Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Copy Cats: Bring Them On

If you sell your products online, eventually someone will copy you. Online craft sites such as esty are especially well-known for how rampant outright copying can be.

During my years on etsy, I have had just about everything possible duplicated--including exact copies made of my profile (who copies an entire profile?) and even how I leave feedback or name my items. The quickest that someone has made a knock-off of an entire collage sheet is three hours.

At the beginning I would get pretty upset. Last year I must sheepishly admit I even sent the seller of the "October special" below (mine's on the left; hers on right) a snarky little convo saying that she hadn't quite gotten the copy right and that I would gladly send over the names of the fonts I had used if it would help.
(She no longer sells on etsy and her name is not attached, which is why I include this as my only example from someone else).

Recently though, two things happened that made me much more zen about the entire process. First, I came across a listing for someone else's butterfly ephemera collage sheet described as "a new take on a popular theme." You see, several years ago I created some sheets with vintage butterflies on postcards (both below are mine):In 2007-2008 these were some of my most popular items. Since then, more than 200 different variations of "butterflies on ephemera" have popped up from other sellers. Seeing something that I had originally created now identified as a "trend" or theme could have been very frustrating--but I actually had to laugh. By turning the idea of copying on its head, I can see my best postings as setting trends. If I add a collage sheet of vintage keys or a new size like 2.6 inch pocket mirrors, it's become almost a game for me to see how long it takes until someone else does the same. And if something doesn't get copied--was it not good enough? Should I push my ideas further?

Secondly--and I think this is probably the most important--I realized that copying doesn't work. Remember the etsy shop with the "October Special" I mentioned above? Initially her entire shop of 100+ items were near duplicates of mine. After I contacted her she started going in an entirely new direction--making her own, original designs. And guess what? Her sales went through the roof! Shoot!

So now when someone duplicates my items--even if it's 99% the same--I say nothing for very practical, business reasons. A shop full of knock-offs of other people's work has no creativity of their own and etsy buyers can sense that. Sure, they'll get a couple of sales, but the best shops constantly push themselves, always being innovative and trying to stay ahead with new ideas and new products. That in the end is what will pay off.

So when something you create is full-on copied, and responses such as "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" and "who knows who really came up with the idea first?" seem flat--remember that at the end of the day your creativity has inspired others and that is what pays off in sales and customers who are looking for innovation. Push yourself further and don't worry about looking behind to see who is chasing you.

14 comments:

Nancy Hunt-Bartek said...

You cannot chase down the world! I learned that years ago with my own art. People love your sheets and you have a great following. They will stay with you because of that. People often ask me why I teach and give away my secrets they say. I do it because I love what I do, and besides, by the time the copying starts, I am off to something else!
I love your stuff!
fondly, Nancy

piddix said...

Thanks Nancy. You're totally right about going on the next adventure. I've heard you have about three months until a totally new idea is taken on by others (but much quicker online I think), so it does help keep me motivated to come up with the next new idea. I think it's great that you teach and share, too. I'm sure that positive energy comes back in kind.

sherry lee said...

That's a good philosophy to have. I've learned that how you think about things makes all the difference. I think it's a "karmic" thing.

Monica from Urban Bead said...

This has come at the best possible time! Just today I put my shop on vacation mode to take an Etsy hiatus. For lots of reasons, but mainly I really need to recharge my creative batteries.

I also have had some copykats, I have never had the nerve to call them out. I guess in the end, what's the point? I would get mad, then go make something even better!

You create the best collage sheets I have ever seen. And you know how much of a collage-sheet addict I am! ;o)

Karen Fabiano said...

Your images are GREAT and although I have purchased collage sheets from others on Etsy, your copyright info has made me so much more aware of basic copyright laws. I'm careful who I buy what from, such as images that have logos and movie photos. If someone is offering collage sheets that I feel can't possibly be "legal" whatelse is in their shop that could get ME in trouble??
Your images are awesome, I can use them on anything my heart desires and I am TOTALLY in-LOVE with the monthly subscription special!

piddix said...

Okay you are all ridiculously awesome. Thank you thank you.

And Monica I hadn't seen your "other" site before (the non-etsy one). It's great.

MaryAnne LoVerme said...

Excellent post! I feel like if someone copies me, it will inevitably be a little different just by virtue of another person interacting with the idea. And I LOVE your take on being a trend setter as opposed to being besieged by copycats.

piddix said...

MaryAnne, that's so true, especially on things like complicated artwork.

Jill Bliss writes in the Book Craft Inc. that she's not too worried about people copying her work since her art takes 30 or more hours to finish.

She says "If someone wants to copy my work or work process, there's no getting around the amount of effort and care each piece requires. Once someone's spent that kind of time and care on something, it will have become their own, hopefully. Plus, all my work is copyrighted."

Sara said...

Great post! I haven't come across anyone who has anything like I do yet, but if I ever do I'll keep this in mind. :)

PipingHotPapers and RunAliceRun said...

I am so sure of your integrity and creativity, that I don't even want to buy from anyone else!! Keep creating, Corinna!!

Ann van Poperingen said...

Wise wise words. It is definitely a shame when people cannot separate being inspired from copying. But you are right about staying true to your creativity. Innovative thinking cannot be copied. Very good advice!

laureltechwriter said...

Hi - do you ever do re-issues? The vintage keys are SOOOOO COOL...

piddix said...

Thanks so much Laurel. See if this link works for the vintage keys on postcards collage sheet:

http://www.etsy.com/search_results_shop.php?search_type=user_shop_ttt_id_46139&search_query=543

Deb - Two Cheeky Monkeys said...

A very well thought out blog post - thanks! It's been a good reminder to me to keep working hard at my own creations rather than worrying about copycats (or stewing over the "polite" copycats who email to ask if it's okay to copy your designs). I don't believe in "karma", but I do believe that our actions will be found out and, as you pointed out, buyers can tell when a seller is constantly pushing themselves to create new designs.

:) Deb.