We do several dog calendars each year and they are lots of fun…. but not all calendars are good money makers. Here are five tips to get you started off on the right foot (paw)….
1. Plan out all the finances in advance and only partner with a reputable rescue group. Do NOT offer to pay all the expenses. A good rescue group should see the value and raise the money for printing costs. The more calendars you print, the cheaper they are per calendar, so set a realistic number and figure the costs up front.
2. Decide where the profits are coming from — will you sell ads in your calendar? sell sponsorships? One page of ads could cover ALL the costs of printing and make calendar sales a lot more profitable. Some groups even sell the positions — so maybe you have a supporter that’s willing to spend $500 to get their dog in the calendar. What would a local merchant pay for an ad in your calendar? Ask them! Then ask them if they would sell the calendars in their shop.
3. Line up plenty of volunteers to help you on shooting day(s). You can easily shoot the whole calendar in one day if you have helpers and a great location with lots of shooting options. This year’s Dachshund calendar (for 2016) was shot on the campus of Southern Methodist University, which gave us lots of variety in one place.
4. Work ahead. Calendars only sell between September and January. Anything you don’t sell before February 1st goes in the recycling bin so shoot now and plan to start selling them early in the fall!
5. Be sure and get a model release signed by every dog owner — you need permission to publish the images. You can google and find a form that works for you. Good luck!
We’ve had a couple of posts about how calendars raise awareness (and money) for animal rescue groups and shelters — and every time we discuss it, I get lots of request for a HOW TO guide to publishing a calendar. It’s taken months to pull it all together, but we finally have a guide in pdf form. It’s 26 pages with large high res images and a resource list for all those little things you will need. It’s available for purchase online as an instant download: HERE for $40. It will save you hours and hours of hunting for someone to print or publish your calendar and will also guide you with pricing and marketing and sales tips.
I just finished shooting our 2014 Tiny Dog Calendar. This is our 5th tiny calendar and every year, I enjoy it more. For those of you who haven’t seen them, it’s the format that is tiny, not the dogs. We have it printed at a local printing company with an Indigo digital press and it’s sized to fit in a CD case. The case flips open and creates a stand for the calendar pages which you select each month.
Each year I self-publish this calendar and give the proceeds to a local charity (usually an animal rescue organization) This year we put a new twist on it by allowing people to vote online for their favorite dog photo at a cost of $1 per vote –with all the voting dollars going to the local Humane Society. We sold 2749 votes and created a lot interest for the calendar — which we have now sent to the printer. For those of you planning a similar project, here are a few key points to remember:
1) The time to sell calendars is in the fall. Shoot when you want to, but if you can’t have them ready by October 1st, you will miss the majority of your sales. They are big for the holidays but after January 15th, retailers practically give them away.
2) Pet owners LOVE having a calendar model in the family — they will buy lots of copies to give as gifts and even pay for the privilege of being published in your calendar.
3) They are a great way to publicize your cause, your group and your photographic skill. And they are a TON of work.
4) There is risk. The best profits come from the larger orders — so shop around. Most printing companies will work with you but the cost for a small order is very high. Once you get over a 250, the price drops significantly and you can start to make a profit, but someone has to pay the upfront costs and most charities don’t want to risk their hard-earned funds. So you may be pulling the money out of your pocket to get the job done!
As soon as the calendars arrive, we’ll have them available on this blog, my website and at the studio — I hope you’ll purchase one and use the inspiration to publish a calendar for your favorite animal rescue charity!