Why Don’t Big Distributors Get Better Prices For Your Work?

Posted on 10/11/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (4)

Many photographers believe they will make more sales for the best prices if their images are represented by the biggest distributors. They may make more sales, but definitely not for the best prices. For years the biggest distributors have been seriously undercutting price – at least in the education field. There is a big question whether increased volume at low, dramatically discounted prices results in increased revenue overall for creators. Here’s how and why.


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Copyright © 2011 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-251-0720, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  

Comments

  • John Harris Posted Oct 12, 2011
    Pearson Education UK recently asked for a reuse with all those rights for 10 years -they offered £15. Presumably they are hoping that in 10 years time we will have gone bust, got Alzheimer's or both.

  • Steve Lake Posted Oct 12, 2011
    Is it not the case that many of these 'catch-all' license agreements are intended to streamline publisher admin by having a standard agreement that applies to all books and all suppliers (hence the very broad terms) rather than be used to secure unlimited usage of images? While technically the publisher can now use an image in an educational book with a 2 million print run that will be published all over the world in every language for ever and ever, that's not actually going to happen is it? These things aren't going to start selling like Dan Brown just because the publisher has a license that allows them to.

    Prices and print runs may be going up but are publishers actually selling more copies then they were when the old pricing structures applied? I work more with travel titles than educational and in that market there are fewer people buying guide books than there were 5 or 10 years ago. They may be buying them across a multitude of print and digital platforms. But they aren't buying more of them.

    And although many travel publishers now ask for 10 years or life of the product we both know that a new edition with new images will be coming out well before then in most instances. The publisher wants 5 or 10 years because a handful of titles may turn round that slowly and they don't want to have separate agreements for each title; but the majority will change within a year or two.

    Prices have indeed dropped for the reasons you outline and that makes it tough to compete. But in order to compete you need to be realistic about what you're charging based on how the image will be used and the type of product it will be used in. The days of charging a high initial fee and then loading it with add-ons for new languages and digital editions are long gone. But that doesn't mean you have to charge rock-bottom supermarket prices either.



  • Jim Pickerell Posted Oct 12, 2011
    Steve: The "catch-all" license agreements are certainly intended to streamline publisher admin, but they are also intended to grab all the future rights they can get. If they want those rights, fine, but they should be willing to pay a reasonable fee for them. On my other site (Selling-Stock.com) a UK photographer commented that Pearson just asked for the same rights for another project and they were only willing to pay 15 pounds for use of the image.

    In fact it has been documented in several court cases that the major publisher have printed well over a million copies of several of their major texts and they are still revising and updating them. Check out Photographers vs. Publishers (http://www.photolicensingoptions.com/ViewArticle.aspx?code=JHP2166) and the Changing Textbook Industry (http://www.photolicensingoptions.com/ViewArticle.aspx?code=JHP2167) on this site.

    I'm not sure how many travel books companies are printing, but it is certainly something to look into. On a recent trip to Turkey, I found a book that was being sold aggressively in many shops that had pictures in it that were at least 10 years out of day, given changes in Turkish laws that made some of the things shown in the book impossible to see or do now. Of course there was no publication date on the book. I don't think you can assume that the publishers will be putting together new editions with new pictures when they can make more money continuing to sell the old editions.



  • Roger Ressmeyer Posted Oct 12, 2011
    Nice Post. It's absurd what's happened, considering that the late Steve Jobs, taking the opposite approach, set the price of personal use of one song at ~$1.26, per individual.

    The big distributors might stop staring at each other and mirroring each other out of fear, and just put in prices that make sense. $250/per image/per use was the lowest price I ever charged from 1985-1995.

    You are right that the budgets are such a tiny fraction of the whole, that "just say no" to publisher's demands makes total sense.

    When distributors so closely mirror each others prices', and jump the same direction so closely, isn't that defacto price fixing? Rhetorical question.

    And some pictures are sooooo much more valuable and unique than others. My agency, Science Faction, represents some images that cost $100,000 or more to produce. I could never understand why the big agencies couldn't create a boutique of iconic images at prices that are several times higher, thereby maintaining knowledge among buyers that images are not commodities like TP.

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