Saturday, June 23, 2012

Bad Form, Etsy

I've been asked several times whether I'll be selling copies of Spookygirl in my Etsy shop. The unfortunate answer is no, at least not on its own. Here's why.

When I'm not writing, I'm usually wrangling monsters. In other words, I design and hand-sew collectible stuffed monsters and other artisan plush, and I sell my work through my Etsy shop, Mint Conspiracy. I've been a member of Etsy since 2005, and my shop has been active since 2006. I've sold over 3500 items. I have tons of amazing customers, many of whom supported me fiercely during Spookygirl's journey through the 2011 ABNA contest.

As an indie artist, I've always appreciated Etsy's support of artists, craftspeople, and the general concept of handmade. With the exception of the vintage and supplies categories, anything sold on Etsy must be handmade, hand-assembled, or hand-altered by the seller or a defined collective (although production assistance is allowable in certain circumstances). Items that don't fit this definition are supposed to be dealt with by Etsy's Marketplace Integrity team.

I'd love to sell autographed copies of Spookygirl in my shop. I'd even planned on hand-altering them further with some simple artwork and/or including some exclusive handmade swag. Unfortunately, according to Eliza, a member of the Marketplace Integrity team, authors can't sell their books on Etsy unless those books are self-published or craft books. Eliza and I went back and forth on this a few times last week. I argued that selling copies of my own book is comparable to a painter selling commercially-created prints of a painting, which is totally Etsy-legal and cited in the site's rules under production assistance:

A third-party vendor may be used for intermediary tasks in some crafts. Acceptable examples include, but are not limited to: printing the seller's original artwork, metal casting from the seller's original mold, or kiln firing the seller's handcrafted ceramic work.

Eliza was unable (or unwilling) to clarify why having a publisher print copies of a book wouldn't count as production assistance. Yes, the book is technically being mass-produced -- but there's no clarification in the production assistance guidelines as to how many copies of a work can be created.

Keep in mind that Etsy considers a commercially-made pendant strung on a commercially-made chain to be a "hand-assembled necklace." That's Etsy-legal. Spookygirl isn't. I'm not trying to bash sellers of hand-assembled necklaces -- I design a lot of my own jewelry, so I know what goes into the assembly process. But I can't see how the time and effort I've put into writing, rewriting, and revising Spookygirl over more than four years makes it any less hand-crafted than a beaded necklace or a knitted scarf or an oil painting. I'm just very, very lucky in that I have some snazzy production assistance.

There are ways around this rule, including a solution suggested by one of my brilliant customers that I'll most likely be implementing. However, I shouldn't have to do that. I shouldn't have to search for loopholes. Writing is very much a craft, and seeing it disrespected by a site that claims to support craftspeople and artists (a site that I've supported for years with my listing and selling fees) is disappointing.