In the second part of our look at ways children's book illustrators sell their work online, three SCBWI members Elizabeth Dulemba, Sarah J Coleman, and Alan O'Rourke offer their insights.

Many illustrators supplement their income from book sales by creating merchandise, stationery, art prints and other lovely goodies derived from their art to sell to the public. In Part 1of this feature we looked at Print-on-Demand. In this second part, three SCBWI members give their broader experience of selling online.

Elizabeth Dulemba

I have items for sale at Redbubble, Zazzle and Etsy.
I recently uploaded quite a bit of work to Redbubble in reaction to their new "face-masks” product, which is brilliant, and they've been selling quite well!

For most of the platforms, however, (Etsy, Zazzle, etc., where I also have work for sale), I find that there is a serious social networking element to them, and that to make a lot of sales, you have to be very active within their social environments (and posting regularly) - otherwise, results are nominal. As I don’t have time for either, typically, they don’t bring in a lot of money. I treat them more like surprising windfalls of modest income.

From Elizabeth's Etsy shop.

I have a friend with a store in Etsy, who does quite well with it. But she is indeed putting in the time to post new products regularly and participate in the social aspect of it. (It’s not an art site.)
Yes, it is a time sap. BUT, Etsy is where I offer my original artwork, which I really have no other venue for. Maybe once I’m past my PhD I’ll get more active posting the piles of original work I have. Maybe.

Sarah J Coleman

BigCartel is one of the longest-established platforms, and I’ve used it for about 12 years.
It’s extremely professional, massively customisable and allows VAT settings, delivery notifications, product options, Stripe payments, card payments and PayPal. It has an app and integrates with payment systems like Kashflow, but is incredibly simple to use.

RedBubble makes products for you with your work printed on it, but in my experience the quality has been a bit shoddy and they have a reputation for being a hotbed of copyright infringement, so I have always stayed away from that one. I’ve had around 100 copyright infringements over time and a lot of them were RedBubble.

BigCartel just allows you to sell your own products. Additionally they pulled out all the stops to help small businesses during the lockdown, and still are. Here’s mine!

From Sarah's page on Big Cartel

Alan O'Rourke

I keep it very simple when selling prints online. A paypal button on this webpage.

If I do upgrade it would be to allow promoting and buying multiple products at the same time. In which case I would use Wordpress and Woocommerce as I have some technical knowledge to set it up.

I bought a simple web design template from and modified it for myself.
I have experience in web design but I didn't want to turn it into a big project. An HTML template was the quickest route to get something online.
Then in Paypal I created the button link and added it to the page.

From Alan's self-designed print sales site

This has been very successful for me over the last few years driving thousands of Euro in sales. I run Facebook ads and drive targeted traffic to the page, especially during the holiday season.
Facebook has proved to be particularly successful when selling prints based on particular locations. The ad targeting in Facebook lets you get very specific with geographic areas and the more specific you get the more successful the ads become.

About once a year I get a batch of prints produced with a speciality art printer in Dublin The Copperhouse Gallery then sign, number and ship them as they are ordered.

As I add more prints for sale it becomes harder to manage the pages so I am thinking about upgrading to Wordpress/Woocommerce. This would make it easier to sell multiple products with a shopping cart, make changes instantly across the entire website and possibly even run coupon codes and occasional discounts. The downside is that you need to keep Wordpress updated and secure. But sales are now at a stage to pay me to do that.

I also sell two illustrator sketchbooks and planners on Amazon using their KDP print on-demand service.
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Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this series! If you're an SCBWI member illustrator and would like to share your experience of selling your art direct to the public, on or off line, we'd love to hear from you - email John at this address.
Header image by John Shelley

Elizabeth Dulemba is a former SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator in the US, and current Associate Professor of Illustration at Winthrop University. Her latest book is On Eagle Cove, written by Jane Yolen, Cornell Lab Publishing Group, 2020  @dulemba

Sarah J Coleman is an illustrator, calligrapher and book cover designer specialising in hand-drawn ink techniques. Represented by Central Illustration, her website is  @inkymole

Alan O'Rourke is a BAFTA nominated designer, creative director and marketer, represented by Bell Lomax Moreton, and is writing and illustrating his first picturebook.
He lives with his family beside the sea in the north east of Ireland. @alanorourke

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