Enter the World of Print-on-Demand

T-shirts with the art of David Oliver printed on them

It was less than two months ago that I launched my art business online.


Being fresh out of the monastery, I hadn’t thought about any sort of career since the year 2000.


In the monastery things were so arranged that the monastics could live a life of dedicated service without thought of return or concern for basic necessities. The monastery and the lay membership provided all food, shelter, and clothing, as well as medical expenses.


Now that I’m out in the “real world” my circumstances seem to require that I demand remuneration for my labor. In spite of my spiritual idealism I have to think about monetary gain as a matter of survival.


Art has been a hobby and love of mine since I was very young. Through much study and practice over the years I was able to evolve and refine my craft to a considerable degree. So harnessing my artwork as a form of service that would also generate income was a natural solution for me.


Enter the world of print on demand!

Pillows with the art of David Oliver printed on them

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, print-on-demand (also, POD), it refers to a process whereby creators can have their artwork printed on merchandise such as shirts, stickers, mugs, notebooks, etc.

But there’s more!

Print-on-demand means the merchandise doesn’t actually exist until an order is placed. Once an order is placed, then the printer creates the merchandise and mails it to the customer.

Drop shipping is another name for this type of business model.

In actuality, the companies that offer POD stock the blank products and only print artwork onto the products as orders come in.

The great thing about print-on-demand and drop shipping is that the creator doesn’t have to bother with inventory. There’s no need to estimate rates of consumption, degree of demand, etc. There’s no need to store, organize and constantly move piles of product.

The downside is that the POD companies take a considerable cut of the profits for their services. It’s a trade-off, but a great option for certain types of people.

Are you an entrepreneur that lives in a small apartment? Do you have the acumen to create and sell products but don’t have the space to store inventory? If so, then print-on-demand could be just the thing for you.

When I started researching this business model I found that there are many different companies that offer POD services. Some of the most popular companies are listed below, though not necessarily in order of popularity:

Merch by Amazon








Phone cases with the art of David Oliver printed on them

When I was researching all of this I came to know that some of the companies require an invitation while others allowed anybody to create an account and start selling without any sort of screening or application process. But there was one that stood out by a long shot.


One print-on-demand company is currently king of the hill!


Merch by Amazon is the one that most everyone has reported to be most profitable, primarily because of the enormous number of dedicated shoppers that frequent Amazon.com. However, Amazon Merch is also very generous with the royalties they pay to the creators.


But Amazon Merch specializes in t-shirts and long-sleeve t-shirts. If you want to get your artwork printed on other types of merchandise such as pillows, cards, tote bags, etc., you’ll have to use one of the other companies.


So if Amazon Merch is the big winner why doesn’t everybody use them?


Due to the insanely high demand for entry into the program, as well as the numerous “creators” submitting artwork that violates copyrights, Amazon put a cap on their submissions by moving to an invitation-only arrangement.


Anyone can apply for an invitation but some have had to wait for many months to get accepted into the fold, if at all.


As soon as I learned about the difficulty in getting accepted into the Amazon Merch program I submitted my application. I wanted to get the ball rolling so that someday, down the road, I might get in and be able to ride the rising wave of Amazon Merch.


Surprise, surprise!


After one week I heard back from Amazon Merch.


“Congrats! Your request is approved.”

T-shirts with the art of David Oliver printed on them

Well how about that? I’m in. But how did it happen so quickly?


My best guess is that I applied for the invitation in the best possible way.


Firstly, I filled out the application completely. I had recently launched my website and had already taken measures to present myself as a proper business. I have a dedicated business email address and mailing address. I have a thoughtfully designed website showing a portfolio of my original artwork. I have multiple social media accounts to publicize my artwork.


I also filled in all of the fields in the application, such as my bank info and routing number, even if they weren’t required until being accepted into the program.


Perhaps the biggest help in my speedily receiving an invitation, however, was my professional and lucid introduction of myself, my experience, and my intentions.


In any case, I got in! After that, I gradually submitted my designs to several of the other companies as well. Each one offers a different variety of merchandise, different formulae for calculating royalties, and a different audience.


Since this post is getting a bit long I’ll stop here.


However, the fun is only just beginning!


In my next post I’ll talk about some of my experiences navigating the copyright labyrinth, advertising my products through social media, and more.


In the meantime, feel free to check out my shop lineup here.



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