Archive | Zazzle

New, Re-sourced, Out-of-Stock and Discontinued Items on Zazzle

updated 6/17/15 went into a new product frenzy over the past year or so and there have been hundreds of new items added with no end in site. I couldn’t find the exact number, but I believe it was mentioned by Monica in one of the Zazzle chats. Sorry, I didn’t want to go counting them up myself!

Some of the new products prove popular, some are duds and some don’t last long.

ArtInspired and Maz put together a handy list of new products and links to them in the Create Products forum.

For those who don’t know, new products (or lack of) are announced every Friday morning in the Zazzle News forum. What you see on the blog or in an email a few weeks later is when there are designs on the new products and some of the initial bugs are worked out.

Zazzle has confirmed today some products that have been discontinued, so take them out of your templates if you have them there and don’t waste your time on them. Zazzle will be hiding them, but you may want to do so yourself ahead of their actions. You may also want to remove them from your Pinterest boards. I guess everyone has to decide that for themselves.

Discontinued items as of June 2015

In the order that they came to mind, here are some of the discontinued items. It is impossible for designers/sellers to know whether an item is just continually out of stock, being re-sourced to a new supplier or completely dropped for the time being unless Zazzle confirms it. You have to get this info from the forums and you have to go looking for it. This is what I’ve found that are confirmed discontinues.

  • Keds shoes – you know this, just quit holding your breath they are coming back. They’re not – although the one-time presence of them still screws up your categories because you can’t delete a category with a hidden product. For those of you who weren’t around, Zazzle hid the shoes because they had once thought to get a new supplier and migrate the shoe designs over. Crazy, if you ask me, because of the complexity of the designs, but that’s what happened.
  • Slippers – these came out around Christmas 2014, were popular and then disappeared. Confirmed discontinued 6/16/2015.
  • Scarves – these came out in late 2013 and were popular even though the design area consisted of two small blocks. After constant color shortages, they eventually just went out of stock altogether. Confirmed discontinued 6/16/2015.
  • Leggings – Were these popular? I have no idea. They were odd to me because, like the scarves, they had two rectangular design areas. If you want all-over prints for leggings, try RedBubble or Society6. Confirmed discontinued 6/16/2015.
  • Maternity t-shirts – no idea what happened with these! Obviously, a limited market, but very targetable. Maybe CafePress still has theirs. I know CP just eliminated dozens of products, but I’d guess not these. Confirmed discontinued 6/16/2015.
  • Candy jarsjelly beans-2these came out about three years ago and were the first of the breakable kitchenware that we got. Calling them candy jars was always a stretch because they were the size of a pop can. In the USA, every candy jar I’ve ever seen was more of a gallon size. And clear, so you could see whether you actually were interested in any of the selection inside. So, we’re left with the glass Jelly Belly™ jars. Which are half the size of a pop can (soda can or Coke can for non-Midwesterns) and hold a handful of tiny jelly beans.
  • Christmas hats – these were introduced for Christmas 2014. One of your novelty items, for sure. Discontinued early 2015.
  • Christmas stockings – there were two different stockings introduced last Christmas. The plain stocking with the red back is still available. The one with the cute curled up toe is history. Discontinued early 2015.
  • Flip flops – for one glorious summer in 2013, we had these beautiful, pricey Sandalei flip flops. People loved them if they could fork out the forty bucks or so they cost. The company seemed to have had issues and weren’t able to continue production. Zazzle had mentioned looking for a new supplier, but it’s already mid-June in the northern hemisphere, so don’t hold your breath on this one either. Pretty sure CP has an inexpensive flipflop available to design.

In fact, think twice about designing ANYTHING that is worn on your feet or legs. Footwear doesn’t have a good track record. There are some other companies where you can get custom tennis shoes and flip flops, so check around at CafePress, BucketFeet and other places.

  • Embroidered Ladies shirts – I’ve not done much with embroidered clothing, but it was mentioned in the forums that ladies embroidered t-shirts and polo shirts seem to have been discontinued. Since I don’t even see them in the embroidery section, I’d say that’s a safe bet.
  • Speck cases – these have been gone awhile and removed from stores at last. I bring them up for two reasons:
    • 1. Zazzle had a huge discount sale on these when they discontinued them and sold them for a dollar or two (if memory serves). That’s the only sale like that I’ve seen, but it could happen again.
    • 2. I do think they may still be messing up categories by acting as hidden items you can’t remove (like the Keds shoes). All you can do is recycle the category with a new name and put something else in it.

Out of stock for suspiciously long times:

Some items have just had the dread orange pop-up for a long time with no official word what’s happening. Often, there is a lengthy out-of-stock – remember how long envelopes were gone, but came back? Obviously, I don’t know what Zazzle is doing behind the scenes, but I’m guessing these items are:  discontinued but not removed, in the process of attempted re-sourcing or experiencing supplier issues.

Rickshaw folio planners – these seem to be available, but have been sold out  for quite awhile. I asked in the forums a month or so back and didn’t get a response. They don’t show up when you search by the brand, Rickshaw, so I think they’re history.

Edible Frosting Rounds – these seem to be available, but out of stock for awhile according to the forums and as of 6/16/15. edit: 6/17/15 Cbendel wrote in the forums that she contacted the company; they’re not making these anymore.

Cork Coasters – these still seem available, but have been out of stock for a while as of  6/16/15 The other cork products are still available, so status unknown on this one, I’d say. edit: 6/17/15 Wollastonite pointed out in the forums that these were officially discontinued in June 2014.

Skins – a handful of skins (decals) have been out of stock as of May 1st. This whole line up of more than 200 products seems to have been abandoned, to speak frankly. The newest iPhone skin available, for instance is for the iPhone 4. I have sold some skins for laptops, but the rest aren’t worth bothering and it’s hard to trust that they will stick around since there haven’t been any updates.

Speckled Paper – for letterhead and stationery, the speckled version has been out of stock for as long as I can remember.

Style and/or Sourcing changes

There have been other style or sourcing changes that led to product changes. From a design standpoint, these changes don’t mean much once they’ve happened. You have the option to set automatic design migrations in your account settings if you’re comfortable with that.

From a promotional standpoint, you may need to update a blog post or Pinterest pin if you have discussed a particular brand, style, material or color OR if you want to share IRL (in real life!) images.

Some that I recall are:

Poker chips – the initial style was replaced earlier this year by the maker and now they’re all clay.

Wrapping paper – this got re-sized in 2014 and any old designs that weren’t repeating patterns probably looked terrible on the new wrapping paper. Mine did, anyway! I think Zazzle migrated the designs and then hid these until we could check for ourselves.

Invitations – The sources for these were all changed in late 2013. The edge effect adds were at different times. I did design and re-buy an entire set of invites so I could see the papers and how the printing turned out on them, but I never made a new post to describe them all. It’s on my list. . .  (You can purchase these yourself if you like. It is helpful to compare the papers!) Zazzle invitations

Liberty water bottles – these went out of stock a while ago, which was too bad. They were nice bottles. (I have one and wrote a post about it. I’m not yet familiar with the newer ones.) If you promoted water bottles by brand anywhere, you’ll need to update that. These were replaced by a bigger selection of SIGG brand water bottles and thermoses and an unbranded water bottle. Zazzle did a fantastic job of migrating old designs to new bottles for these, but you needed to take a look anyway.

T-shirts – there was a big shift in tees about two years ago with a lot of new colors added. I think the brands were shuffled around as well, but someone who does more shirts would know better than I do. Didn’t the organic ones have a big change? The models for shirts underwent a big change, too, and it sounds like there may be more changes coming from the wording of the announcement of the new ladies’ tank tops last week. Don’t be surprised when a fashion line like t-shirts is continually being changed.

Tote bags – this was not a very big event about five years ago or more. The only reason I recall it is because I bought a big tote bag just before they changed over and then couldn’t use to to show a product IRL. I have enough free tote bags that I just haven’t bought any more since then. Tote bags styles/colors DO go in and out of stock often enough, however.

Mugs – this was a non-event several years ago, but we got different colors and more sizes.

Kitchen Towels, cloth placemats and cloth napkins – these were re-sourced in early 2013. The reason I mention them is because there was a lot of fanfare with the initial supplier being an employer of single moms and how it was a socially good thing. I don’t think they could keep up with the demand, but I also think the towels were not initially waffle weave. So, if you bought the early ones, they aren’t the same anymore. When I buy tea towels, which I prefer for the flatness of the fabric, I’d be more likely to buy fat quarters of fabric instead and just hem them up.


Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them. It can be frustrating to know you may be designing for nothing and hopefully this helps avoid more of that for all of us!


Spring Cleaning my Zazzle Work Life

DumpsterWhere have I been? Just trying to get my life in order – particularly my online work, including my Zazzle stores and files!

My Zazzle image folder was overflowing with nearly 10,000 images in it. I didn’t even know what I had uploaded anymore. I couldn’t stand being a hoarder anymore, so today I began images. A thousand were easily zapped and I’ve just begun. Starting this process this morning as a spring breeze blows in the open window got me thinking that I should refresh this website as well; Right Brain Left Turn deals a lot with Zazzle. This site has been on my mind and today’s the day to begin!

View from the Florida house main floor.

View from the Florida house main floor.

I started on Zazzle over seven years ago, sitting at a big table in the second story kitchen of a beautiful beach house on St. Augustine Beach in Florida. I was looking for something new to do after an unsettled few years and the wrenching difficulty of getting caught in the real estate bad times that had hit Michigan and me really hard. From that table, I could look out the huge windows and over the sand dune to the beach and the Atlantic Ocean stretching out forever. Zazzle was part of my reinvention to become a more creative, less location-restricted person.

Going through my image files, I see my progress over seven years – my images today are better done, my Photoshop experiments more restrained, my text designs more sophisticated. I see national and world events  – earthquakes, blizzards, a tsunami, political elections and more – reflected in my designs. I see the places I’ve been living echoing through in the images: Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, Georgia, Texas, Michigan. I can see the seasons and the life changes as my designs continued to reflect events in my own extended family: proms, graduations, weddings and beautiful new babies and fascinating toddlers.

I could see the interests that are stubbornly in my DNA: beaches, woods, stones and wildflowers; family and travel. I can see the interests that I just couldn’t sustain: weddings, politics and current events.

Boiler furnace

There was a little problem with the heating system.

I haven’t blogged hardly at all since last summer. I moved to a house out in the country that turned out to need a LOT of work. In fact, it wasn’t even livable (although someone had been living here until the week before I moved in!). So, I visited my mom up north where there was no internet. When I came back six weeks later, it took a month to get internet here. Waiting for that, we started working on the house and workers were here all the time for about three months.

I had to move my office setup a few times as the construction progressed and each time, I lost a bit of forward momentum. The internet was another thing. When first installed around Christmas (I did miss most of the Christmas season unfortunately!), it zipped along for about six weeks at 5.9Mps and then dropped to near nothing with hundreds of drops a day. You absolutely cannot use Quick Create nor upload files under those conditions.

The internet provider – the sole choice in this town of 1033 – had installed a new line on the other side of the state and, somehow, screwed up rural customers all over the place. I know all the local techs by name now: Joe, Ron, Jason, Jake and Russ. Terrible internet, but the nicest customer service you’d ever want! On the phone AND in person. It took them until the end of May to get it mostly fixed.

Internet speed

Today’s internet speed. Hey, at least it works!

So, my internet is not great, but it’s quite a bit more reliable. (Never mind that it was out all Sunday evening due to unscheduled line repairs.) Now, I feel like I can concentrate again on my online work. Hurrah!

But, first, getting the junk out of the way. Hundreds or thousands more images are going to go. The Zazzle image storage system is just too awkward to keep thousands of files. I kept hoping it would be updated, but the awkward search function is all we’ve gotten in ages.

So, I’m cleaning house with my Zazzle images, my own image files on Lightroom (63,250 keyworded photos!) and my blogs.

Look for more postings, useful info and tutes on over the coming weeks and months.

I’m back!


Spring afternoon in the country




Add a shadow to category icons on Zazzle

Woodswalker category iconsSomeone recently “liked” my Woodswalker store on and asked how I had added shadows to the category icons.

With so many “flat” designs these days, shadows and dimensional adds aren’t seen as much. I recently checked to see how Zazzle was adding shadows to product images and saw many product images with no shadows at all!

Shadows are one way to make your category images stand out. This can be part of your brand marketing and it can be a good way to separate your category icons from actual products – sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which!

All category icons have to be created elsewhere and uploaded as images to Zazzle, so you have a lot of creative freedom!

I am assuming you already know how to use the category icon option.

To have shadowed category icons, simply add the shadow in Photoshop (or whatever software you use). The trick is that you will sacrifice a bit of your available icon space in order to create a shadow.

category icon example

sample category icon


Category Icon Size

Zazzle has changed the size of the icons a time or two (we won’t count back any farther than that!). Really, any square size will work – try 250 pixels square if you want actual size and will be including your own category name. Try 250 x 225px if you want Zazzle to add the category title (only available if you have three icons across and choose the title option).

I used shadow settings as shown here:

Shadow settings for Zazzle category icon

You can leave about 10px around the sides and bottom for shadow, depending how big you make the shadow. The key is consistency: make all your shadows the same size, angle, opacity and crispness. The best way is to make a category icon template you can use over and over again. If you have a lot of stores and/or a lot of categories, the consistency can get away from you if you re-design your store or Zazzle re-designs for us.

You can tell that has happened to me!

You can use JPG/JPEG files with a white background or PNG files with a transparent background. A blending option of normal would be better in general for shadows, but the default multiply option is okay for these icons.

Sampling of Zazzle Category Icons

Below are some variations of category icons you can check out for ideas on creating your own. Your available space is square, but you can fill that space in creative ways.

Simple Category Icons

Simple titles can work if you don’t have too many.

Category Icons Using Zazzle Titling

Some storekeepers plan space for the Zazzle titling and others let it fall where it may. When you consider the variety of devices used by shoppers and how the titling adjusts for the device, this is not unreasonable. Don’t think that how YOU see your store is how it is seen by everyone!

Category Icons With Own Titling

Some stores incorporate actual Zazzle product images into their icons, as Liberty Maniacs has done. FamilyTreed* did so to a lesser extent, but has some products pop out of the frame. BluntCard chose a random product to represent categories of product type rather than design. I think it makes shopping easier when it is easy to distinguish categories from products as Jennifer Stuart has done. A title bar is popular and you can mix and match sample products with designs as done on the Beachwalker* store.

Have you seen some category icon designs that really tickled your fancy? Please share in the comments below – I love to get new ideas, too!

Zazzle Category Cautions

I would caution anyone not to spend too much time on category options for three reasons.

One, there’s no telling when Zazzle will make a change that renders them all obsolete (burned once, twice shy)

Secondly, they may not display so well on every device, so you might not get the effect you want.

Thirdly, Zazzle is steering customers AWAY from storefronts in a very determined way, so your category designs may never be seen. If you send customers directly to your storefront yourself, that’s different.

Best of luck with your designing!

*My own stores

Zazzle Storebuilder Premium Plugin

The Zstore Helper Plugin – Premium Edition is no longer available for sale. If you already have a copy, it should still be working, but there won’t be any updates.

Bill H (aka FishTsdotcom) had developed a premium version of Paul Robinson’s free Zstore Helper plugin and offered it for sale on his site. Bill and Paul had worked out the arrangement between them about the plugin.

I learned a few days ago that Bill passed away this past February and all of his web properties have since been taken down. I don’t know the legal status of that particular WordPress Zazzle plugin.

RIP, Bill. Your Zazzle colleagues have missed you and will remember you as a helpful and friendly contributor to our community.


Easy way to pin Zazzle products to Pinterest!

Swimming pool in Costa Rica with Pacific Ocean in the background.

Swimming pool in Costa Rica with Pacific Ocean in the background.

Are you a fan of Pinterest? No, not for saving recipes and collecting photos of places you’d dream about going to if you really wanted to dive with dolphins while wearing your size 4 bikini* and spending all your Zazzle loot. Oh, never mind about the loot. We aren’t making it anyway AND we are going on Pinterest for a totally different reason!

pinterest recipes


Marketing work for promoting your Zazzle products.

A tool for pinning Zazzle products to Pinterest

I’m presuming you already know why you’d want to have a Pinterest business account and how to use it. It’s almost Christmas, you’d better be doing something!

So, all this marketing is a pain, but people do get traffic from Pinterest so it’s worthwhile. I know they send me traffic, but I don’t have any referrals that I can truly trace back to there. I don’t know if they strip the rf codes or not. I check every time AND use a tracking code, but I have no evidence that affiliating from Pinterest works. And no evidence that it doesn’t.

So, this is something we want to make easier, right?

Well, Beck, from PencilPlus, CardFactory, CasePlus and FotoPlus has created a pretty handy tool for searching through Zazzle products and setting them up for affiliating. He posts about it occasionally in the Zazzle forums. The tool is called Zazzle Affiliate Helper and is available on his site,

Today, he added a very sweet feature: the ability to “pin” from the Zazzle Affiliate Helper directly to Pinterest. You don’t have to keep re-doing a search. You pin and go back to the search results, pin again, and so on. Easy!

The tool is free to use. Beck just asks that you pin some of his products while you’re at it. A lot of his fit well onto my LakeEffects boards, so I pinned a bunch tonight.

Here’s an illustrated guide to the pinning process.

Info in the the turquoise colored boxes, but just follow along. Or just wing it yourself!

1. Go to Zazzle Affiliate Helper

2. Add your associate ID in the box.


3. Add a search term or store name to the top box.


 4. Choose a product. Now pin that Zazzle product and start the pinning process. I chose the seahorse phone case.


5. The Seahorse phone case shows up on my Beachwalker board.


6. Check the source box and note that your referral code is included and so is a Pinterest tracking code. zah-6

7. Rinse and repeat!

I will post back here if I sell any seahorse cases in the next few days!

What about you? Are you seeing good results when you pin Zazzle products to Pinterest? Do you get referrals there? Add a comment if you are – or aren’t.

If this was helpful info to you, please share!

*Pinterest users are 70% women, according to (2013). But you knew that, right? And, in the interests of disclosure, I really was in that pool in Costa Rica. My beer is in the photograph; I am not. 🙂


How to increase your Zazzle referral income

Are you a storekeeper or affiliate? You probably already know how the Zazzle program for referrals works. It’s a way for anyone to earn money through the sales of Zazzle products. Got a website? Create an ad on it. Hanging out on Pinterest or Google+ or Facebook? Post links to products you like or that you think your audience will buy. Do let people know that links are potential money-makers for you – it’s polite and the FTC says it’s the right thing to do.

If you’re an artist, you can let people know they can refer your work so you both earn money when a product sells.

Are there ways to increase your Zazzle referral income?

Are you expecting the affiliate program to do things it’s not meant to do? Or things it’s unable to do?

Of course, not. Right?

Are you sure?

Three pieces of advice:

  1. Understand the program.
  2. Right-size your expectations.
  3. Plug the leaks

If you can manage to get the referral system down, you will make more money on Zazzle. Referrals are paid out at 15% of the base price (the only good thing about the recent price increase) so you may make more in referral than royalty. There used to be this nice volume bonus program . . . oh, wait, there still is a volume bonus program. It’s just not that nice anymore, but the only way it does work now is if you refer the product.

Earnings are maximized if you refer your own product. Many people concentrate on marketing OR designing, however. They both take time and they call for different skills.

Let’s start with the new news about referrals – a contest!

The Zazzle referral contest for October recently announced a surprise contest, Awards for Associate Superstars, on their blog. Associates with the most referrals at the end of October can get a share of $500 worth of AMEX cards.

It hasn’t gone over very well among the vocal storekeepers (SKs) and the details are sketchy. . .

How this is supposed to work: the most dollars earned in referrals? the most number of referred sales? the most volume of referred products?

And – are the big affiliates included, the ones who earn tens of thousands of dollars plus each month in referrals? This probability really made people shrug off this contest. It’s already won, right? And what is $200 to anyone at that level?

[edited to add: Clarification posted in the public Zazzle forums that the person with the highest number of referrals will win.]

Nevertheless,  the announcement of this contest is a good reminder to us to step up our referrals game! Especially with the holiday season upon us!

Should you pay for advertising to get referrals?

A Zazzle blogger, Elizabeth P, is now suggesting taking out Facebook and/or Google ads. Yikes! Don’t think about cliff-diving into those waters until you know how to swim first.

Personally, I have not done either yet. Taken out Facebook or Google ads, I mean. I did jump off a cliff once (this one), but it wasn’t that high and I was drinking and succumbed to peer pressure. Don’t you drink and dive!!! I gave it up, myself.

Your marketing skills and products should be pretty solid before you move to paid ads, IMO. Facebook and Google ads can be a crapshoot (i.e., risky venture). All I know is, if you don’t set limits, you could be very sorry. There are plenty of ways to get your feet wet and improve your marketing skills before you start shelling out money. If you’re ready for paid ads, you probably already know it and are doing it. The big affiliates spend scary amounts of money on marketing, but they are doing so with a solid base of knowledge of where and how to market and what to promote. In other words, actual statistics are playing a big role in their success.

Basic referral linking

Creating referral links properly is the very first way to increase your Zazzle referral income! And it’s free! Ensure you create working referral links whether for websites, social media, email, etc, before you move on to anything else. Referrals won’t work everywhere because some sites strip out referral codes, but you’ll increase your chances of earning a referral. In fact referrals are very touchy: if a customer has cookies turned off, switches computers, substitutes their own rf code, etc, you are SOL. You can only work on that which is under your control.

The hard truth is: you will not get every referral you think you earned on Zazzle.

I’m assuming you’re already pretty familiar with this info, but I’ll just note the basics. The best way to create referral links is to use tools that do it for you. The Zazzle sharing tools for products are super quick and easy to use. Or there are scripts, like the free Rob Greenleaf link-builder, that you can set up. You can also hand-code your links – try a copy-and-paste method to avoid typos and other errors.

Would you be surprised that not everyone does this right? I have a friend on a Zazzle-related forum who argues that she never gets any referrals. Out of curiosity, I took a look at her website.

That is, I looked at the code. This is super-easy to do! I poke around the back end of websites all the time.

Sneak a peek behind the code curtains

Depending on your operating system and/or browser, you will find the source code in different ways. You want to access View Source.

A free extension on Firefox or Chrome,Web Developer by Chris Pederrick, is one easy way to check. On Chrome, Web Developer will install a little gear wheel near the URL box. On Firefox, you have the option to display an entire toolbar for Web Developer.

In Web Developer, look for “View Source”. This will open a new page that shows all the code for the page you were looking at. This is how reverse-engineering and bug-fixing starts. Don’t worry about understanding all of it. We are looking for for specific bits of code. You do know how to do a search, right? (cmd+F or cmd+G works on a Mac)

Now, search the source page for “”. Every single linked instance of on that page should include a referral link. If it doesn’t, you are already shooting yourself in the foot and cliff diving would be redundantly dangerous.

Here are examples of auto-generated links to which I added the tracking code. site => store => product =>

source code

Example of source code for above text.

That’s the source code for the links and paragraph above. Notice the color coding that shows your links in blue. What happened to the ampersand? It turns into & [which is the ASCII code for an ampersand. Thank you, Circus Valley!]. The target=”_blank” means the link will open in a new tab.  

Note that a page or product link has a specific format: after the URL, parameters perform extra functions. For Zazzlers, these functions can include referral (associate) ID, tracking code, promotional code, campaign code and so on. The first attached item after the URL gets a ? before it. All subsequent items each start with & and may be in any order. Zazzle gives the details on your Associates page (yes, that is a referral link! Why not?).

Do you know what your associate ID looks like? I don’t have mine memorized, but I do know the first and last bits of the number. Here are two examples of referral links to a store. Zazzle uses both when creating links for you. The asterisk is valid, but may be stripped out more often than the rf code. It does look better on business cards and such, however.


Tracking codes (tc) will show up on your earnings report so you know which links are leading to sales. Typical tracking codes might be FB (Facebook), PIN (Pinterest), email. Add your tc like this:


So, looking at my friend’s site again. . .

Bad news. She’s missing a bunch of ampersands with her parameters – they aren’t separated from each other. I’m pretty sure that kills the referral aspect!

Don’t be stupid nice, just be nice

Are you sending customers to links on the Zazzle coupon page?


Seriously, why are you doing that? It’s a big distraction and you risk not only decreasing your income, but also losing the customer to the next bright shiny object! Be strategic and creative about how you share cost savings opportunities. Look for a win-win opportunity instead of giving money away.

OK, you want to be nice.

Just don’t be so nice that you don’t include a referral code when you share coupon or discount information!

Sigh. My friend did that, too. She had links to the coupon page with no referral code. At least if you’re throwing money out the window, you can watch how happy you make some people walking by.

If you throw money away to Zazzle, they just add it to the vault and go back to riding their fixie bikes into the California sunshine life and cuddling Smushimals while eating custom chocolate bars in colorful hammocks. (LOL – see how easy it is to add referral links? Those are all new Zazzle products.)

EVERY time you link to Zazzle on your site, make sure you include your affiliate link. Yes, I’m repeating myself!

Stop all the leaks – here’s a new one!

Did you ever have a favorite pair of jeans that you wore until they turned white and were as thin and fragile as butterfly wings? Probably the pockets had holes in them by then and sometimes you’d forget and stick a handful of change in your right front pocket.

Ping! Ching!

Money would slide out of your pocket and you maybe never noticed.  That is what can easily happen with referral links.

So, what makes your Zazzle system leak? Improperly coded links and missing rf codes are the biggies that you can control.

One new phenomenon I discovered recently – to my dismay – is on my own site. You know how Zazzle updated everything this summer? They also updated some of the banners. Banners are free tools for us to use: advertisements for categories of gifts (Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc) that you can add to your website. See examples in the right-hand column.

You won’t earn Zazzle referrals this way!

Anyway, I was doing a View Source on my own page and was shocked to see that a new stock Zazzle banner I had added had NO REFERRAL CODE.

What? Zazzle always included your code automatically for you just like on the sharing buttons. They SAY they include it, but it’s not there. . This is what I call a half-broken tool. That’s dangerous, because you think it works and it hurts you instead.

See for yourself.

From the Associates banner page on Zazzle

From the Associates banner page on Zazzle




Well! That’s not very nice. They say it’s there, but it’s not.

So, check all your banners, especially the new ones. The old ones kept the referral codes intact and they still work.

There have been a lot of disconnects on Zazzle with all the changes. You can see my comments as Beachwalker about these on the Zazzle public forum. I honestly don’t know what to think about this one, but it does not give me a warm fuzzy feeling. It’s kinda cold like that Lake Superior water down at the bottom of the cliff I jumped off. (You know I didn’t actually dive, right?)

However, you probably want to add a tracking code anyway, so check and make sure all your links, whether text or banner, do include your affiliate code. This is like putting on your water shoes before you go near that cliff. 🙂

What else about Zazzle referrals?

There is a lot to learn and know about Zazzle referrals. Things change, too: the old zbar seems obsolete now. There are ways to structure referral links, use shortened links and include promotional codes. Some social media (Wanelo, sometimes Facebook or Pinterest or Twitter) sites strip the rf codes. Unscrupulous people strip and replace them with their own. There are sharks in the water at the bottom of that cliff!

I am no expert coder and I don’t make tons of money with referrals, but I’m getting better at it. People at Zazzle and associated with Zazzle have developed a variety of tools to help with referring and I suggest you check them out and keep learning. If you have recommendations, please add them in the comments. This is by no means an all-inclusive on referrals.

Even if you and I have no chance to win $200 in the contest, more referrals = more money!

Happy referring! If you liked this post, please share it!


What does the Zazzle Volume Bonus change really mean?

*** note: this post is a bit of an info-rant *** will send out September checks and PayPal deposits in two weeks for July sales.

This will be the first month with zero – or almost zero – Volume Bonus in the payments of many Zazzle storekeepers (SK). For me, it will be the first time since February 2009 that I won’t get any Volume Bonus.

It’s going to hurt. Some of us will be hurt more than others, but anyone who had halfway decent sales is kissing significant money good-bye.

That’s how it works when you’re not in charge, isn’t it? We don’t negotiate these deals, we just pray not to be dropped too hard.

Are you at the mercy of those bigger than you?

Are you at the mercy of those bigger than you?

 What Zazzle was up to this summer

If you have been on Zazzle for awhile and paying attention, you know about the constant changes. That is simply how internet-based companies operate. Plus, they make changes in the summer in order to be prepared for the holiday season. Starting late last fall, there was a tremendous surge of downward pricing pressure put on storekeepers with implied promises that everyone would “make it up in volume,” and threats that no affiliates would refer your products if you didn’t lower your royalties below 25%. Then 15%. Then 13.3%. Now 10% with 5% on the horizon.

In June, Zazzle SKs and affiliates got official notification of this summer’s changes. Mega-changes and definitely not to the benefit of storekeepers. At least, not that we can see.

The entire Zazzle architecture was re-done with limited apparent input from UX experts. The storefronts changed – SK customization was wiped out overnight and stores became pasty pale shadows of their former selves. (Thankfully, SK protests were heeded and the colors revised!) The Zazzle look itself got stunningly attractive. (They have got some great product photographers and product displays being shown.)

Across-the-board 5% price increases went into effect. Base royalty prices dropped from 10% to 5%. The 5% high-royalty penalty kicks in at 15% instead of 20.1%. The design tools changed. The font tool, especially, went to hell. That was all fun.


Re-cap of what happened to the Zazzle Volume Bonus

The biggest impact for many SKs, however, is the change to the Volume Bonus. To give you an idea, many SKs have compared it to “what CafePress did to us” several years ago. [In 2009 CafePress changed their royalty policy and put a lot of people out of business and shocked and angered many more. A lot of those designers fled to Zazzle as a safe haven. I was one of those already on Zazzle who bailed out of CP.]

The generous Volume Bonus (VB) that we all loved has, essentially, been done away with. We Zazzle storekeepers and affiliates used to get VB for sales we referred as well as for our own sales that had not been referred. It could add up to a nice bit of change if you were a solid seller. That is hundreds or thousands of dollars each month could have been earned solely from VB. The more you sold, the higher the percentage of VB as well. It was really nice at the holidays.

Well, that’s gone. Some people are going to sink.

Is your vessel in danger of capsizing?

Is your vessel in danger of capsizing?

What’s left is a new and eviscerated version of VB. Here’s how it is more politically described on the Zazzle blog:

Volume Bonus Becomes Associate Volume Bonus (from the Zazzle blog)

We’re committed to providing strong incentives to all Zazzle community members to encourage each person to put in the extra effort in generating more awareness for products on Zazzle. With that in mind, starting July 1st, the current volume bonus structure will be transitioned to a Zazzle Associate Bonus Program. You can make money by referring customers to Zazzle. We believe that this new program will align the Zazzle community around generating the most revenue from referred traffic [emphasis added]. As a Zazzle Seller you are already enrolled in this new program!

In a nutshell, Zazzle doesn’t need more artists. Creators are a dime a dozen and expendable. What it needs are marketers who promote products.

Here are the details laid out in the new Volume Bonus Program Terms published by Zazzle,

The Bonus will be calculated as a percentage of Base Sales on a domain-by-domain and currency-by-currency basis as follows:

1% of Base Sales for Base Sales in the applicable month from $100 to $999.99; plus
5% of Base Sales for Base Sales in the applicable month from $1,000 to $4,999.99; plus
12% of Base Sales for Base Sales in the applicable month from $5,000 to $99,999.99; plus
17% of Base Sales for Base Sales in the applicable month $100,000 and above.

Base Sales means the purchase price received from the customer less the Markup Amount; amounts charged for shipping, handling, packaging, insurance, and sales or similar taxes; refunds, credits, and reversals; and the face value of the postage (if the revenue is for Zazzle Custom Stamps). The Markup Amount means the purchase price multiplied by either the Royalty Rate applicable to the product sale or the Standard Royalty Rate in the case of the sale of a private product.

So, if I’m figuring this right, the Volume Bonus has been negatively impacted by three factors:

  1. It only applies to sales for which you get credit for the referral instead of everything that wasn’t referred.
  2. The percentages dropped. A lot.
  3. The percentages are applied on a lower base price now (5% instead of 10%)

If  you want to torture yourself without banging your head on your desk, read the Previous Volume Bonus Program Terms here:

Volume Bonus Program prior to July 1st

To recognize Sellers and Associates who make Zazzle successful, we offer the following volume bonus program.The following terms of this agreement (“Agreement”) apply if you create public products, design(s) or art for sale on the websites owned or operated by or for Zazzle Inc. (“Zazzle”) and/or participate in the Zazzle Associates Program.Every month, Zazzle will pay you a bonus amount (“Bonus”) based upon the following sales:

  1. A sale of a product for which you earned a Royalty, which was not subject to a Referral Carve out (as defined in the Non-exclusive License Agreement); OR
  2. A sale of a product for which you earned a referral fee.

The Bonus will be calculated as percentage of Base Sales on a domain-by-domain and currency-by-currency basis as follows:

  1. 7% of Base Sales for Base Sales in the applicable month from $100 to $999.99; plus
  2. 12% of Base Sales for Base Sales in the applicable month from $1000 to $4999.99; plus
  3. 17% of Base Sales for Base Sales in the applicable month $5,000 and over.

Base Sales means the purchase price received from the customer less the Markup Amount; amounts charged for shipping, handling, packaging, insurance, and sales or similar taxes; refunds, credits, and reversals; and the face value of the postage (if the revenue is for Zazzle Custom Stamps). The Markup Amount means the purchase price multiplied by either the Royalty Rate applicable to the product sale or the Standard Royalty Rate in the case of the sale of a private product.

You want it spelled out in dollars and cents?

OK, here’s a couple of examples of what the change in Zazzle Volume Bonus means for a moderate and a very good seller. Assume all sales were U.S.A. based and evenly split among self-referred, 3rd party referred and not referred. These are all rough samples and do not take all the nuances into account. That said, they are, to the best of my knowledge, what we called “directionally correct” where I used to work.

Example 1. A moderate seller who is covering maybe the car payment and groceries and a few extras with their Zazzle income. She has sold $3000 in BASE sales of Zazzle merchandise.

Under the old plan, she would get a volume bonus based on 2/3 of that $3000.

  • 7% VB on $900 = $63.
  • 12% VB on $1000 = $120
  • Total VB = $183

Under the new plan, she would get a VB based on only 1/3 of that $3000, or $1000 is VB eligible. Actually, with the increased prices and the decreased base price, the math gets way crazy.

  • 1% on $900 = $9
  • Total VB ≤ $9

Her royalty check could vary widely with those sales, based on how she has prices set, but let’s say it was $600. The $183 in VB was a nice add and buys groceries. That’s a 20+% drop in income.

Example 2. A good seller who makes a living from Zazzle. She has sold $30,000 in in BASE sales. That’s maybe $6000 in commission.

Under the old plan, she would get a volume bonus based on 2/3 of that $30,000. That’s $20,000.

  • 7% VB on $900 = $63.
  • 12% VB on $4000 = $480
  • 17% VB on $15,000 = $2550.
  • Total VB = $3093

Under the new plan, she would get a VB based on only 1/3 or $10,000.

  • 1% on $900 = $9
  • 5% on $4000 = $200
  • 12% on $10,000 = $120
  • Total VB ≤ $329 (again, not taking the price changes into account)

Well, to put it bluntly – that sucks.

How are you handling the change in Zazzle Volume Bonus terms?

Based on way-too-extensive forum readings, Zazzle storekeepers are suffering the stages of grief: Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. Some of them are making others of us crazy (crazier).

So, you suffer. And then you do something. Right now, IMO, SKs fall into these categories of cliche:

  1. Ignorance is bliss. “Hey, did I miss something? I haven’t been reading my emails or checking out the forums.”
  2. The good soldier. “Zazzle’s been good to me so far. I will trust they are doing what is best. I will carry on my mission to bring cartoon donkey designs to the masses. PBJ sandwiches are good enough.”
  3. The grass is still greener.  “Yeah, it sucks that Zazzle has arbitrarily cut my income by 10% or 30%, but it still seems the best POD out there. I’m glad we have another income.”
  4. Eggs in one basket. “Where can I find other baskets like this one used to be where I can put my precious designs? I didn’t know they could step on the basket and crush it!”
  5. Exit, stage left? “It’s been nice to work from home and take of my kids, my mom, my garden, but it’s not going to work anymore. I’m outta here.”
  6. Panickers. “OMG! I am disabled and/or unemployable. What will I do with a big cut to my Zazzle income?”
  7. Stock-takers. “OK, this is bad, but Zazzle is still be one of my income and artistic-expression options. Now, what can I do to make it less-bad?”
  8. Shruggers. “I wasn’t making any money with Zazzle anyway, so I’m only losing a dollar or two each month.”
  9. Pollyanna. “I’ll just work harder and make it up on volume. I think I can! I think I can!” (OK, that became the Little Engine that Could but you’d have to know that it was possible before you tell that story, right?)
  10. Newbies.  “I won’t miss what I didn’t have.”

I had a category for Idiots and Whiners, but that was non-productive. There’s no cure for stupid, anyway.

Still in the game?

OK, you’ve taken a deep breath. You’ve decided you’re still in this game. Whether you are a Stock-taker, Pollyanna or Panicker, you want to learn to play better, even if you play less and turn your focus elsewhere. What can you do? On Zazzle, specifically, that is.

First, consider what variables do we, as storekeepers, control?

We control the designs we create or license, the way we apply them to products, when we add new products, how many products we generate, how we title, describe, categorize and tag them, how we promote them and how we price them. With those factors, making more money (or getting back to where we were) means that we have four levers to pull:

  1. Sell more
  2. Refer more
  3. Pricing optimization
  4. Timing

So, with referrals becoming more important to earning an income online with the POD business, we have to make sure we get the ones we work for. The next post has some info you may not have realized about getting the referrals you work for.


Can you change tactics and set sail again?


Do you know what your Zazzle invitation paper looks like?

Recycled Desert Environment paper

Recycled Desert Environment paper

New invitation paper at Zazzle

The Zazzle invitation paper selection has been increased to eight different types (not counting Speckled since it’s been out of stock for ages). I don’t know if there are new suppliers or what – this change happened last week. The textures have gotten much more interesting! I ordered a selection of all of them and can’t wait to get my hands on them. For us tactile people, new paper is exciting!

I created color swatch / photograph samples of all the variations and ordered them so I will be able to see exactly how the colors and textures affect designs. In the bottom right corner of each invite is the paper type and color name. Trust me, none of us will recognize each of them for sure for a long time. You probably want to get your hands on at least some of these as well!

Zazzle invitation paper menu

Zazzle invitation paper menu

Papers range from an affordable smooth basic paper to textured, art paper style, watermarked and shimmery metallic. There are also two choices of recycled paper. The Desert Environment option (top image) looks beautiful to me! Wouldn’t it look great with a line drawing and minimal colors?

Tip: The drop down menu for color choices is all the way at the bottom – you have to SCROLL! It only shows if there is a choice of colors available.

Zazzle Invitation Paper Styles and Colors

Paper Type: Basic in White

A crisp professional paper with a smooth matte finish designed for vibrant full-color printing. 110lb cover-weight. 50% recycled content (10% post-consumer and 40% pre-consumer waste).

Color Sample Basic Announcements

Paper Type: Delicate in Grooved White and Champagne

(edited to add this descripton 8/5/13)

Grooved: A bright, delicate paper made with embossed horizontal grooves and a matte finish. Elegant, yet lightweight enough to be incorporated easily into DIY wedding, birthday, and event invitations. 80lb text-weight.

Champagne: A warm, delicate paper made with smooth texture and matte finish. Elegant, yet lightweight enough to be incorporated easily into DIY wedding, birthday, and event invitations. 80lb text-weight.

Color Sample Delicate Grooved White Personalized Invite Color Sample Delicate Champagne Announcements

Paper Type: Recycled in White and Desert Environmental

A smooth finished matte paper made with 100% post-consumer paper content. 100lb cover-weight. A cost effective and eco-friendly choice for any invitation or announcement.
Color Sample Recycled White Cards Color Sample Recycled Desert Environmental Announcement

Paper Type: Felt in Bright, Warm and Cream

A warm, buff-toned paper featuring an embossed finish that feels just like fine art paper. 100lb cover-weight. Perfect for wedding invitations or party invitations.
Color Sample Felt Bright Custom Invitations Color Sample Felt Warm Invite Color Sample Felt Cream Custom Invites

Paper Type: Columned in White

A sustainable cotton blended paper featuring vertical columns texture and a matte finish. Always a classic choice, this paper’s texture and thickness is great for formal weddings and parties. 110lb cover-weight. 25% cotton, 50% post-consumer content. (note: the columns are vertical on the vertical invitations and horizontal on horizontal. 🙂 )
Color Sample Columned Invitations

Paper Type: Laid in Ivory and Speckled

Designed to harken back to the first hand-made papers, this paper features a laid watermark and matte finish. This luxury paper is great for creating invitations and announcements with an ageless, bespoke look and feel. 80lb cover-weight. 30% post-consumer content.
Color Sample Laid Ivory Personalized Announcements Color Sample Laid Speckled Announcements

Paper Type: Linen in White, Bright, Warm and Pearl

An elegant paper made with beautiful linen texture of embossed lines and a matte finish. 90lb cover-weight. Perfect for wedding invitations and most formal occasions. (note: Pearl is a premium color)
Color Sample Linen White Custom Invitations Color Sample Linen Bright Announcements Color Sample Linen Warm Personalized Invites Color Sample Linen Pearl Custom Invites

Paper Type: Metallic in Ice, Silver, Champagne and Gold

A shimmery paper featuring a distinctive tint and smooth finish. 110lb cover-weight. Perfect for adding a bright shine to your invitations and announcements.
Color Sample Metallic Ice Invites Color Sample Metallic Silver Custom Announcements Color Sample Metallic Champagne Personalized Invitations Color Sample Metallic Gold Personalized Announcement
The total available variety of paper and color combination is now 19 choices!

So, what does this mean to you as a designer or buyer of custom invitations?

Well, it might mean you are designing in the dark – and buying likewise – if you don’t have samples of the paper choices and an idea how they change the colors and might affect how a very fine line font appears on the paper. If you are a designer, you could make a set of papers for yourself with a selection of colors. This is time-consuming, but worthwhile. Or you can order a selection of these and save yourself some of the work.

Some of the colors change significantly when you change the paper.

And white disappears!

White takes on the color of the paper, so if you want white, plan ahead. You can see on the back of one of these invites that there is no difference between clear and white. However, there are still many choices for white papers:

  • Basic White
  • Delicate Grooved White
  • Recycled White
  • Felt Bright
  • Columned
  • Linen (all four choices are pretty close to white, just warmer and cooler shades)

What about the prices of the new invitation papers?

Pricing depends on so many things!

  1. Invitation size – the eight sizes of paper have different prices
  2. Paper style and color – six tiers (see below)
  3. Quantity – volume or bulk discount available
  4. Designer – designers may set prices based upon the design style
  5. Promotions – available sales or coupons

There are six tiers of price of invitation papers. From least expensive to the most premium price:

  • Basic White
  • Delicate Champagne / Grooved White
  • Recycled White
  • Recycled Desert Environment, Laid, Felt, Columned, Linen White / Warm/Bright
  • Linen Pearl
  • Metallic Ice / Silver / Gold / Champagne

New invitation policy at Zazzle

Customers and designers can now order just one invitation as a sample. In the past, everyone had to order at least ten invitations. You could always return them if you didn’t like them, but it was still a bit of a hassle. Now designers, brides, moms, party-givers and anyone else can order sample invitations. You still get a volume discount even if you order different invitations!

Are there sample-samples or kits available?

Zazzle used to offer a wedding kit with sample papers and stickers and such, but it has been discontinued. You can make your own samples as I have done here, order one of your invitations on a variety of papers or order a selection of these. You may want to order different sizes as well. It’s surprising how small the 3.5 x 5″ invite really is, for example, when you actually see it. That size is popular for RSVP cards, but not so much for invitations.

If you make your own, be sure to include a labeled selection of colors, some fine text AND the name of the paper type. Also, add a photograph if any of your designs include them! An image that includes a person’s face will tell you how you’d like that paper. This would be important especially for Save the Date or Graduation announcements where photos template designs are very popular.

Or you can order these already done from my Beachwalker store’s color samples– I won’t mind! LOL

Variation among papers on a photograph

Variation among papers on a photograph


Earn more money on Zazzle!

Do you want to earn more money on Zazzle? If you’re selling right now, be sure to optimize your profits on each and every product! This 5 minute video shows you how.

Profit on Zazzle products is influenced by several main factors:

  1. Royalty
  2. Sales and coupons
  3. Referrals

This video shows you how to look at the royalty you set in combination with the price and profit. It appears today that the advanced royalty calculator on Zazzle is working properly again!

Don’t forget that royalty changes only go into effect once a month now. (Thank you, Google!) The cut-off is the 20th, but you really want to get your changes in by the 19th, just to be sure. It takes a few days after the 20th for the changes to show up.

WATCH: Handy Tool for Copyright Permissions

Someone said it so well. . .

Have you ever wanted to quote someone – maybe on posters you’re creating on – and wondered how to get copyright permissions? Or if, indeed, you needed permission at all? One resource is the US government: US Copyright Office. That lets you search by works created since 1978. Then what?

But how about simply conducting a copyright permissions search by typing in an artist’s or writer’s name? Try WATCH!

What is WATCH?

The University of Reading (Reading, England) and the Harry Ransom Center (Austin, TX) together offer a searchable database of copyright contacts for writers, artists and prominent figures in other creative fields. These are the companies who can authorize (license) copyright permissions.

Read the information about the database on their About page. Note the head’s up for totally relying on WATCH as the be-all, end-all of copyright / permission information, but this is a great start.

To try it out, I enter Winston Churchill’s name. He was a very quotable person in the 20th century!

Search box for Churchill

Search box for Churchill

The results in the second box indicate with whom I should check before quoting Churchill, especially for commercial use such as for Zazzle designs. (BTW, I have zero idea if they do grant permission or not; I did not contact them.)

Winston Churchill results

Winston Churchill results

If a search turned up a licensing company, I assume I have to seek permission to use work from that artist or writer. If it turned up blank, I’d think I might be ok, but I learned better with the Oscar Wilde example!

The results for Oscar Wilde are more ambiguous on WATCH because they have notes about differing UK and USA rules AND an address in France! I don’t understand this one at all, I have to say.
Oscar Wilde search results

I used to believe that if a work pre-dated 1923, it was ok to use. Well, maybe. Maybe not. So, I try to check it I’m going to quote someone. I also double-check the source of a quote – you would not believe how many quotes are falsely attributed to Kurt Vonnegut, for instance!)

I, myself, had some Oscar Wilde quotes removed from Zazzle which was a puzzle. Wilde lived from 1854-1900, so his work would ordinarily have gone into public domain by its age. This was one of the tricky ones! I don’t pretend to understand it, but I believe it has more to do with trademark than copyright. This particular writer’s info is perhaps not fully addressed by the WATCH site. (They caution you for good reasons!)

Since I had products taken down, I did a separate Google search on “Oscar Wilde copyright” and was taken to a website of a licensing company, CMG. The Official Web Site of Oscar Wilde has more info (FAQ) and links back to CMG.

 Permission and

There are differences in using quotes in editorially, commercially and personally, so be sure to check! If you stand to make money utilizing someone else’s words, art, or other creative work, you may very well have to gain permission and possible a licensing agreement. What that entails, you have to find out on an individual basis. If you do pursue it, know that

  • You may or may not get permission.
  • You may or may not be able to afford the conditions under which you could get permission.
  • The cost of not finding out may be even higher, however!

For those of us creating on if you have permission to use someone else’s work, you may want to post a notice on your site AND contact Zazzle to show proof of that permission. Zazzle has been known to remove alledgedly offending products without warning and, often, without much recourse for the artist. An ounce of prevention saves a ton of problems later!

On the Zazzle help page,the acceptable content guidelines note:  No text or images that infringe on any intellectual property rights including, but not limited to copyrights, trademarks and rights of privacy/publicity. More info about the Zazzle copyright policy may be found on this help page.

There are always people looking out for other artists who will report designs they think infringe on someone else’s rights. (That’s not the ideal protocol, but it happens.) Additionally, licensing companies may do automated searches of the web to look for possible violators. Zazzle undoubtedly has a list of artists, writers, celebrities, companies, etc whose intellectual property may not be added without permission.

If you have ever had something taken down, you know how troubling that may be. This is one way to help yourself stay out of trouble!

As artists and creators ourselves, we should understand this subject from both sides. 🙂

Note: I am not a lawyer, nor offering legal advice. The information here may be outdated by the time you read this! And IP law is evolving all the time. WATCH is one tool available on line to help you research intellectual property concerns. It’s important to understand that there are different kinds of rights out there and intellectual property law is a complicated subject. Another online tool you should become familiar with besides the Copyright Office noted above is the US Trademark Office search.