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Sean McDunn

4 Months Ago

Transparency In Discussions

I haven't been in the discussions in a very long time, but Abbie keeps me up-to-date each week regarding important questions that get posted, bugs that get identified, etc.

Last week, we made a small change to our search engine, and like clockwork, the inevitable "sky is falling" post got started about how FAA is terrible... the change to the search engine is killing sales... FAA only cares about big sellers... FAA is lying to everyone... FAA is on the decline... FAA is turning in Walmart... etc.

Those sort of posts have occurred after every single website change going all the way back to 2006.

In the past, I used to come in and explain why we're doing what we're doing, but as you all know (as active forum participants), it's almost impossible to change anyone's opinion via a back-and-forth on the internet. The discussions always go nowhere. If you think that a change is bad for you for some reason, no amount of explaining will change your mind. Sales might go up by 20% this year on FAA, but if your sales go down by 10%, then FAA is terrible in your mind.

So - for years, instead of engaging in all sorts of discussions that went nowhere, I just let people continue to post inaccurate statements and wild theories that would go unchallenged. This weekend, however, as I read through some of the advice that was being dispensed here in the forum by certain artists and the statements that were being treated as fact, I started to feel bad for the artists who are here to learn.

When a "sky is falling" post gets started, there is a lot of bad information that gets thrown around as if it's fact, and that's got to be very discouraging and confusing to the artists who are here to learn.

So - we're going to do something about it.

In this post, I'm going to correct some of the wildly inaccurate statements that have been posted in the forum over the past few years and also discuss a new feature that we're releasing which will help you distinguish fact from fiction.

I've written every single line of code that runs this business... have access to every data point regarding every single sale... and am the person making every major decision from high-level strategic partnerships all the way done to graphic design changes on the homepage. After reading through everything below, if your reaction is to say that I don't know what I'm talking about, then there's nothing that I can do to convince you otherwise. That's just the nature of the internet. No one wants to change their mind.

So - here we go.

Transparency When Discussing Sales
There are 500,000+ artists on FAA, but only about 250 participate in the discussions. That is a very small subset of the overall artist population. Unfortunately, none of our Top 50 sellers participate here. That's unfortunate because many of the artists who are here in the forums each day are here seeking sales advice, and ideally, you want to seek advice from someone who is selling successfully on a regular basis.

In my opinion, one of the biggest problems with our discussion forum, in particular, occurs whenever discussions turn to the topic of "sales", and artists start giving advice to other artists.

There is no nice way to put this. There are a lot of artists in the discussion forum who don't make any sales on FAA. In the following discussion about the search engine, for example, there are a total of 20 artists currently participating:

Of those 20 artists, there are four who haven't made a single sale in 2018. That means that 20% of the participants who are expressing outrage that a minor change to the search engine has negatively affected their sales actually have no sales, at all, to affect.

Half of the 20 artists have made less than 10 sales, total, in 2018.

Abbie and I are the only two people who know that information because we can see the sales numbers. For everyone else participating in the discussion, it's very difficult to know what to think and whom to listen to.

To compound the issue, there are other artists who routinely dispense sales advice, advertise their own "how to sell art online" books, etc... and never generate any sales, at all, on FAA. I've mentioned this several times over the years. One artist who routinely dispenses advice has only made one sale since 2015.

There is nothing wrong with not selling. After all - many artists are here to learn how to sell. The big issue is when someone who isn't selling is telling you how to sell... or is getting you all worked up by telling you that his/her sales are plummeting when the sales were non-existent to begin with.

In order to address this issue - I've given Abbie the ability to flag certain discussions as "sales discussions". When she flags a discussion as a "sales discussion", our code is going to automatically show the "average monthly sales volume" beneath the headshot for every participant in the discussion.

Here's how the average monthly sales volume is calculated. Our code adds up the total number of items that you've sold in the past twelve months and then divides it by 12. The average will look something like this:

"8 Sales / Month"

It's not a financial disclosure (i.e. a dollar amount). It's just a count of how many products you sell, on average, in a given month. Note - it does not count products that you purchase for yourself.

If Abbie flags a discussion as a "sales discussion", the sales numbers will only be displayed for posts that occur after Abbie changes it to a sales discussion. Also - before you post, you'll see a big warning telling you that you're about to disclose your sales numbers so that you don't disclose the number by accident.

If you have any questions, let me or Abbie know.

Myths 2018

Now, I'm going to address a few of the statements that seem to get tossed around as facts in all of these "sky is falling" posts each year.

Myth #1: FAA doesn't promote our artists.
If you're reading this, you're probably an artist. As a result, you're on our artist e-mail list, and you get artist-related e-mails.

You don't get the buyer e-mails.

If you're on our buyer e-mail list, then you'll see that we're promoting individual artists, groups of artists, and themed collections all the time. Take a look at some of these buyer e-mails:

A new e-mail goes out to the buyers on our e-mail list two times every single week.

We pay to run ads for our featured artists on Facebook, Instagram, and Google.

We pay to load our products onto Amazon and get them featured there.

We hand-select artists to appear on our homepage:

We hand-select artists to appear in our curated collections:

We hand-select artists to appear on our Featured Artist pages:

We publish comprehensive success stories about our featured artists:

We feature new artists on our social media accounts each day.


I've always let the myth that we "don't promote our artists" exist because it stops artists from constantly asking us to promote them. With 500,000+ artists, that's impossible. That's why we always tell you that you have to promote yourself - which is definitely true. However, if you think that we don't promote our best-sellers and heavily feature artists that we think are up-and-coming, that's crazy.

We're the largest art site in the world, and we advertise and promote like crazy.

You have to leave the confines of the discussion forum, contests, and groups, and when you do, you'll see that certain artists are heavily featured throughout the site. We're constantly adding new artists to the mix, as well.

If you want to become a featured artist, the easiest way to get on our radar is to A) generate some sales on your own... B) drive a lot of traffic to your images via your own newsletters and social media... C) get yourself mentioned in an art-related publication / blog... or D) be nice and helpful to other artists on the site.

A and B are self-explantory. If you generate some sales or traffic on FAA, we have algorithms in place that will immediately bring you to the attention of someone on our staff. Also - think of it this way. Every time you make a sale, someone at FAA has to, at the very least, review your images for quality, cropping, etc. You've immediately brought your image and your entire portfolio to our attention, and the person reviewing your image has the ability and the authority to promote your images throughout the site.

I wrote a very lengthy article about kickstarting your sales many, many, many years ago. Here it is:

I'm sure that a lot of links in the article are out-dated, but you get the idea.

The one thing that I can guarantee doesn't help you become a featured artist is constantly being a thorn in Abbie's side, causing trouble for her in the discussion forum, and complaining endlessly about how terrible and unfair the website is to you.

Every month, our staff works with a select group of new and existing artists to promote them both online and in the real world.

Here are two of the many artists that we worked with just last month, alone:

Our staff spent days getting to know both artists... interviewing them... taking them out to lunches... editing videos for Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube... coordinating social media posts... writing press releases... and ultimately paying to drive hundreds of thousands of viewers to the final videos on Facebook and Instagram.

Those sort of personal interactions happen between our staff and our featured artists all the time, and we chose to work with artists who have great artwork and are fun to work with.

Focus on A, B, C, and D, and maybe you'll be featured some day. There are absolutely no guarantees, and that's why we tell everyone that you have to promote yourself in order to be successful. However, if you generate some sales on your own or otherwise bring attention to your artwork through visitors or the media, we'll definitely notice. That's the way all online marketplaces work.

Myth #2: FAA doesn't advertise.
This one is always amusing whenever I see someone write it.

FAA spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising each year. We advertise on Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Amazon. Take a look at Google Shopping, for example, and search for "".

There are millions of FAA products loaded in there. Visit FAA in an "incognito mode" in your browser, and once you leave the site, you'll find yourself seeing FAA ads everywhere that you go online (e.g. on your favorite news site, on Facebook, on YouTube, on the blogs that you read, etc.).

What is "incognito mode"? It hides the cookies from your browser and makes you appear to FAA like a first-time visitor. We run re-targeting ads constantly to first-time visitors. Guess who we don't run ads to? Artists. Once you login to FAA as an artist, we drop a cookie in our browser which tells us that you're an artist, and then you'll almost never see an FAA ad anywhere online. It's a waste of money to run ads at artists when we should be spending our money going after buyers.

Myth #3: The sky is falling.
As an individual artist, your sales are going to fluctuate from month-to-month. As the owner of the company, I can see the sales numbers for every single artist on the site, and I have 12 years worth of sales data at my fingertips. Sales go up and down for individual artists. That's just the nature of the business. You might earn $2,500 one month and then $100 the next. It happens to our best sellers, and it happens to our newest, smallest sellers.

If you're actively marketing yourself, the fluctuations will be smaller, but they'll still be there. One month, one of our wholesale buyers might purchase 10 large prints from you for use in a hotel project, and then the next month, they'll buy zero.

That's going to create a big fluctuation in your sales, and that's completely normal.

When your sales fluctuate, the sky isn't falling.

Too often, a few artists will post in the discussion forum that they had a down month, and all of the sudden, the sky is falling for everyone. It's not.

FAA has been growing non-stop for 12 straight years. We're the largest online art site in the world. We're powering the online sales for 500,000+ independent artists and an ever-expanding list of global brands.

If you want to read about the current state of FAA and the print-on-demand industry, in general, take a look at this article:

My biggest advice is to spend more time focusing on what you can control (e.g. creating incredible artwork, building your online following, building your e-mail list, developing a marketing strategy, collaborating with other artists and brands, building relationships with local art galleries, paying for online ads, etc.) and less time on what you can't (e.g. the FAA search engine, the FAA homepage, the FAA collections, the FAA newsletters, etc.)

If your sales strategy is to upload images to FAA and then sit back and wait for sales to come in, you'll never be happy. I must have written that sentence at least 50 times over the years. If you're in the business of selling art, then you have to treat it like a business and do all of the things that I mentioned, above. You can't just sit back and wait for sales to roll in.

You've probably heard me use the following analogy many times before:

Let's say that you're a musician and that you upload your songs to Apple Music. After a few months with very few sales / streams, you mention to all of your friends that you're not earning any money as a musician, and the reason you're not earning any money is because Apple Music isn't featuring your songs.

Your friends will look at you like you're crazy. They'll ask you if you're playing bars, restaurants, and open mic nights in order to promote yourself and build some buzz. They'll ask you if you're going out on tour to play small festivals. They'll ask you if you've reached out to radio stations and promoters to try to get your songs promoted. They'll ask you if you've reached out to Apple Music, directly, to try to get in touch with their playlist curators.

Everyone knows that music is a business and that musicians need to hustle in order to get their music heard. Musicians know that, and their friends know that. If you just create songs and upload them, it's almost guaranteed that you won't be successful.

It's no different with art. Selling art is a business. You've taken the first step by adding your art to the world's largest marketplace. The next step is to stand out from the crowd, and that takes a lot of hard work. If you do manage to stand out from the crowd... and you're the type of person that people want to work with... then lots of doors will open up for you.

Reply Order

Post Reply

Good info. Thanks Sean.


Cynthia Decker

4 Months Ago

Thank you! The Sales Discussion idea will be really helpful. I only wish it was retroactive!


Excellent.Thank you.


Gill Billington

4 Months Ago

Thanks for taking the time to explain all this Sean and thank you for still allowing us to have a forum despite the negative posts.

I have leaned so much from people who have posted here, I am so glad that I found this site 5 years ago.


Mike Savad

4 Months Ago

that sales thing should be interesting. what i would love to see -a useful member check box. if someone helps others, there should be a check box. and that member would have something under their avatar that shows how useful or helpful someone is. it would only be a check going up. and each time someone thinks your answer is useful, then you would get higher up.

i suppose if there were a reward system for those helping other members, features, higher rankings etc, that would be nice. i think it would make the forum an even nicer place and encourage people to give good advice.

---Mike Savad


Hans Zimmer

4 Months Ago

Thank you for your time and all the explainations, Sean. Very appreciated! :o)


Cynthia Decker

4 Months Ago

"helpful" is subjective. Sales results are not. I'd rather have facts than a popularity contest, and that's what a reward system would become.


Abbie Shores

4 Months Ago

Agreed, Cynthia. We have some people that come in and may only help once, but that help is worth a lot to the one helped


Mike Savad

4 Months Ago

it would be accumulative, available to anyone that wants to check it off. i thought of a down button too, but that would be abused.

---Mike Savad


Patricia Strand

4 Months Ago

Brilliant, and thank you, Sean!!

Mike, you are the most helpful of anyone here, so I can see where you're coming from. However, I agree with Cynthia.


Michalakis Ppalis

4 Months Ago

Good Info. Thank you


Mike Savad

4 Months Ago

never hurts to try to get higher, or to cash in on the help or something.

---Mike Savad


David Bridburg

4 Months Ago


Thanks for openly discussing things.

I have often said, I have very few sales, is my thinking. It is openly known I am not selling well. I am possibly the only person with few sales to state that. I also expect ideas from any of us to get knocked down form time to time when better ideas are offered.

If you do an average on me for 2018.... you are at 0.125 per month.

Straight forward ideas and a decent attitude matter more.

David Bridburg - My Artwork


A big THANK YOU to Sean for all of the work you do to build and promote this site! We are incredibly happy, no THRILLED, to be part of the Fine Art America/Pixels family!
This is no lie and no exaggeration to say that our art careers started right here and blossomed right here because of the FAA site. When we became members, it took just a couple of years before we were actually making a LIVING on our art sales here and with the licensing deals that came our way because of Fine Art America.

Yes, we have been blessed and it has always been my Debra-ism to say, We are not lucky, We are blessed. But as Sean has said in his very informative article here, you have to work to bring your art to the next level. It simply does not just fall in your lap. And we do work hard, creating new and interesting top quality work every single day and promoting it out in the real world to bring folks into our site. It has to be a passion for you the artist and it is with us.

So again, THANK YOU to Sean and to Abbie and the rest of the FAA/Pixels staff for creating, marketing, building, and keeping this top art site going!
Now, I have to get back to creating some great art!
Much success everyone and keep celebrating life,
Debra (and Dave)


Mike Savad

4 Months Ago

i might have missed it, but is the total going to be a grand total for all the years we have been here? otherwise it will reset at the start of the year, and it would be zero for all.

---Mike Savad


Lindley Johnson

4 Months Ago

Very interesting, Sean - thank you.


Jim Whalen

4 Months Ago

Sean, thanks for being so frank with us, it's appreciated!


Phyllis Beiser

4 Months Ago

I join in with the hallelujah chorus here and say thanks Sean for the in depth explanations!!! And thanks for having Abbie's back!


Sharon Mau

4 Months Ago

Aloha Sean . . it's so good to hear from you at last . . .
Good to know you're doing well . .

Thank you so much for such an informative update!

Mahalo . . .



Design Turnpike

4 Months Ago

Shoot, hoped I was approaching Top 50. Well, there's the next goal to shoot for!


Lara Ellis

4 Months Ago

Thank you for the info, very helpful. I'll continue to try and plug my work wherever I can as I always have. :) I'm certainly not a rock star artist but I do get some sales and I'm certain that it's because I try to share my work whenever and wherever I can. It's nice to have a website and a place to print everything for me too! You have certainly made it easy for artists to turn their images into beautiful prints and products with this site! Thank you for all you do behind the scenes to keep it up and running and for providing this website in the first place!


Yeah, seeing the sales in those discussions are depressing. I'll just say it now. I've yet to make a sale this year. I won't participate in sales discussions even if it's to suggest that someone work on their keywords and descriptions which even as an almost non saler, I know to be a wise move.


Mike Savad

4 Months Ago

i'd like to have a higher number, but the average makes it seems better some how. because i've had some terrible time getting sales this summer. but the average makes it seem better.

---Mike Savad


Carol Groenen

4 Months Ago

Always happy to hear from you, Sean, and to learn of the "bigger picture" when it comes to Fine Art America. Thank you!

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Rick Berk

4 Months Ago

Thanks Sean, the explanations are much appreciated!


David Bridburg

26 Days Ago

I think the people Sean meant to fry with the sales discussion status were those who were very negative, and not so truthful about how well they were selling. The people with how to ebook linked under their signature.

I have a zero monthly average, but I was not the target of the policy. I was always open that I have a very limited number of sales. I have been in and started a lot of marketing threads to explore ways of marketing. No false claims. Very honest efforts.



Floyd Snyder

26 Days Ago

I was hoping for some sort of system that disclosed that some of the people that openly admitted they had few or no sales in one thread, were in other threads putting people and their ideas down that did have sales and were trying to help others. I have no problem with them disagreeing or even challenging those ideas of the better sellers but people should know what kind of bases in the success they were coming from.

I did not and do not need to know any specific number. I don't care if Joe Doaks sells 0, 1, 2 or 200 a month on average or specifically.

I was hoping for some sort of tiered system.

For instance. There are only 250 or so regular posters in the threads. I can see a system where and average for the entire group is compiled. Maybe that number is 100, just for argument. We already know from looking at the numbers we have seen already that 100 is a way too high. But it is an easy number to work with. lol

From that average, I could see a four-tier system. If it was 100 or whatever the average was, there would be four tiers. 0-25 would be the bottom tier or Tier 1, 26-50 would be Tier 2, 51-75 would be Tier 3 and over 75 would be Tier 4.

That would accomplish the same thing without disclosing any specific number of sales even as an average.

The system Sean came up does the same thing but at the same time, we see a lot fewer people willing to post in those sales threads and have limited a lot of input.

I think the tiered system would have discouraged fewer people.


Abbie Shores

26 Days Ago

I think I'm happy with it just as it is... And less misinformation is less misinformation no matter why it's happening tbh


David Bridburg

26 Days Ago


I guess I missed the forest for the trees. I am equally happy with much less misinformation.

That does not mean people cant be wrong, but corrected, or opinionated, but coming to understand. It does mean going out of one's way to be wrong, opinionated, and call that "experience" is really out the window.

On a certain level this whole thing effects more experienced sellers more than newbies. And gives newbies a better chance. I am now somewhere in between.



Douglas Settle

26 Days Ago

Very worthwhile read. Thank You.


Joe Thibodeau

22 Days Ago

I’m new just started uploading last week. Looking forward to seeing what 2019 might bring. Im a cartoonist and caricature artist of 40 years. Just dabbling in new venues this year.


Larry Lamb

22 Days Ago

Great idea about posting sales numbers in sales discussions!


Eleanor Bortnick

22 Days Ago

Thank you for posting this Sean.


Charlene Elliott

21 Days Ago

Just reading this now. I don't often browse through the discussions. I found it to be clear, interesting and helpful. You put a lot of time into this post. Unfortunate that you had to but I'm thankful I saw it.


Megan Dirsa-DuBois

20 Days Ago

I haven't been reading the discussions very often, but happened upon this and also found it very helpful. Thank you. It also sort of makes me very curious about who the top 50 are... and curious if you would ever publish the list of maybe top 10 of past years... ? Just being curious.


Stephen Stookey

20 Days Ago

Thank you, Sean, for the insight.


Patty Donoghue

18 Days Ago

Thank you, Sean,
Love transparency and hope to boost things using your advice.
Happy Successful 2019 for us all!!!
To the Studio!!


Michael Hills

17 Days Ago

Thanks for this GREAT info! I love FAA. Even if you do not sell a lot on here it's a great receptacle for your images!

one questions though - you have a featured artist video of Lindsay Rapp. I viewed her FAA profile and it is private and says - "These prints are all available at To keep consistent pricing on the market of all variants, I will be hiding these print options on this platform. You can view every print in this album at:" - Why would you feature her if she is not selling on FAA?



Floyd Snyder

17 Days Ago

Michael, is a Shopify store which I am guessing is sending the orders to FAA for fulfillment.


Paul Cowan

16 Days Ago

I upload files and sit back waiting for sales to come and, contrary to Sean's assertion, I'm actually very happy to get what usually amounts to a few hundred dollars a year (ok, 2016 was a dead loss, but that's fair enough set against the others). Perhaps a bit of marketing effort would pay off, but I'm one of those people who doesn't like to self-promote.


Shelli Fitzpatrick

16 Days Ago

Appreciate this post Sean. As I am still waiting and promoting for my first sale here on FAA, this was an encouragement to me. I am here to learn and have learned from reading through the forums. In any forum you do have to sift the info take the useful and toss what you can't use.

Adding to Mike:
I have probably learned the most from you (here in this forum and in an outside article on a popular art blog) and I appreciate your time and efforts and sharing what you have learned. Just letting you know... but I also agree with Cynthia and Abbie.


Sharon McConnell

10 Days Ago

Thanks very much for posting this, Sean ... great info!


Cuiava Laurentiu

10 Days Ago

a "like" button just like the social networking sites placed for comments would be nice
are opinions or works placed in comments that deserve more or less appreciation
In my opinion :)


Delynn Addams

8 Days Ago

Thanks Sean, great info. I never know but...

I have lots of links to self-promote here.

I run contests to help promote your artwork. Winners get promos online.

You can self promote from any of your images by clicking on the social media icons on each one of your artwork pages here at FAA.

Here is my group with links of self promoting.

God bless you Sean and Abbie, FAA staff, for all your great works.

Happy new year everyone,


Regina Valluzzi

6 Days Ago

Thanks Sean, the straight talk is appreciated.

Regarding the "sales threads" I have two suggestions for you to consider.
The first would be to make the thread "Private" at the same time the decision is made to start marking avatars with sales volumes.
The second would be to just use a "fancy restaurant" style scale ($, $$, $$$, etc) instead of items sold or $$ sales volume. It would provide the same transparency, but would also retain some privacy.
I'm confused about whether you're planning to mark average monthly $$ or items sold. Personally I think $$ volume is more informative.

I'd also add that I have tried my work on a number of POD sites, including one that I joined at roughly the same time as FAA. That other site has more items sold, but has provided far less income. FAA is the only place I've been able to see sales of high margin giclees fairly steadily. I'm not a super high seller here, but it's enough to help me target the marketing that I do and pay a few bills. I'm glad that FAA is transparent. Too many other internet things are opaque and require a never-ending learning curve (FB and Google ads for example).

Most of my Art income is from originals sales, but FAA is the only site I refer people to when they ask about prints. It's frankly the only one I can be sure they'll navigate easily, so thanks for that.


Floyd Snyder

6 Days Ago

Cuiava Laurentiu, you can already do that on each image.


Brian Smith

4 Days Ago

I'm new to FAA (December) and like what I've seen so far. Thanks for posting this. I can only imagine the headaches you have to put up with, as anyone who spends time on social media knows well that it's way too easy for complainers and generally negative people to spread their unhappiness to a large audience with just a sentence or two. Hang in there. I'm looking forward to the ride.


Kristin Cook

2 Days Ago

Very informative and helpful! Thank you for taking the time. In my opinion, its already the artists responsibility to promote their own work unless, of course they pay for a specific marketing strategy.

Take care!


Nanci Worthington

2 Days Ago

Thanks for the valuable information and for your time !


Andrew Pacheco

2 Days Ago

Thanks for taking time out to share this information, Sean. I think these facts are very helpful.

The sales info on sales discussions are a great idea! Knowing for sure, the frequency the sales "experts" are selling with will be very helpful for others to gauge their own performance.

I'm pretty much in the same camp that Paul Cowan talked about in his post above. I'm very pleased with the amount of sales I make each year vs the lack of effort I put into my own marketing. I go for long stretches of time without producing or adding any new works to my portfolio too. No matter what I do, I seem to be able to count on a reasonable amount of sales that come through despite my lack of serious effort to promote.


Jacqueline Athmann

1 Day Ago

Great information! Thanks!


Jill Love

1 Day Ago

Laughing. I love that you jumped in and somehow I got a chance to read your reply. I try not to pay attention to the 'sky is falling' phenomena anywhere in my life. It's great to see statistics from the guy who really knows. Thanks again.


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