Status update – I’ve been in Pittsburgh for a while, I’ve gotten past the ‘trial by fire’ of childcare and have a few days off right now to sort through things. I’m now sending out a bunch of long-delayed eBay orders as well as 100% refunds of the purchase prices of those orders as an apology for the delays in shipping. Also, as you might have noticed, my websites were down for weeks, due to a weird glitch in my billing setup at A2 Hosting. I’ve now sorted that out and all my domains are back online and should hopefully remain online from here on out.
The bad news is, I’m having real difficulty getting many of my external hard drives to work. That includes drives with critical content on them relating to many of my projects, some of that content is essential and irreplaceable.
I did back everything up locally in a massive reorganization effort; each drive had a mirror drive which was filled with identical content. Unfortunately, only 3 out of my 10 drives are functional post-move which means in a couple of cases both the original drive and its duplicate are both unusable. With data recovery costs at around $400+ per drive, I figure I’ll need $800 minimum to get everything back on track production-wise.
I have noticed that certain projects are almost entirely intact. One of the few of my projects that still seems mostly in place is my game ‘Miniature Multiverse‘. I need close to a thousand dollars in position in order to recover all the inaccessible data. That includes a ton of video projects that were nearing completion, as well as game productions, and scattered side projects including a batch of fan content I was close to done with and now cannot access.
So here’s the deal I’m making with all of you. I will work as hard as possible to wrap up ‘Miniature Multiverse’ and do it justice, with the goal of launching the project by end of 2018, several months early. I am desperately hoping it will then sell well enough to jumpstart the data recovery effort, which in turn would allow me to complete other projects, their existence contingent on ‘Miniature Multiverse’ succeeding. I won’t have a big ad budget for the launch, every last penny and every available waking hour goes into getting the game finished, so I’m counting on all of you to PLEASE buy this thing when it’s done because the future of nearly everything else of mine pretty much is hanging in the balance. If the game does well, I can accelerate my productions, and if it fails, then you’ll see a bitter wait of 2+ years possibly before anything around here makes much progress again.
I’m pushing back release of Miniature Multiverse to January 2018.
This time, there’s no promise of [even more] additional content on release, just this:
I’m unable to fulfill my goals for Christmas 2017 unless I wait on Miniature Multiverse.
There are a few videos and some other things that I plan to show to my family over the holidays and wrapping those up will take some time in December, and even aside from that, there are other [slight] technical issues and delays I’ve had to deal with on Miniature Multiverse.
Those are resolved by now, but now I can’t see release happening any earlier than some time around Jan. 5-10, 2018. That is, early January 2018.
In other news, I’m pulling my holiday painting off of Etsy for the next seven days and auctioning it on eBay, so anybody who wants to get that original artwork, this is probably your last chance.
It’s a reminder of the ongoing issue with Etsy, that if nobody buys an item I’ve listed there after a while, it’ll be sold elsewhere instead, either locally or online. But Etsy listings won’t stay on Etsy forever. Favoriting an item is not enough; to actually be sure to have an item, you’ll need to buy it before it sells to someone else [there or elsewhere]. There was the kitten artwork, Southwest artwork, the NYC one, and now the winter one. That’s four items which had been listed on Etsy which are no longer there.
Incidentally, the art-supply listings went reasonably well, no issues there really. Some sold and some didn’t, but it’s all working out fine.
I’ve also sold 3/5 of the batches of vintage art books.
As for other things I’d promised in my last post:
-House Trek Ep. 6 will be online in December, a couple of weeks later than planned.
-The comics I’d promised are delayed further, simply because I don’t have time to finish them given the video situation, they’ll be wrapped up and put online in mid-January after Miniature Multiverse is launched.
-Articles section is likewise unlikely to be fully complete until then, but it’s already very close [all sections are finished except the game-dev section, and even that is partially done.]
And what of the things I’m prepping for the holidays?
Well… they include three videos with family and a few videos with friends in Houston. Like “Video Heist” which is now complete but which, like 90% of my finished videos, cannot yet be posted online [usually because of either copyrighted logos on clothing, or snippets of unlicensed audio or some talent release stuff not worked out]
But I can already show the video’s miniature fire effect that I posted as a .GIF earlier on Twitter:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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…
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.