272 ARE NSPP PRICES STILL VALID?
December 7, 1999
A couple days ago I received an e-mail from a Negotiating Stock Photo Prices
user. She is primarily an assignment photographer and gets stock requests
very infrequently. Upon receiving a recent request, she decided that, in
addition to using the book, she would check with a friend who is a Tony Stone
photographer to see what he thought she should charge.
The TS photographers said, "Pickerell's book is 2 1/2 years old and prices
have dropped substantially in that time. The guide is no longer accurate."
He convinced her to discount the numbers in the book by 20% to 25%, and to use
that new number as her asking price.
She wanted to know how much I recommended discounting all the numbers that
appear in the 1997 edition of NSPP in order to come up with a number to quote.
Don't Discount -- Don't Drop The Prices
The numbers in the book are still a good initial starting point for a quote.
In some cases you should be starting even higher. I want to assure every
reader that the numbers we use at Stock Connection when quoting a price are
always the number in NSPP or something higher. (We go higher depending on the
uniqueness of the image or the use). If we were discounting the numbers in
the book there is no way our average sale per image licensed would be
$650, which it is.
That doesn't mean we never negotiate. We do. But a surprising number of
people accept our price without any attempt to negotiate it.
We do regularly get the question, "Why are your prices so much higher than
Tony Stone's?" There are several standard answers to that question. "Our
prices are based on our, and our photographer's, costs of doing business."
"Why are Nordstrom's prices higher than K-Mart's?" "Stone appears to operate
on the principle that by lowering prices they will increase volume and grab
more market share. We don't believe that if we lowered our prices we would
increase our volume enough to offset the lower prices."
At Stock Connection we have a basic policy that we will never match a Stone
price. We always ask for something higher and will lose the sale rather than
match the Stone price. Usually, when we get requests where we're competiting
with an image supplied by Stone the number we end up quoting is 50% to 100%
higher than Stone's.
The big variations often come on full page or cover use, not the 1/4 page
uses. Our price may be in the $800 to $1,200 range and the price they say
they can get from Stone is in the $350 to $600 range. Even with some
negotiation our price ends up being significantly higher than what the client
tells us they would have to pay for a picture from Stone. Despite this, we
end up making the sale 80% of the time. (There was something about our
picture that made them want it or they would have bought the Stone picture in
the first place. And they knew that our price -- based on the total cost of
their project -- was reasonable and fair.)
In checking back with clients on that 20% of sales we lose, we find that more
often than not the project was killed, or they went in a totally different
direction and used a totally different type of image. Thus, neither Stone nor
Stock Connection made the sale. We would much rather lose that other small
percentage of sales to Stone than lower our prices and encourage discount
If your selling your own work direct to clients, you can get the prices listed in
NSPP, or higher. Don't discount those numbers as a starting price. And
please, if you are a Tony Stone photographer and someone asks you for advice,
don't tell them they have to lower their prices just because you are getting
lower fees from Tony Stone.
Harold Lee Miller
It doesn't surprise me that this came from a person not
experienced in stock sales. We use the book on every sale we make
and rarely do we lose a sale because of price. When we get a call from a buyer,
usually we sell a picture, and we always start a bit higher than the
book price. Sometimes we have to negotiate down, but never a great amount. These art
buyers are very sophisticated about how to get a lower price and
we have to fight with them sometimes, but usually we come out with a good price. In
fact we always do. We don't discount, we don't match price, and
we don't take any grief from buyers who try to make us do that. And to be honest, we
don't run into it very often. Most of these buyers seem to know
what's reasonable and don't want to spend their day haggling to get a price that they
know is lower than market. My personal opinion is that they have this same book and they
use it as their reference, too.
I believe the NSPP prices to be very valid, FotoQuote as well.
There has NOT been a substantial drop in image prices from what I see
licensing my own work, and from my agents. In fact, our average price keeps
increasing from year to year, both in house and via our agents (needless to
say, none of my agents are Royalty Free agents--though Photodisc did just
announce a price increase!).
The inexperienced stock seller must also remember that what a client tells you
when negotiating with you may in fact not be true; or it may be true but a
case of apples and oranges when it comes to the usage and rights involved.
I'm a new reader/subscriber in the business of horticultural stock
With regard to your prices, I have the following story.
I just negotiated a software box cover and insert license. The client had
asked earlier for images to send to a focus group. I didn't send any because I
regard that as an actual use, and won't do it for free. Then, the client
called and said they'd been through the focus group and it didn't work, could I
get something to them in the next 24 hours. I hand-delivered 10 garden shots,
to the immense relief of their art department. They didn't ask about prices
then, although I offered to negotiate. That was my first hint.
Having picked an image, they had someone call me who didn't know the size of
the run, exactly what they wanted, or even what the software was about. So I
totalled up the various amounts according to the different usages in NSPP, and
came up with $4500. They gulped. Two days later another person called and
asked for specific rights. I said $3000, and it's a done deal.
Two things really helped: they had already gone through their ordinary chain
of sellers, so I knew my image would be unique to them. Secondly, because I
have an electronic database with thumbnails of all my pix, I could tell exactly
which picture they wanted, and I knew my image was perfect for the specific
product they were selling, and I could say all that with assurance.
I could never have made myself even say such a number without the help of NSPP.
I might have asked for $1000 if I felt frisky that day.
So keep it up and thanks.