fout> _gblok.vraag > onjuiste vraag: select label from tek_artikelen where url="sell_your_skin"
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teknidermy.com > issue > 12 > Sell your Skin Editor's Notes Follow-up Interview with Xymantix Skinning on the Edge Notes on Corporate Logo Design Xerraire — The Talkative One n05feratu — Art that Hurts to Look at Sell your Skin Foood for Thought Mormegil — Man or Icon Whodunnit?

Sell your Skin

Back in the very first edition of Tek, in the glory daze of Y2K, I had the pleasure of interviewing Russ ‘Dangeruss’ Schwenkler. One of the questions I put to him was about selling skins, a new idea at the time. The conversation went like this:


Tek: If it was possible to arrange it with all the necessary parties, and you could devise a CD-ROM that would automate the install process so that anyone could slip it in, and it would configure their computer to look and act just like the ‘Thredz’ screenshot, would you do it?

Russ: Well, you could do it today with a custom LiteStep Distro.

Tek: I believe a ‘Thredz Operating Environment’ CD would sell like hot-cakes, do you agree? (if not, why not, please.)

Russ: The operative word here is ‘sell’. There's so much precedent for free themes with LS, and KDE and the other Linux GUIs all being either open source or free code, I think sticking a price tag on it would be self defeating.


Russ definitely had a point. Back in 2000, the very concept of a skinner selling his or her work was unheard of. But the idea was sound. Years later, Treetog and Alexandrie basically put this idea into reality with the opening of the Pixtudio website and the online sales of their theme packs. The concept of selling skins was proven as workable.

Last year, I was approached to build a website just for Music Match Jukebox skins. I was allowed to make some of the skins ‘premium’ entities, and mmjbskins.com went into the business of selling skins. To date, the site has generated some income (not much to be truthful). Recently, SkinPlant.com opened and has begun to sell.

So, there is evidence that skins can be sold. In this article I will tell you how I went about it, and I will take a look at what you can do if you want to give the idea a try…

Point one: the Product

It would appear that there are two routes to having a saleable skin product. The first and most obvious is Themes. Pixtudio and Skinplant sell themes – groups of skins that cover much of the popular skinnable applications. When a site offers a Theme, the potential customer is being offered a batch of work. In effect, receiving many products for their money.

The second, less obvious route is rare commodity. We at MMJBSkins.com create skins for a program that is used widely, but skinned rarely. If you consider Nuke Themes as skins, then they are less ubiquitous, and Jumbles has been selling them at Dezina.com for some time. The Skinfactory has had a large amount of success skinning the Windows Media Player, which is a bear to skin (I have been told).

If you would like to make money in the skin world, one of these routes will serve you. Either be prepared to create a group of skins in a Theme, or skin for a widely used program that has not been flooded with freebies (I am talking Winamp here).

Point two: the Marketing

You need to get the word out that you have a product. I had the opportunity to speak to Mike at Skinplant.com on this point. I asked how Skinplant was going about the advertising and publicity process. Mike told me, “Fortunately, the skinning community is relatively tight knit. Between news posts on skin sites, message boards, IRC, and instant messaging, we've relied soley on ‘word of mouth’ marketing so far.”

This can work. I am sure all the regulars remember the flurry of posting regarding Pixtudio when they first went online. When MMJBskins first went live, I took time to post in several audio newsgroups. And of course, there are newsgroups for almost everything, and message boards on all the skin sites. If you plan to go into business, be prepared to spend a bit of time sending out ‘Press Releases’ to the skins sites (and magazines like Tek), and also be prepared to post news about your site on all relevant sites and newsgroups.

Pont three: Delivery

Once you actually have a customer, how will you collect the cash, and how will you deliver the product?

Pixtudio, SkinPlant and Dezina use a Wilmington, NC company called BMT Micro. BMT allows you to upload your product (the skin in a zip file) and then they are responsible for collecting funds, delivering the product and cutting your checks. BMT charges a nominal fee for this service.

We at MMJBSkins.com started out with BMT as our provider. In short order, it became clear that sales were not going to come fast enough to justify the cut BMT was taking. We opted for Pay Pal.

At MMJBSkins.com, when a customer purchases a skin, they make a Pay Pal payment, we get notified, and then personally deliver the skin zip via e-mail. This has the benefit of being ‘touchy feely’ (making the customer feel good), and much more cost efficient. There is the responsibility of receiving the ‘order’ and delivering the product, which falls to the site owner (me), and if this is a ‘drawback’, then it is very slight one. To date, we have not had an ‘unsatisfied’ customer.

If you are going to sell things over the internet, you will have to make a choice between paying a third part to handle the money and the delivery, or you will have to take that responsibility upon yourself. Having had the experience, I would suggest starting off with Pay Pal. If you find yourself overwhelmed with orders (you lucky dog) you can move immediately to a company like BMT.

Either way, be sure to ‘spell out’ the sale and delivery process prominently on your site. If there is going to be a delay between the payment and the delivery, just tell people. They will understand.

Point four: Pricing

What can you get for a skin these days? The answer, apparently, depends on what you ask for. The fellas over at SkinPlant are asking $9.25 for a suite of 17 skins. I asked Mike how he arrived at the number: “Hippy and I determined what we thought we should earn from each sale to help support our investment of time and energy, plus site maintenance, then we tacked BMT's fee on top of that. I don't think that an extra dollar or so is really going to cause anyone not to buy. Less than $10 for 17 skins seems fair to me. I doubt that many people will look at it and say ‘well, if it was $8.00 I'd do it, but I'm not paying $9.25.’”

At MMJBSkins.com, we chose the $5 figure quite arbitrarily. At the time we had no idea if it would work at all, so $5 was as good a number as any, and it is a considerate figure for one piece of artwork. There was also the precedent of Jumbles $5 MMJB skin sales over at Dezina.com.

Only the artist can decide what he or she believes is a fair price for his or her work. Some artist may create a single skin that is so wicked people will line up to pay $25 dollars a pop for it. A similarly wicked skin might a appear on another site for five bucks. The game is so young at this point, there is no ‘standard’.


Anyone can offer skins for sale. The technology is there. If you decide you would like to take a shot at it, we hope this article will be a help.

— Kenray, May 21th 2003

Editor's Notes Follow-up Interview with Xymantix Skinning on the Edge Notes on Corporate Logo Design Xerraire — The Talkative One n05feratu — Art that Hurts to Look at Sell your Skin Foood for Thought Mormegil — Man or Icon Whodunnit?
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