Annals of e-commerce: James Mundie’s online sales

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James Mundie
Olympia (Betty Lou Williams), by James Mundie, is up for auction on eBay until Dec. 7.

James Mundie recently posted a work of his Prodigies series on eBay. I know this because I got an email from him Monday that he cast far and wide, which said:

Okay, I’m giving y’all just one more chance to acquire one of the most popular drawings from “Prodigies”, The Marriage of Emmitt the Alligator-skinned Man and Percilla the Monkey-girl.

…This is the first time I’ve ever offered one of these drawings on eBay, so don’t miss your chance to snatch up a bargain. …

Clearly Mundie is giving a serious try to internet sales and self-promotion of his work. Look at the list that’s on his emails of his other internet promotion ventures–

http://www.mundieart.com
http://www.missioncreep.com/mundie/
http://www.myspace.com/jgmundie
http://mundieart.blogspot.com

Hmmm. I wondered, does this really work???

So I called to ask.

L. Do you have anything up on eBay right now?
J.
I have the second one up now.

L. But what happened to the first one?
J.
It was such a roller coaster of an emotional ride. After the first auction didn’t reach its minimum bid, I tried to relist it. Then I woke up the next morning and saw woohoo it sold. And then I found it was a scam from this guy trying to run a scam on behalf of his “client in Africa.” I hope to get that other auction back up. Meanwhile, I thought, hey I’ve got some momentum [so he posted the second item].

L. With the scam, do you feel it was a waste of time?
J.
The work got 300 views, so that’s 300 people who haven’t seen the piece before.

L. How’s the second one doing?
J.
That one is up through Dec. 7. It’s already ahead by 68 views. I’ve got two people watching it [i.e. waiting to see how the bidding goes before they put their bid in–a typical bidder strategy to keep the price down].

James Mundie
The Marriage of Emmitt the Alligator-Skinned Man and Percilla the Monkey-Girl, the first drawing Mundie tried to auction off on eBay

Meanwhile I’ve gotten a commission and sold a woodcut. The commission is from a fellow, a performer who lives in the UK. He’d seen that the auction was supposedly successful, was disappointed and asked if I could do this thing for him.

The other was a woman who basically surfed into my website and fell in love with a couple of drawings and a woodcut. The woodcut is what she could afford to buy now, but she is saving her pennies for a drawing.

When you show in galleries, it’s hard enough to get in there, and then you have to split your commission, 50 percent to them, 50 percent to you.

L. How did the woman who bought the woodcut get to your website?
J.
She had seen the eBay site, and she followed the link, and that’s how she found the other piece.

I’ve had greater success selling work on the net lately than other ways.

L. Who is buying you on the web?
J.
Last year, a major collector in California. The Prodigy series [of circus freaks] appeals to people who like circus memorabilia. So my market includes those people. Other people are bargain hunters, or they live where they don’t have access to galleries or good galleries.

L. Is it a problem showing the work on the Web?
J.
So far, I haven’t had anybody disappointed.

L. Where have you been selling the art?
J.
The Prodigy series is off the Mission Creep website.

Kate [James’ wife, Kate Kern Mundie] and I share a website . The very first month that I launched the site, Kate sold a painting almost immediately without having posted any prices or anything–to a collector in Oregon.

L. Who set up the site?
J.
mundieart I did myself. For the redesign of missioncreep, I hired a designer. They built a template that I can alter, and taught me a little so I could do it myself. I used that, what they taught me, to build mundiart. I sort of wanted a showcase for my non-freak work.

[from earlier in the interview: One thing my wife–she’s a painter–she’s right now in that mode of trying to get her work out as much as possible. She has a couple of paintings up at Muse Gallery tonight. She’s trying to sell some work. I’m putting a web page together. We’ve got tons of work sitting there in the studio that I’m not going to show locally anymore.]

L. How many hits do you get at mundieart?
J.
2,000 to 3,000 hits a day. I’m well-indexed by Google with the use of key words.

L. Like meta tags?
J.
Words in meta tags have to appear on the same page [or it works against you with Google]. The more often the word appears, the more relevant, and the higher it will appear in the search criteria.

Mission Creep gets outrageous amounts of traffic [thanks to Mike Walsh’s old publication that has some porn words in it, and also artistJudith Schaechter].

L. How did you learn all this?
J.
I took a design class that was strictly about online marketing. I took it on behalf of Fleisher Art Memorial–I manage their web page. The class was arranged through the Arts and Business Council for Philadelphia for non-profits, and taught by Susan Sweeney.

Do you know about the daily painting movement?

L. No.
J.
The way that you become a good painter is to constantly paint, and do a small painting a day for a small price. If you Google “daily painting” this site comes up of this guy who does 4″ x 6″ still lifes. He started selling on eBay at $100/apiece. Some weeks he’d sell four, sell five. It became a nice revenue stream for his family–his wife and his child. After a while, he began to realize that most of the traffic–he was looking through his web stats–most were coming through his blog and his website. So he decided to cut out eBay and sell it himself.

You can insert Paypal shopping cart software onto your web page and let Paypal do it for you.

He’s raised his prices to $150, seems to sell seven out of 10 of them.

L. What’s his name?
J.
Christopher Pew.

And you know about MySpace. I thought MySpace was just for teenage girls and sexual predators. Then I ran into a friend; he has a band. He said are you on MySpace? He’s gotten gigs from it.

Since then, I’ve made connections with all these people on MySpace, including this Christopher Pew person. If people aren’t using it, they’re foolish. I’ve noticed a lot of museums and galleries are on there.

I think on NPR they were talking about it, that MySpace is mostly people 35 and over and professional people, bands plugging their album, their film whatever. There are a lot of artists on there.

As artists you’re supposed to be a businessman. You go to art school, nobody’s talking about that aspect. So you do it on the fly. I wish I had somebody else to do it for me.

I find myself wondering how did we all sell art before the internet?

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