Now, I'm rather allergic to giving preferential treatment. If we wanted to be very honest, I could have made a decent living just selling Ursula's work - especially more recently. She outsold my other artists by several orders of magnitude. So it didn't seem so much like 'preferential treatment' to try out a calendar with her work as it seemed like 'smart investment.'
And it was! I found a good printer, with good pricing, and ordered me a box of calendars to try out. The quality was great, the price was excellent. The shipping - oh GOD. Shipping was a bane of my business. You people in the lower 48 who grouch about the price of shipping? You know nothing. I have to take the base price of anything you find on the Internet and add 50%. Or more. I did a big t-shirt sale at once point, and ordered $1400 worth of t-shirts... to be slammed, at the last minute, with a $700 shipping bill, because they insisted they could not ship ground to Alaska. $700!?!? Believe me, things like that cut into one's profit margin. Ironically, I would get the best shipping rates for things ordered from overseas, because there was only one price to the US - they didn't care which state. This went directly counter to my desire to buy local. It also makes it very hard to make estimates, because it doesn't matter what the webpage says - the supplier is going to tack on an 'oh, you live in ALASKA' fee AFTER you've placed your order. The nice companies let you know in advance, or call you when they're running your charges. The jerks just charge you and let you get an aneurysm when you check your credit card statement later.
(On the plus side, that company gave me absolutely 100% FREE shipping on every order after that... I never asked how they could do that...)
Anyway, calendars. Ursula's first calendar sold incredibly well - I didn't order that many, and they sold out in less than a day. Horrah!
So, I started doing more of them. This was back in the good old days, when the economy was still strong, and I could count on moving a few hundred calendars. But each year, though I ordered fewer, I sold even fewer, and I ended up with more and more backstock. With more print-on-demand options, more people were making their own calendars. And the biggest problem with calendars? They expire. No one wants to pay full price for a calendar from a year ago. I discounted them aggressively, starting towards the end of each year, and sales continued to drift downwards. And of course, since I was ordering fewer, they cost me more apiece, and shipping - OH GOD - continued to skyrocket when the cost of oil did that crazy spike. (And of course, you're just kidding yourself if you think that shipping companies were going to LOWER their prices once the crisis stopped.)
I don't think I lost much on calendars, in the long run. They are one of the few things I padded enough profit into to make even unsold backstock a minor inconvenience. If I'd sold all of them, I could have made a tidy profit to pay for the time I spent designing them, but while I didn't really make anything for the time I spent on them, I also didn't LOSE anything. I've finally whittled that stock down to one box - mostly by aggressively forcing free ones on people who place orders.
So, this is another easy, easy choice: no more calendars this way. I did enjoy making the calendars, and they're another item that's easy to ship with priority flat rate. But I'm not doing the invest-in-boxes thing anymore. If I do them again, it will be by pre-order, only, and I won't even bother laying out the files until I reach a certain minimum of paid commitment.
If this ever happens - and that's an IF - it won't be immediately. Consider this one shelved.