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#16
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Jean-Louis - with your skills and talent - I think you could sell online poster/print maps, but your ordinary subjects might be too bland to generate a significant income...
(referring to your skills/talent in the pictorial map department, not in online sales!)

Now - if you would make maps that tie into a hot and proactive fan-base, I think you would be on to something... !

Would you consider preparing a Harry Potter, Twilight or Lord of the Rings map? You would have to navigate all the licensing problems though, or pay for that.

I am going to be nice to you, and only charge a 5% royalty for this idea... !
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#17
Jean-Louis

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Thanks for that link Mapmedia and thanks Hugo for what you said is part of the general puzzle I want to solve.

Here is the bigger question and I hope others join in this.

Nicholas Taleb, author of 'the Black Swan' argues :The information age will be dominated by winner-take-all effects. Take books: a few dozen of them represent half the sales'.

If I look at this through the light of my own experience, I am finding this to be quite true.

In the past, when I wanted to sell some of my actual printed maps, I would beat the pavement and - with a lot of work and persistence - I managed to build up a respectable but not overly lucrative local distribution.

Since those days, (I do not do that any more)- I keep hearing that the new internet landscape now multiplies the range and possibilites far beyond my little local marketing zone. Seems to make sense.

But if Taleb is right, there is a real catch here.

He would argue that when I did my distribution the old way, I had a very good chance of getting modest results. Effort in any particular endeavor would place you in a bell curve where the likeliest result was the middle: a respectable but modest success that made it worthwhile

In the Internet landscape, the reality is that any attempt to gain visibility happens in an environment where there will be a few Giants and a multitude of microscopic dwarfs. It is not a bell curve but an exponential one. This means you may have a chance at going viral and scoring real big but the odds are that will end up far below mediocre. Most attempts to broadcast a message or sell a product will remain at near zero effect. Except of course for the few 'lucky' ones on the exponential curve which is all that we ever see.

So my question is this:

Imagine I have in my hands a couple of extremely sellable printed items (maps, Art prints, greeting cards, whatever) Is there a way to plausibly market this through the Internet? Have others done so with success and if so, is what they did replicable ? Is it a question of knowing and doing the right steps -like it is in the real World- or is the Virtual World truly a hit or miss gamble where the overwhelming odds favor a 'miss'

There is no doubt the internet is conducive to establish connections with like-minded people.-Cartotalk is a perfect example of that. But can it give an individual a voice or an access to what was once called a general public? Can Internet marketing ever do what a TV or a billboard ad does? Or is Internet broadcast essentially the same as buying a lottery ticket?

I always hear about these Internet success stories, but I have never encountered one in the circle of all the people I have ever known-just like i have never known anyone to strike it rich with the lottery. I was just wondering if this was just me or is the parallell valid?
Jean-Louis Rheault
Montreal


#18
Derek Tonn

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We should pool our best maps together and start a net marketing strategy. Print per order, or small quantity prints

Cartographers, as I see it, MUST do the following to maintain a livable wage (60k + /yr)



60K a year!!! You are more optimistic than I am!

Mapformation does what you describe and has had good success from it. But it does not sell actual prnted products

Like I mentioned before, I am sick of hearing people tell me that I should or hear others plan 'to sell maps online' . I just want to know if anybody has done this or seen it done.


Sorry if I get a little long-winded (even for me)! :)

First and foremost: Are you talking $60,000 USD gross, or $60,000 USD net? I'm sure you mean gross. However, people don't spend nearly enough time focusing on the net, in my experience.

That's been our dirty little secret with our mapformation operations (keeping overhead to a bare-minimum and focusing on net, not gross, income). Instead of Jean-Louis, Michael, Bob, Derek, Eric, et al running in the same circles and beating each other bloody competing for the same dollars...driving each other's prices down while simultaneously having to pay a lot more out of pocket (proportionally) to build and run our own individual brands, build and maintain our own websites, each spending dozens/hundreds of hours filling out "TPS Reports" with the same prospective clients who ask us to fill out 30-pages of legalese using only an approved ball point pen with the proper shade of blue ink...mailed via Missouri-certified stage coach in a plain manila envelope using postage that must include only eagles or American flags... <_<

[rant over, I digress] ...we each focus on what we do best, and the pooling of our talents and portfolios gives us a tremendous amount of presence, clout and leverage when working in our target markets. Sometimes "Jean-Louis" wins (gets a job he wouldn't have gotten on his own), sometimes "Jean-Louis" loses (people see his work, but then see "Michael's" particular Photoshop work and do back-flips asking for it). However, ALL BOATS RISE!

Our "collective" is basically 1/3 dot-com design firm (graphic/web), 1/3 cartographic firm, 1/3 artist's rep. Myself and two other people handle the bulk of the sales, I handle the web and most of the "TPS reports," and then guys like Bob, Jean-Louis, Michael, etc. who can draw almost anyone I know under the table when it comes to bird's eye/oblique/pictorial, are free to DRAW. No sweating the need to futz with building their own websites. No 45 minutes on the phone with the State of Georgia making sure your FEIN info is current for their "Team Georgia Marketplace," etc. They draw, make our clients smile, and add to our "collective" portfolio. I push the paper, write the checks, and make their work come to life on-screen. And draw when they let me...ha!

The point is economies/efficiencies of scale. 13 of us working together are going to do individual tasks more efficiently than any 1-2 person shop can. Not because those 1-2 person design shops don't do killer work! But because that 1-2 person shop cannot possibly be good at cartography, design (graphic/web), sales, marketing, legal, financial/cashflows, etc. And if they try to be good at everything? The quality of their designs will suffer...and/or they will start to make mistakes in other areas which could threaten the solvency of their business.

Working as a team or "collective" under one unified brand saves SO much time/cost! Meaning that you don't need to gross as much in sales to net what you need to eek out a living. Nobody in our shop is retiring to the Hamptons with a 50-foot yacht! Ever! :) However, we are doing well enough to at least make ends meet with a little left over for fun. Jean-Louis is right though...we haven't sold print titles in the past. Partially because we generally assign copyright to our clients, and partially because print = overhead...and more overhead = a higher gross needed to reach our net.

We are slowly getting into print though. Not selling our own titles! But rather designing maps for clients, then offering to help them print said maps in a few different/unique forms of media. The last thing I want/need is boxes and boxes of maps sitting around collecting dust...when that is money I could have been using to sell other custom design projects. Not to mention worrying about what happens if the roof leaks...or we discover a major typo/error...or if a retailer decides to hide the display of our titles behind the slurpee machine. :)

We've been selling almost exclusively "online" for ten years and making a good go of it! We just aren't doing retail sales. If you're going to do it though, find several other people who want to do it with you if you can...as having hundreds of titles for sale vs. dozens and having enough people to "specialize" just a bit more will probably net you more money when it's all said and done.
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#19
Derek Tonn

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There is no doubt the internet is conducive to establish connections with like-minded people.-Cartotalk is a perfect example of that. But can it give an individual a voice or an access to what was once called a general public? Can Internet marketing ever do what a TV or a billboard ad does? Or is Internet broadcast essentially the same as buying a lottery ticket?


Jean-Louis,

To me, there are two primary methods people use to market their goods and services (excuse the military analogy if that offends anyone):

1. Carpet bombing. Dumping/blasting your message out there as broadly as you can without worrying as much about "who" or "how"...then hoping that message lands in the hands of at least a few interested parties at the right place, at the right time.

2. Precision-guided missiles. Doing your homework on likely consumers of your goods and services (REALLY doing your homework!), and then sending personalized information to only those individuals.

In case you couldn't tell, I spend about 95% of my time/energy on #2. :) I think the internet is (or can be) even more effective at giving us a voice and access as TV, newspapers, and billboards ever did. It really takes an understanding of SEO to get there...as well as someone who understands something about copywriting for the web. I think it also takes a bit of a different mindset too.

The internet shouldn't be thought of as only a sales tool! Even more importantly, the internet is the most powerful, most affordable market research tool any of us will ever encounter. It's the reason I have never sent out a "Dear Sir/Madam" letter since launching our company. It takes more time on the front end! However, my asking "Jean-Louis" about how homecoming went last weekend, or if he's ready for that formal dedication of their new Science Center in January, keeps our message from ending up in the trash as frequently.

If we want to make a name for ourselves on the net and we've got the basics (decent site, SEO, etc.) in order, then I think put on your market research hat and a lot of answers to sales questions become more apparent. A website or email still isn't the same as a phone call or a handshake! However, a website/email is much cheaper per-lead. As long as you don't resort to "carpet-bombing." In which case, we know where you live! :P
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#20
frax

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J-L,

I think you are on to something - that it is possible to hit the "long-tail" by selling things over the Internet. But I think people also overestimate the possibilities/competition in that - there are web-shops going under right and left (as fast as new ones pop-up!).

One point to remember - some people think that one just need to put up the storefront and then customers will magically appear. One needs marketing, ads and that whole thing as well. (I think Gretchen is doing a good job of marketing her books, for instance, through CartoTalk, twitter and her blog, for instance!)
Hugo Ahlenius
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#21
Jean-Louis

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Again refering to Taleb. He makes a distinction between scalable and non-scalable income.

Non-scalable work: What most people do whether you are a Brain Surgeon or a Prostitute. You perform a service and you get paid for it. End of story.

Scalable work. You publish a book, produce a movie, write a song and the product then brings you multiplied income from your original imput.

You are preaching to the very converted Derek, about everything thing you say about team work and marketing services.

What I am trying to find out- and I dont think I will here - are there any mapmakers or makers of any other products who have an experience of publishing, manufacturing or making an actual something and selling it on-line in the same way as if it was on the shelf of bookstore. Or a story like: 'We publish this historical map of the USA and we sell so many a year via the internet to schools across the country".
Jean-Louis Rheault
Montreal


#22
Gretchen Peterson

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Hopefully I am not thought of as a microscopic dwarf. Ahem. :unsure:

A colleague on twitter wanted me to mention that there are a few sites out there that enable designers to market their wares without needing to specialize in web design, distribution, or sales. The two large ones are Etsy and Ebay. I've used Etsy a few times over the last year when I needed to send a colleague or client a tasteful thank you gift that is unique. There are definitely small shops being successful at selling through those sites - though I don't know if any of them are cartography shops. You still have to know how to market to get your items to sell through these channels, however. Actually, I shouldn't say "know how to market" I should say "be willing to market."

With regard to my own particular experience here's the situation: I have one published book that was done through traditional publishing. Since it came out in April 2009 it has sold about 1,400 copies (though those numbers are from a few months ago). I am told that if it sells 2,000 copies it will be considered a best seller because it is a specialized, niche book. Now, the book is very expensive. It retails for $93 though Amazon has had it significantly discounted since last month at $61. I believe most of the sales are actually not through Amazon but a mixture of other outlets, including my publisher's site. Now brace yourselves: I make somewhere between$3.50 and $10 per book! (It varies depending on which country it was sold, whether through a wholesaler, etc.) I will not become rich anytime soon. It took me 9 solid months, writing every single day except for a 1 week vacation, writing 2-4 hours per day to write the book.

I published my booklet myself as an e-booklet. I keep all the profits (about $9 per booklet) but I have yet to make back what I paid the web designer (who did an excellent job) to put together the sales page. I will probably eventually get in the black on that, as people are still buying it, albeit in a trickle now that I don't promote it every day. I plan to add more products too. I didn't know if I was going to make any money on this endeavor but I did know that I would feel really good about putting together a booklet that would actually help those who want a color short-cut. Today I had the pleasure of privately critiquing a map made by a colleague who purchased the booklet and used the colors. That alone made it worth it!

If you don't try you'll never know...

#23
Derek Tonn

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Hey Gretchen!

I hope you realize that my comments about "small vs. less small" weren't directed at you in any way! You're doing the right thing...you're outsourcing web design, distribution, sales, etc. to people who specialize in those types of tasks. My comments were more directed at all of us (and I include myself...since I stubbornly tried to do most of it all myself through seven years of consulting and a few years after starting my tiny shop) who try and do it all ourselves.

How many hundreds of thousands of small businesses build their own websites...and have no real idea what they are doing? 90%? I participate on graphic design listservs where people joke and lament about the "untrained" making their own logo or designing their own brochure. I participate on web developer listservs where they complain about all the "posers" doing a crappy job of it while hurting their chance at consulting income. I participate on Marketing/Communications listservs where people complain about people doing their own (or not doing at all) market research, developing a brand/identity, developing a sales and advertising strategy, etc. I participate on a mapping listserv where people complain about people other than cartographers making their own maps. ;) Etc.

It's human nature, I suppose. It doesn't make good business sense though, IMHO. Wearing 20-30 different hats when we're REALLY only capable of being better-than-good at 3-4.
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#24
Jean-Louis

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Thanks Gretchen, its specific stories like yours, I am looking for.
Hoping to find stories of people moving tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of products on-line if that does indeed exist outside of the big distributors.
Jean-Louis Rheault
Montreal


#25
tom harrison

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I'll add my two cents here. I have been self-publishing for almost 25 years, specializing in shaded-relief topo maps for hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking in California. I have 64 maps in print, I own the copyright to all of them. I have 10 of those maps as apps for the iPhone, one guidebook as a strictly digital eBook, and I license my maps for printing on t-shirts and bandanas. I sell about 80,000 printed maps each year. My biggest competition is National Geographic and the US Government, so there are some pretty tough competitors out there. Most of my maps are sold in backpacking stores, a little less than 10% of my sales are directly to the consumer through my web site. There are several entities who are also selling my maps through their own web sites, so the number of maps that reach the consumer strictly through web sales may be a bit higher. Someone mentioned making $60k per year. That's about what I have to pay in State and Federal taxes, so yes, I do make a living at it. I am the only person in the business, although I did outsource my shipping a couple of years ago so that frees up a lot of time to concentrate on making maps. Hope this helps.

#26
MapMedia

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Thank your sharing your 2 cents Tom. I've always admired, and purchased, your excellent maps!

#27
James Hines

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For many cartographers this field is not the main career & will not be the main source of income because for what ever reason there is not much of a market to freelance yourself out. Maybe it's your geography, your work is good but not good enough, you do not know how to market yourself, or too much competition meaning the catch 22 much like the way the job field is rate now. I'm all for a cooperation where all cart0graphers can submit their work & data sets that can be sold to the public. Yes there is Maps.com & yes there is that all other site mentioned on this thread.

But realistically it would be great to have a company such as Cartographic Engineering Incorporated that allows for freelance cartographers to sell a dataset or a digital map for a low price & get a royalty based on how well the product sells. I'm thinking that there are many potential clients out there that could buy this kind of product:

- graphic design firms would consider this as a cost cutting measure & a time saver if they could buy cheaper then the amount of time it would take themselves to produce

- GIS firms might consider this if they could just simply buy the dataset from this kind of company & use it without legal ramifications (and the author of the dataset could eventually find him/herself eventually working at this firm if the company likes the work that was done)

- If the company does not have a specific product then a freelance cartographer with the right skills could be selected with the right skills, & geographic location by the company for the customized data, web map, or a published map project.

I'm not saying that the cartographers who are successful should pursue this idea of cooperation but those who are not successful should cooperate more in order to bring in more income. Because we want our names out there, & we are successful in the since that we have skills most people can dream about & a potential income bracket that reaches towards $100,000 if we are good enough.

"There is much beauty that we fail to see through our own eyes teeming with life forms that give us that perception of our reality.  Leaves on the trees blowing gently in the wind, or scarily, the waves pounding through high surf, or lightly on a warm summer’s day; that opportunity to sit or swim in the water on a white beach.   That comfort to shout, “The universal conscious do you hear me?  I am alive, guide me dear logos towards the path of rightnesses.”  Earned what has been kept, no longer to be absorbed into a life filled with cold damn winds and  that stubborn fog clouding  my vision with nothing but darkness."


#28
Jean-Louis

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II sell about 80,000 printed maps each year. My biggest competition is National Geographic and the US Government, so there are some pretty tough competitors out there. Most of my maps are sold in backpacking stores, a little less than 10% of my sales are directly to the consumer through my web site.


Thanks for that Tom, It is exactly the kind of story I was looking for and hope to get more of.

The main thing I wish to find out is whether On-Line marketing has changed the map retail environment in any significant way

When I tried my hand at retail 15-20 years ago, my small map was in fact popular and sold well according to the store owners. The problem was that each individual outlet sells only quite a small amount of product and they need to be constantly resupplied, invoiced, etc.. I found it was just not worth the trouble to sell one map in one city market no matter how 'well-liked' the product is

I disagree with Hasdrubal about quality being the determinant factor in retail sales. I think map retail sales are almost only a function display strategies...and numbers. A lousy visible map on a counter display will outsell the most beautiful rolled-up map at the back of the store ten-to-one. A good example of that is the highly successful MapEasy line which are arguably the ugliest maps around. The key to their success is the consistency of a recognizable (if hideous) brand and style plus the persistent way in which they make their products seen in a lot of places on a national scale.

At any rate, it would seem that Tom is reporting that retail sales are still heavily dependent on the task of displaying your product in a significant number of appropriate 'brick and mortar' stores and that on-line sales still count only for a small fraction of retail revenue.
Jean-Louis Rheault
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