It’s tough being a noob, no matter what the situation. Just waiting for that first print after submitting time and time again can be torture and make one feel like they’ll get in the swing of things. Speaking of being in the swing of things, meet artist Mike Handy. He’s right there on the front lines of the online shirt-a-day world making designs, getting prints, and promoting the heck out of himself. There’s lots of advice out there but regardless of which type Mike took, he has made good for himself and continues to churn out work every week. Take a look below to find out how he’s gotten this far and what he does to keep both feet on the playing field instead of being left on the sidelines.
I’ve had 20 prints on 6 different shirt-a-day sites in the past year, plus a couple of reprints.
Why do you think one site will print your designs versus another? Do you think these reasons are the same for all artists?
I think an Art Director has to feel that my work will appeal to (sell to) their site’s audience in order for them to accept one of my designs for print. I think they also have to feel that it’s a relevant, quality design both in concept and execution. For the most part, if an AD rejects something I’ve submitted to them, I assume it’s because they feel the design doesn’t meet one of those criteria. I think these same factors have to be taken into consideration when reviewing any artist’s work.
Is there a point at which an artist needs to decide NOT to print a design at a particular place? What is that point, and why or why not?
I think if an artist feels that a particular site has questionable business practices, such as bad customer service or low quality products, then it may be best to sever ties with that site. Any site you choose to sell your work through becomes a representation of you, and encouraging your fans to buy inferior products from a site with lousy customer relations ultimately reflects badly on you.
Can you describe your process for submitting work to be printed?
I always submit designs to one site at a time. I track my submissions with a set of folders on my computer that are labeled with each site’s name. When I receive a rejection notice from a particular site, I then move the submission image to the next folder in the pecking order and submit it to that site. If I need to keep track of when I submitted a particular image, I will modify the date on that image file to coincide with the date I submitted it. In general, I try to just “sub and forget” – I find that it’s best to keep a steady flow of submissions going while working on new designs, rather than obsessing about whether or not a design I’ve recently submitted has been accepted for print.
That sounds like a pretty solid system. When you submit a design to any given site, what is the best possible outcome you can expect? What is the worst?
I think the best possible outcome is to have the design accepted for print and for it to sell really well. I think the worst possible outcome is to have the design accepted for print, but then sell badly. Over time I’ve learned that getting a design accepted for print is only half the battle – I think it’s much harder to deal with a design that was accepted but crashed and burned on sale day, than it is to deal with a design that was rejected everywhere you submitted it.
How do you imagine the behind the scenes of decision making at any given shirt website goes? Do you imagine they are all very different, or more similar? Is there just a sort of “luck of the draw” going on at any given time?
I assume the decision making process is fairly similar at most sites. I think most experienced Art Directors know right away whether a design is a ‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Maybe’, based on their site’s audience and the current climate of the industry. I do think that there is a “luck of the draw” factor that comes into play from time to time – if a concept or particular subject is trending, the best designs that are submitted earliest seem to be the ones that will be accepted for print.
Customer comments on any given shirt site can vary wildly. How much should an artist let the comments affect them, or should they read them at all?
I always read my comments, but take them with a grain of salt. I might just have particularly thick skin, but mean or rude comments tend not to bother me much, if at all. Typical mean comments like “meh” or “this sucks”, etc. hold no real weight with me and just seem to be coming from jealous trolls with nothing constructive or intelligent to say. So I guess it really depends on how well you can handle reading potentially scathing remarks. If that sort of thing really upsets you, then it might be best not to read the comments at all. But if your attitude is more like mine, then I think it’s worth reading the comments. You will also usually find comments that are genuinely touching, and they can really make your day.
What is your strategy for most effectively utilizing side-art or promotional avenues when conducting a sale at another website?
I always try to include my best selling designs in my side art, as well as any designs that will be printing soon, or any newer designs I’ve just finished working on. I think this is a good way to sum up your body of work – it shows your best stuff, as well as giving people a taste of what you are currently working on or have coming up. I promote my work through my various social networks – I make multiple posts on my Facebook page about the sale throughout the day, as well as tweeting about the sale at least every other hour. I will sometimes pay to promote a post on Facebook so it is seen by a larger audience, or I will run a giveaway on Facebook to increase my visibility. I also make a post about the sale on my Tumblr and in my Redbubble and Society6 stores.
How much work have you dedicated into making your own fanbase and online presence? Has this had any affect over the past year or so while you’ve been creating shirts?
I think I’ve made a decent effort to build my fanbase in the past year, particularly on Facebook, since that is my base of operations. I’ve run ads on Facebook from time to time, which I think has helped expand my audience significantly. I’ve also done several artist interviews (much like this one) when they’ve been offered to me, which has been great for exposure. Networking with other established artists in the industry has also been extremely helpful and I know I wouldn’t be where I am right now without their continued support.
Do you have a favorite design you have created since entering this t-shirt frenzy?
I tend to favor whatever I’ve recently been working on, so my favorite design changes often. I think that helps push my work forward by not focusing too much on what I’ve done in the past. However, I’ve made more Ghostbusters themed designs than anything else, so I think those are some of my favorites, particularly my Donkey Puft design.
How do you feel about printing the same design at multiple websites? Do you think yours is a common mentality for all artists?
I think it’s great if a design has enough steam that it can be printed at more than one site. Over time I’ve learned that each site really does have it’s own audience and often times the consumers for each site have no idea if your design has already been printed elsewhere. I think most artists share this mentality and are interested in finding out the full value of any design they create.
Pluto or Jupiter?
Jupiter. It just looks cooler.
Rei or Asuka?
Asuka. Redheads FTW.
Scooby or Scrappy?
Scooby. I always found Scrappy super annoying.
Korn or Limp Bizkit?
Limp Bizkit up to their second album, Korn after that.
Red Bubble or Society 6?
Society6 for image previews, but definitely Redbubble for sales.
We’d like to thank Mike Handy for giving us a bit of his time to answer these questions and share with us. You can check him out at his website mikehandyart.com.