SECTION A: THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU PUBLICIZE AND FINALIZE WITH THE SIGNER
Step one: DECIDING WHO YOU WANT TO DO A SIGNING WITH
1) Who to set up a signing with?
A) someone willing to sign
B) someone who people will want an autograph from (please note most Star Wars collectors have all the basic signatures in their collection-best to find someone new or a new image of that old character and something that makes people want it). Not many people would buy say Shannon Baksa as Mara Jade anymore as there is the same image available and she's done many cons and signed throughout the years....
Step two: HOW MANY WILL YOU ORDER AND IS IT DOABLE?
1) know your market. You have decided on the person, but who will want an autograph? You really need to NOT contact the celebrity until you know how much you'll need. How to do that? Post to groups and email lists and boards. Take a poll. However, realize that people will tell you yes and then will back out. Allot for 10-15% of those saying yes to back out.
Step three: PRICE DETERMINATION
1) You have your person and your audience. Let us just throw out a figure theoretically and say that you can for SURE unload 25 items.
How to determine price:
A) Paying the celebrity: Some will sign free or for a fee. Generally, the bigger the name, the more money. Always try to get it the LOWEST you can because the current market will not bear high prices much more and with the advent of conventions and dealers all over and all the expenses we collectors have, not many can keep up the pace of paying absurd amounts. So first thing is to see how much the celebrity will charge. Let's just say you can do it for $10 per signature (theoretically so we can show how the price builds).
B) You will need to order photos unless the celebrity has some and is willing to use those. If he/she has those, that will probably cost you extra. They'll tack that on to their price (see step A). If they don't, you will have to make them. There is a process for this (See step 4) that I'll discuss later. But before you can even make the deal, you must first find a licensed image to use and find out how to make it. You have to consider cost for that. Photo prices can $2.00-25.00 per 8x10 depending on where you have made it and how many you have ordered. For our purposes, let's say you got a good deal and the photos will cost you $3.00 each....
i) add to the price of the photo cost shipping (lets say 5.00 for the batch of 25 you will order). If you picked them up from the nearby photo place you probably should include your gas money. Usually, nearby photo places cost more than internet ordering. Not always, but mostly.
ii) add to the price of the taxes charged (let's say you lucked out and was free because internet/out of state). If you do use a nearby photo place, then you will most certainly be taxed.
C) You will have to pay shipping to the celebrity after the photos are in your hand. This is unless the celebrity is holding the photos because they are using their own. At this point, the celebrity will ship the items to you after signing but you will have to add that shipping cost into his/her fee. Let's say the shipping is on your end as more than likely the celebrity will NOT provide the photos. You might consider where the item is being mailed to/from. Overseas will cost more. 25 photos is heavy. You may consider sending them certified, registered, insured or delivery confirmation so they don't get lost. Let's average the cost out saying you are only sending US to US and are sending cheapest way possible but priority and delivery confirmation. This will cost you over $4 and I am not sure about weight, but let's just say with your gas money and trip to the post office it costs $5 total to mail to the celeb. My case scenarios are MUCH higher; usually $15-25!
i) you will have to pay the celebrity for the postage BACK to you. This will be the same usually as whatever it cost going to. However, overseas rates consider US/Overseas exchange rates. So in our scenario it's 5.00.
Cost for 25 celebrity signatures on photos at 10.00 each = 250.00
Cost for 25 photos at 3.00 each = 75.00
Cost for shipping of the photos to you = 5.00
Cost of Taxes on the photos = 0.00
Cost of shipping the photos to the celebrity=5.00
Cost of the celebrity shipping the signed photos back to you=5.00
Total SO FAR =340.00 for 25 signed photos.
D) Packaging: Now that you got your celeb, made your photos, sent the photos to the celeb, they signed and sent them back, you will have to package them for delivery to those who ordered.. there are costs involved. You will need: Envelops (usually 10.00 or less for a box of 25 at your local Office supply store) and you will need either plastic holders (costs range from free-2.50 each for those) or you will need cardboard and plastic Avery sheets and scotch tape. You can get these relatively inexpensive. Most of the Let's just say it costs you cheap amount to package these and you got free cardboard from old purchases and bought a box of sheets for 10.00 and the tape you didn't have to buy. Cost for this is only 10.00. Please do NOT use things like cereal boxes and old file folders etc when working on this. This needs to be done more professionally as you are offering a service. The cereal boxes/folders/old boxes are ok for trades etc, but not this.
E) Shipping to the people who ordered: Each delivery will cost different from state to state, state to country, country to country and each person will demand something different in shipping. Make your shipping plans clear. Average costs today for shipping are 4.00 or so. This would include priority shipping and delivery confirmation. Some will want insurance. Be aware if something gets lost, people will blame YOU. Most people ask for cheapest shipping possible. For one 8x10 photo state to state. This can be done between 1.80-2.50. Overseas more, so let's split the difference and say 3.50 shipping.
F) Other incidental fees: Some people want to pay via Pay Pal. If you have a business account it's 5% fee tacked on for you. If you have a regular account, I think the fee is 2% of the total received. Some pay by check and the check bounces. Be prepared if you accept checks to pay fees on bounced checks as high at 20.00 EACH. Some want to pay by foreign currency. Depending on where you go, a fee will be charged to exchange the funds to your country's currency. When people overseas order, the amount of their currency differs from your own. If you have set an autograph price at say 20.00 US and someone in great Britain orders, the actual cost will be different in pounds... It's about 12 pounds 50 pence to them. If it's opposite and they are charging 20.00 POUNDS to you in the US, you will be paying 32.00 US for the photo. Not including shipping etc. So consider all this. Let's assume all orders are paid in cash/money order. Nobody paid pay pal and no one bounced checks. No incidentals, nothing went bad, everything is perfect... cost to you 0 (more than likely it won't be though).
Total first half: 340.00
Cost for packaging on entire order: 10.00
Shipping on entire order 3.50 average times 25:87.50
Cost of misc. items: Lucky you... 0.00
Total cost per item: 17.50 per photo. if you are doing this for profit, a good price to charge would be 20.00 per photo. I personally don't make money, but would probably round it up to 18.00 per photo for my gas, time and whatnot. this means I made 12.50 for doing it. Not even the cost of a free item. 18.50 might give me a free photo and 5.00 profit for my gas and time. Not much.20.00 would get you 62.50 profit which would give you a free Photo and 42.50 for your time and incidentals. Now you can see when someone charges you 30-45 for a signing, they are making a lot of money! At 40.00, the person is making a profit of 562.50. At 30.00, they are making 312.50. Don't be fooled by those who claim they are not making money... you can bet they are.
Step four: Other steps to a successful signing
After you have researched the costs involved (weigh your items, figure out by postal sites the charges, go to office supply store to add up the prices-don't forget taxes on that stuff too) and have agreed you can get the signer to sign and that you can sell the amount you can, here's where to do next:
1) Publicize the event: Star collecting funds IMMEDIATELY unless you are paying upfront for everything and will be reimbursed later.
2) Make sure to set a date when money is received. If not all funds are recieved, YOU will have to still pay the celebrity for the amount agreed to! You are stuck with that. Do not delay till all funds recieved. Why? That holds up your other customers and they get very ornery!
3) Pay the Celebrity and order the photos at the same time.
4) Once photos are recieved, send to celeb and keep track of when they received, signed and sent them back to you. Don't harass them! ONE email per week is probably fine. Should take no more than one week for the photos to arrive. If they have NOT arrived to the celebrity in one week, then have them email you when they come in. Once in, give them a week to sign. Then give it a week to come back. If you are waiting for funds to come in from others, do not give them long. It is a three week time period alone for the celeb to get the items, sign them and send them back. It is another 3-5 business days to get the photos made and sent to you and you are now already approaching one month. It is another 3-5 days to mail the photos out to the person if you package them on the same day. Give yourself 1-2 days extra on quoting time. If you are paying all the things up front and will be reimbursed later, a ONE month time to SIX WEEKS frame is when the person should expect their items. Many times, if you are good, you can do this in less time, but tell them not to email you for at least one month.
5) Keep email contact with the people. Here's what I do.
1) send one email saying funds recieved and that you will notify them when items are on the way to celeb (individual emails day money is received or next day).
2) email everyone at once to say that items are on the way to celeb
3) email everyone at once to say celeb has signed and mailed items to you.
4) email everyone at once to say items recieved, packaged and in the mail to them
5) email everyone one week later to see if they got item and are satisfied if they have not emailed you. Make sure everyone has their items. You do not want to get an email a month later asking what happened. There will be no chance of tracking mail problems at that point!
You do not have to follow this, but I recommend it... send a thank you to the signer. Make sure they know you are appreciative of their time. Remember, you are acting almost as a business and you should act as a business does. Here's some considerations to consider before doing this:
1) make sure you have permission to use the photo you do. Everything is copyrighted to someone whether it be implied or explicit. By this I mean that if someone does NOT copyright an image, it does not mean the courts will not say that it is still their image. There is an implied copyright on EVERYTHING. For example those school photos you get of your kids? I recently found out that those are not allowed to be reproduced as they are copyrighted by the studio taking them. You don't even own your child's image or even your own! There doesn't have to be a written statement of this fact either! Like "oral contacts", this falls into the same category. So if you are using an image from a movie, contact the appropriate authorities and get written permission to use the photos. As in the example of Lucasfilm, I hear all character names likenesses are indeed the property of Mr. Lucas and his company!
2) make sure you are not violating any laws with regards to federal and state income taxes. You are acting as a business and by law have to claim on taxes any income made. I don't profit, so I don't have to worry... but those that do are in violation maybe of several issues and can be prosecuted. Check with your tax preparer, the IRS and the local state government about taxes
3) Some things are indeed not legal... for example do you know the legalities of this business? Do you need a license? What happens if someone orders a lot and sues you in small claims court because items got lost in the mail and they say it's your fault! Most won't, but it only takes one person to make your life miserable. If you are selling without a license, you could be fined or worse. CHECK to see what you are allowed to do. Never enter a business without knowing what you are doing. At age 16, are you really allowed to do this? I'd be checking because someone could sue your parents. So be clear. Remember, that if you do not do these things, you have to live with your consequences. The judges use this line a lot: "Ignorance is no excuse for violating the law". What they mean, is you have to check first... you can't come back and plead "I didn't know".
With that said, I have provided you with all the information I know. Is it worth it? Only you can decide.