks in a single week, other times I can go a month with nothing much selling. So it’s hardly consistent and right now I’m expecting a boost in activity, partly due to the sales and reduced pricing, and partly because I have launched a bit of advertising this week. So if you like an item I made, that you see on Etsy, buy it before it sells to someone else.
I think in a few days I’ll have the PC operating normally, more or less.
While the Windows OS update was screwing up my plans for a video channel release (previously scheduled for May 10 but now pushed back by two weeks.) I also found a message in my spam folder notifying me that vividminigolf.com was not set to auto renew and that it was expiring.
Fortunately I got it renewed within the grace period, that brief span between when a domain expires and when it is purchasable by other people. But for a couple days the site was down and the game was inaccessible. Sorry about that.
I think things are getting back on track, more or less – I have a few options for getting my PC working again ranging from mild [replacing faulty AMD drivers] to severely annoying [reinstalling the OS] but all of them depend on first backing up everything on the internal drives in case something goes severely wrong and the hardware is basically unrecoverable. That is unlikely but I’m backing all the content up via command line anyway. This takes some time, and involves a lot of copying of subdirectories to and from a 128gb flash drive.
The first attempt to acquire signatures from a few cast members failed; I’m now revising the terms and will send out those forms on a person by person basis beginning with an initial set of 40 people or so on May 17. The terms for cast members are now even more generous, to the point where under some circumstances the video channel might not prove to be viable. I recognize that if the channel on my website were to take off suddenly with above 500k viewers, and the other stuff – the sale items – don’t grow at a similar pace, the cost to me could be enormous and might cause a systemic failure of my web network.
Why? Because I’m using sale products as a substitute for conventional third party ad revenue. Should the sale products disappoint and fall below a certain ratio relative to the video views, the profitability of my websites go down and maybe even go negative. The threshhold at which this happens was, in the original document, very unlikely to be crossed, but now I think the odds of the video channel losing money are hovering around 25%. This is something that I can adjust to some degree to improve things if they get bad enough, like:
-writing most upcoming videos with smaller casts of about 3-4 persons instead of sprawling ensembles.
-minimizing location shoots off my property.
-increasing promotion frequency [advertising] of related sale products in the video channel playlists in an attempt to boost revenue on the channel to a tenable level.
-promoting my video channel only subtly and emphasizing the shop on most non video pages.
My hope is that the video channel will raise about as much revenue as it costs, maybe even prove mildly profitable somehow. That would be amazing, and in my view the effort breaking even is still something of a victory.
Since we’re discussing the shops and sale items, I think it’s a perfect time to point out the stuff I’ve got piled into the Etsy and eBay shops right now. There’s more there than is usually the case and you should check that out.
I’ve got a bunch of antiquarian magazine issues [I maestri del colore] on sale right now on eBay, substantially undervalued, someone could absolutely buy a lot of 20 and flip them, reselling them as individual listings. That might actually make you a tidy profit. But those listings are ending right about now!
I also have a bunch of my old work on sale on Etsy now. Lots of stuff. Batches of old artworks that have been around a few years and haven’t sold locally – but which are now on sale at really great low prices!
I’ve been given a large batch of old art books by my grandparents; they’d been owned by my grandfather Daniel, and after he passed away they were handed down to me by his wife Sharlene.
I didn’t think much of it at the time but apparently these old 1960s publications – I Maestri del Colore – are fairly valuable. Not extremely valuable, but there are a lot of them in my house [almost 90 issues] and they’re worth anywhere from $5 to $150 each. Most are valued around $10-15, but some issues are worth more and some less. So I’m selling them off on eBay right now in batches. If you stumbled across this blog post by searching for I Maestre del Colore for your collection of antiquarian books or whatever, and are actually here actively looking for that Italian magazine, then by all means take a look at my eBay shop:
My eBay shop — also, if you are interested, please take a look at some of my other projects on my various websites, as they’re likely to benefit noticeably from the sale of these old art books. I won’t be able to launch the stock footage I’d planned to, any time soon, but nonetheless my new video channel, new handmade art on Etsy, new comics/graphic novel content, and an update on my Spiral Skies game… all of those things are still on track for a release in mid April 2017.
Just to generate a bit of curiosity, maybe get you all a bit excited even, here’s a little .GIF pulled from one of my upcoming videos:
If you’re at all interested, over the next week I am about to start posting a batch of new listings on Etsy and ArtFire. Just FYI, there have been a number of people with bad experiences selling & buying on these platforms, so if something goes wrong and, for example, one of these shops runs into a glitch or the shop suddenly shuts down for no good reason, just know it’s the platform’s decision and their screw-up, not mine. I’ll do my best to handle my shops here with integrity but realistically there are some things I cannot control, like the other sellers [who may cheat you in some cases, or sell shoddy knock-off items that are mass produced in China and not really artful or ‘handmade’] and the decisions of the venue owners. So be careful to buy carefully from vendors within these markets who you know have some sort of good track record – either positive ratings right there or elsewhere. In my case? I do not yet have a clear track record on these shops but I DO HAVE A SOLID 170+ RATINGS ON eBay. And they’re all positive, 100% of them.
You should expect similar outcomes on my other shops, great items, inexpensively priced, with good customer service. And if I do somehow screw up, and overlook something, I’ll do what I can to rectify the mistake. This – delays in shipping or other screw-ups – can happen once in a while due not to malicious intent but simply because I am busy with many customers and things occasionally fall through the cracks.
I have actually been rated negatively on eBay a handful of times but in each case I managed to resolve the complaints involved. I ended up refunding the sale amount, apologizing profusely for the late/damaged item which had trouble in the shipping process… or in one case an item was not quite what the customer was looking for visually. All of these were issues I did try my best to resolve and on these rare occasions, the customers ended up retracting their negative ratings of my shop, usually replacing them with positive ones. The same willingness to exceed customer expectations, and resolve problems even if it means I lose money on the sale, will apply on every shop I run, whether it’s Etsy or ArtFire or eBay or my own shop here on this website.
I am also aiming to post new stuff on my own shop the week after that. This should include some really cool things that I’ve put a ton of work into. Watch for that. Oh – and by the way – there are a couple of amazing eBay auction this week too and they end in a couple of days.
They’re for custom made to order art and the opening bids are under $3 on both listings. You might want to jump in on that!
UPDATE: eBay auctions relisted and the first of the new art items has been posted on Etsy.
Recapping the recent events of February 2017, just the last month, to remind everyone that despite appearances, a lot of updates do actually happen on my web network if you keep looking:
-eBay auctions with low starting bids continue. Look at these three in particular, especially the top two as they’ve gotten relatively few views so far compared to the third but are nonetheless impressive value:
-The new batch of polls continue to go largely ignored by website visitors. I’ve gotten *hundreds* of visitors to my websites in the past week, over 700 actually, but the polling page seems to be a bit hard for them to find for whatever reason. It’s a shame, too, given the amazing opportunity for the few who actually take a look at that page.
-Membership options just launched. There are some stupendous perks to being a subscriber and signing up for a Premium Membership status here.
The most obvious is free shipping while a member and 15% or more off all HornbostelProductions.com store items. You could get some great bargains on handmade art doing that right now. $4.99/year for 15% or more off everything, and a list of other extras. Really reasonable.
-Ground work laid for some big stuff updated in the next 30 days. As in, major news related to ‘Spiral Skies’, release of House Trek content, and a new batch of HD stock footage, as well as more comics stuff, finally a new vlog entry, and continued expansion of the articles section with even more valuable information. There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes and it’ll be publically revealed over time.
-That goofball auction of five hours of my time. Nobody bid, but I am not really surprised given the brevity of the auction. It was kind of an experiment and it failed. Time to move on. Maybe I’ll try that idea again later on with a longer build up beforehand.
-The Vineyard Video Leisure Group is now moving closer to fruition. I posted a teaser image for it just this evening. [See previous post]