For those of us that are entrenched in the world of shirt-a-day, every day is another print (or two!) and every stroke of midnight, another carriage turns into a pumpkin. For the less jaded of us, there must always be a jumping on point on our path to blasé. What’s it like to get that first taste of your design jumping from the computer screen to the mesh screen? In an attempt to bottle up and share the complex range of emotions an artist may feel during a 24-hour internet sale, we went to artist and illustrator Emanuel Peters, or Manny for short. His first print occurred in 2012 at RIPT Apparel and we requested that he take a trip in his memory machine to give us all a snapshot of how it all happened. The what’s, how’s, and why’s of his first plunge into the icy waters under the barrier of the submission queue are now revealed.
Hi Manny. You stated earlier that your first shirt-a-day experience was at RIPT Apparel. I’d kind of like to focus on that day and see the range of emotions that you might have felt during your first print. Before we begin, can you give me some background on yourself as an artist prior to entering the fray?
When I was a child I wanted to follow my Dad’s footsteps and be an artist. As I grew older that interest bounced back and forth between being a comic book artist, a 3-D animator, and a draftsman. Eventually I settled on Graphic Design as a career. My background lies predominantly in the graphic arts field — specifically print design, layout, corporate identities, branding, and illustration. I also, on occasion, did Flash animation, desktop video editing, clipart, and the odd web site or two. I’ve worked at a handful of firms over the last 16 or so years.
How did you first hear about RIPT Apparel?
I don’t recall exactly when it was, but my wife had found some shirts on RIPT that she really liked and mentioned to me, so I checked it out.
How long was it until you submitted your first design, and did you make this design specifically for this purpose or was it something that had been sitting around, as they say?
I always design around topics that interest me- and realized that some of those designs would work as t-shirts. I started a RedBubble page and a few months later I slowly started submitting my designs. I wasn’t consciously trying to target any particularly markets or fandoms — I just wanted to make stuff that I liked.
Can you describe the experience of how you felt after submitting the design, before it was printed?
Apprehension laced with a bit of hope. I had already submitted a handful of designs to different sites which received no feedback (back when most sites would only send you an e-mail if you were accepted), if I remember correctly, this was the first time I had submitted to RIPT.
How long did it take to find out you’re design had been selected for print? How did you feel once you were notified?
I think it took approximately two weeks after submitting it to RIPT. Getting that email was exhilarating and validating. I still get that thrill when I see an acceptance email in my inbox.
Was there any confusion as to what was expected of you after being notified, or what best practices were leading up to your print date?
No, the process seemed fairly straight forward for me, however I was inexperienced in preparing files for screen printing. Luckily there are a lot of resources available on the web.
So here we are, the night before the clock strikes midnight. What is your local time zone? Were you waiting for the site to flip?
I live on the east coast of Canada, so we’re in the Atlantic Time Zone, which I believe is two hours ahead of you guys. I tried to stay up for the flip, but I couldn’t do it. I was exhausted and had to go to work the following morning.
When you first saw your design up for sale, what was that like? Describe your reactions as closely as you can recall.
I woke up around 5:00 the next morning and rushed to the computer. I know I’m going to sound like a dork when I say this, so what the heck: the first thing I did was take screen captures of the site. I skimmed down to the comments section and was blown away by the positive reaction.
Did the whole experience live up to your expectations? Was anything lacking from the side of the website, or was it completely better than expected?
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect — this was a whole new thing for me. But it was such an amazing experience that I had a grin on my face for the entire day.
How did the full day go? Did you have to work that day? Did you check the sales repeatedly?
At the time, I thought the day went well. Hindsight being 20/20, it was actually a pretty amazing day. I had to rush off to work, and I can honestly say without a shred of guilt that I did about an hour of actual work that day. I spent most of the time refreshing the web browser every 15 minutes and chatting with people online. At that time you couldn’t track sales in real time, but I stayed right on top of the comments.
When the day was over, how did you feel?
Did the sales totals meet your expectations? How fast were you paid?
The funny thing was, at that time, that I didn’t really have an idea what constituted a good sale versus an average sale. I was impressed at the number of shirts sold, but I wondered if it was the norm, or if artists usually sell better.
Payment was fairly quick. I was in the mindset that Shirt of the Day sites worked similarly to RedBubble and that payments weren’t processed until the end of the month.
Now let’s fast-forward to today. How many prints have you had total since this first one?
I believe I will be reaching my 19th print by the end of this week.
Do you go through the same routine you described above every time you have a sale, or have things changed a bit?
There are some things that are generally the same. During the week leading up to the print I’m getting my promotional materials ready, scheduling posts for Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. I like to give my followers a sneak preview. Sometimes I’ll have a giveaway for my followers so I can get help promoting my design. I’m a little more organized than before, ha-ha.
What advice do you wish you had had during your first sale that you would like to share with other upcoming first time artists?
Everyone’s experience will be different. The key things that I would offer is this: Try to be positive in the face of negativity. Be humble when things go really well; engage those who offer praise. Ignore those who are nasty; nothing bugs a troll more than being ignored. Use social media to get the message out there. Don’t take it personally if one of your designs does not have high sales- even the best artists have off days.
Not everyone can do what we do. Learn from your mistakes and just keep swimming.
Does the experience of being printed change much depending on which website you’re being sold on?
It can. RIPT has done well with refining the process and how artists interact with the site. There are very few tee sites who take pains to ensure things flow more smoothly. When you’re printed on sites that are stuck in the processes that were common two or three years ago, the differences become very obvious. Simple things like sales trackers, responses to submissions and being able to see what you have already sent in are a godsend. Nothing dampens enthusiasm more than silence.
I want to thank Manny for giving us a look back at his first print. You can see more of his work at his own website, mannypeters.com.