Webomator: Bradley W. Schenck's blog
Bradley W. Schenck's books Webomator Blog Topics Archives Retro Sci Fi
Search retro robot art
Subscribe RSS retro future Bradley W. Schenck at Facebook Bradley W. Schenck at Goodreads Bradley W. Schenck on Twitter Bradley W. Schenck at DeviantArt Bradley W. Schenck Also by Bradley W. Schenck Webomator blog: Notable Sites
Topic Archive: Print On Demand
Big Changes at both Retropolis and the Celtic Art Works, including some lower prices

Filed under Print On Demand, Works in Progress

New merchandise from the Retropolis Rocket WorksLast week I started some major rework at both Retropolis and The Celtic Art Works. Up to today the changes have been fairly subtle, dealing mainly with what merchandise is available from which vendors. But today I’ve started a facelift at Retropolis, starting out with the home page.

The facelift is going to continue, with new home page content and a new header across the entire site. In fact I may even rework the underlying HTML so that it’ll be more compatible with some things I may want to add in the future – things that build on the methods I used when I built the Pulp-O-Mizer.

But what you’re likely to notice first is the new splash image at the Retropolis home page. If you delve a little deeper you may realize that a lot of merchandise that used to come from the Retropolis Travel Bureau (at Zazzle) is now being sold through the Retropolis Rocket Works (at CafePress). Something similar is going on at my Celtic Art Works site.

That’s because recent changes to Zazzle’s policies mean that two things have happened: you’re being charged more for their merchandise, while simultaneously, I make less. It’s a lose-lose situation. Unless your name is "Zazzle", I mean. So I’m taking these steps to get us both a better deal.

The new Retropolis Rocket Works merchandise includes coffee mugs, magnets, buttons, mouse pads, and other things that formerly came from Zazzle… at far more attractive prices. I’ve even started by giving those items a pretty low markup, which may or may not continue, depending on what effect that has on sales. (An unfortunate truth about print on demand merchandise is that even with a minimal markup the goods will always be more expensive than mass produced merchandise. So in practice, since one can’t compete on price, it usually works out better to increase the markup.We’ll see how this experiment with lower prices works out. It may be for a limited time only, like they say.)

The holdout is posters. The Zazzle price increase, combined with how difficult they make it to change one’s markup, mean that poster prices are much higher right now than I like; and there isn’t an immediate solution.

CafePress made fine posters for me for about a decade. A year ago, though, they stopped trimming their posters to size. That means that if you buy an 18×24" poster from them what you get is an 18×24" print in the middle of a much larger sheet. You have to trim it down to size yourself. I don’t think that’s attractive to most buyers, who want to unroll the thing and pin it up, or tape it up, or frame it without having to finish the work themselves.

In addition CafePress has a bug at the moment that’s preventing them even from printing the pictures at the correct size. So my posters are still being sold through Zazzle in spite of their draconian price hike. I’m just not sure when or how that’s going to change. But be sure that I’m working on it: I’m looking into other vendors. Since one of my requirements is that I can easily include the merchandise into my own web sites, though, I have a pretty narrow pool to choose from.

I’m just glad that when I built these sites I made it relatively simple to swap the merchandise from one vendor to another. I did it once before, and now I’m doing it again. So yay for me, and yay for disaster preparedness!

In the meantime, enjoy everything… though maybe not the posters. Coffee mugs, on the other hand, are now priced at one-third off their Zazzle equivalents. Therefore, I suggest that The Answer is Coffee.

 
 
In progress: CreateSpace Shop Manager Plugin for WordPress

Filed under Print On Demand, Works in Progress

 
A few days ago I put up a working online bookshop for Matthew Hughes’ Archonate web site – actually it’s the second book shop there, since I’ve been feeding his site with eBooks all year long.

This one’s different because it’s stocked with print-on-demand paperback books, printed and shipped by CreateSpace. CreateSpace allows self-publishers to sell through several sales channels; the author gets a different cut of the sales price at each one. You can buy these paperback books at Amazon – in several countries – or direct from CreateSpace. It’s not surprising that an author gets a much better percentage of the sale if it’s made through the CreateSpace “store”.

But the CreateSpace stores are primitive objects. Each one offers just a single book and there’s no way for an author to tie all those individual book pages into one single, unified storefront, which is sort of necessary if you hope to sell your books online without a middleman like Amazon.

The Archonate‘s CreateSpace store is a proof of concept for what I’m working on now – a WordPress plugin that lets you combine any number of books into any number of category pages and host them – all together, all with a single shopping cart – within your WordPress blog. All an author needs to do is to set up the shop and go back to writing promote it.

You can see a screenshot of the admin screen for the plugin below.

CreateSpace Bookshop Manager plugin for WordPress

It’s going to take me awhile; this is my first WordPress plugin, and the past few days have been made livelier by my creative use of language while I discovered new and exciting things to yell about.

At the moment I’ve managed to create a plugin that WordPress recognizes, set up its configuration screen, and add and retrieve the plugin’s options from the WordPress database. That’s been a heck of a lot of work for a plugin that doesn’t do anything yet, but I have the working proof of concept to look at while I’m, um, swearing.

I like the way the content is pulled in from CreateSpace and modified in ways that the user can extend. So long as the WordPress blog is cached, this adds very little work for the blog’s server or for the CreateSpace server. All in all, I think it’s pretty neat.

Once it’s done I might even do a very similar thing for Amazon affiliate sales, which, of course, aren’t limited to books. I’ve used Amazon’s own AStore system (you can see an implementation right here in my blog) but having used it, I know how cumbersome and unwieldy a thing it is. Surprisingly, it looks like I can do better. So maybe I will.

 
 
New Improved Pulp-O-Mizer: Now, with T-shirts!

Filed under Print On Demand, Web Development

New, Improved PULP-O-MIZER: Now with T-shirts!

I’ve just updated the Astonishing PULP-O-MIZER: I’ve given it unnatural powers of T-Shirt and Hoodie Creation that I’m pretty sure Man Was Not Meant to Wot Of. I barely wotted of them myself, if the truth be told. It was a near thing.

I’ll need to keep an eye on the server’s status. Creating the shirts – and then displaying, deleting, hiding and showing them – eats up more resources than we’ve seen with the other products. There’s the chance that shirts will go in and out of service, all depending on the server’s load and my own demented whims.

If I say so myself – which I do, you notice – it’s a pretty neat system, though. Each user gets his or her own private folder of shirts (so they can’t prowl through the shirts that other people have made); one can delete all the shirts in one grand gesture of destruction (that part was easy) or one can select a single shirt or hoodie and doom it to be fed, alone and shrieking, into the mouth of the Destructinator* (that part was hard).

It’s all brand new, so here’s your chance to break it. I’ve tested it in every browser and OS I have and I’m pretty sure it won’t explode. But you should wear those rubber gloves and goggles, just in case.

*… a name that I wish I’d invented, even though I didn’t.

 
 
The Retropolis Multi-POD Web Site, Part 2: The Tools

Filed under Print On Demand, Web Development

A couple of weeks ago I posted the first in a series of articles about my experiences in putting together a single web site that combines products from several different print-on-demand companies. For a better idea of what I was trying to do, and what I felt the design priorities were, you should have a look at that article.

You’re back? Okay then.

In order to get the basic function of the site working, I used three different solutions from three different sources. I’ll be writing about each of them in detail as we go. For today, let’s start with an overview of those three solutions.

They are CPShop, for Cafepress content; the Zazzle Store Builder (ZSB) for Zazzle content; and myPFStore, for Printfection content. Here’s a basic description of their features.

(more…)
 
 
The Retropolis Multi-POD Web Site, Part 1: Design Considerations

Filed under Print On Demand, Web Development

The first in a series of articles that describe how I combined products from several different print on demand companies into a single web site at my own domain.

Ray guns are important in web site designThe design of a web site is always about several things, and only one of those things is "making it pretty". In fact the way you make it pretty all depends on the decisions you’ve made about what the purpose of the site will be (often not as obvious as you might think), what the content will be, how the user will find that content, and how the user will understand where he or she is within the site – and then be able to get elsewhere with as few clicks as you can manage.

The answers to those questions determine the framework within which you will make the site pretty. That’s because these answers tell you what you’re designing. If you leap off to figure out what it’s going to look like without answering those questions first you’re going to end up with something that (presumably) looks great, but whether it does the job it needs to do is left completely to chance.

(more…)
 
 
webomator
The Webomator Blog is powered by WordPress.
Down in the Basement. Where it Strains Against its Chains and Turns a Gigantic Wheel of Pain, for all Eternity. Muahahahahaha.