How I get stuff to review on Parkablogs

I feel like I should write something about the delay of reviews for new artbooks.

Before I talk about that, let me explain how I actually get artbooks and art products to feature on my blog.

In the early days of the blog, the first few reviews were actually of books that I collect, such as the Pixar artbooks. Some readers responded positively at how helpful those reviews were and so I began to feature more artbooks. As I'm not that rich, I would borrow artbooks from the library, colleagues and friends to feature on my blog. I was once caught taking photos (no cameras allowed) of books in the library and got chased out.

For books that I can't borrow, I would have to buy them. I was lucky I joined the Amazon Associates program early on. Amazon Associates is an affiliate program that earns you money whenever people buy stuff through the links posted on websites. You do not get money from people just clicking on the links.

When I joined Amazon Associates, the commission rate for selling books was 4 to 8.5% depending on how many books you sell. Today, that commission rate has been reduced to a fixed 4.5%. That means for a USD $20 artbook, I would earn $0.90. To break even for a book I buy specifically for review, I have to sell 23 copies of that book.

All the money that I earned from Amazon Associates is used to buy more artbooks to feature. My goal is to feature every artbook possible, at least those that are related to anime, movies, comics and games. That's basically how I grew Parkablogs to where it is today, by adding reviews one by one.

Most of my books are bought on Amazon. As I earned more from Amazon, I also spent more on buying books, sometimes up to hundreds of dollars each month.

In the early days, I would opt for priority shipping so that I can feature the artbooks early. It takes around 5 days to ship a book from USA to Singapore. However, priority shipping is expensive. Priority shipping cost USD $30 and each book is an extra USD $6. Because of how much markup local bookstores is charging for their books, and also the favorable exchange rate, it's still cheaper sometimes to buy books from Amazon with shipping charges included.

For books that do not need to be featured quickly, I opt for the cheaper shipping option to save money.

Ever since Amazon introduced free shipping to Singapore for purchases above USD $125, that's the option that I've always choose. I use the money saved to get more books to feature.

Getting sponsors

Over the years, I've managed to get some sponsors, namely Basheer Graphics Books, APD Singapore and Pansing.

As I spend a lot of money to buy artbooks to feature, having sponsors meant that I was able to save a lot of money and keep expenses low.

When it comes to how early I can get newly released books to feature, it's actually faster to just buy them from Amazon and have them delivered through priority shipping.

But to save money, my preference is to borrow the books from sponsors to feature. But sponsors don't always stock the new titles that fast. Hence I have to wait for the books to be stocked before I can get them. That's why there is that delay for reviews of new artbooks, especially those related to movies and video games. And because I'm no longer paying for priority shipping and I'm relying on sponsors more.

So far the arrangement has worked out better for me because of how much money it saves me. It's crazy to spend hundreds of dollars on artbooks each month because to earn back that money you would have to refer and sell thousands of books through Amazon Associates. Some artbooks are just not that popular so it's almost impossible to sell, or maybe you can but it will take years to break even.

Basheer Graphic Books is a bookstore. APD and Pansing are book distributors. As for publishers who send me books, there are only Udon Entertainment and 3DTotal. I love those two publishers because they don't have instructions on what I should do, don't have deadlines or special requests. I've sponsors who mail me stuff only to pester me later to find out when I will eventually publish the review for their books or products.

Some people have the impression that my reviews are biased because I receive free stuff to review. The mission statement of the blog is to make sure you know exactly what you're buying. I only care about my review being balanced and covering all essential points that need to be mentioned.

If a book or product is lousy, you'll be sure to know it. Because if you buy a lousy product based on my recommendation, you're going to have a negative impression of me. I'm an artist and I'm also someone who collects artbooks. I don't want people to waste money on lousy products. I've posted negative reviews for products on Amazon and have those reviews highly rated by customers. By the way, negative reviews can help publishers and manufacturers improve their products.

The mission statement of my blog is why I do not post news of upcoming artbooks. I do not want people to pre-order books that I feature on my blog without me looking through them first. I do maintain a list of upcoming artbooks though.

How do I get sponsors?

The sponsors and publishers are the ones who approach me.

I find the communication with companies to be tiresome so I don't seek out sponsors actively. I don't like the to and fro. That's also the reason why I don't do freelance work.

How about those tech products?

How I get tech products to review is quite similar to how I get artbooks.

Because tech products are more expensive, I would see if I can borrow, either from the manufacturer or a friend. If I can't borrow, then I have to decide whether to buy it for review.

Some examples of free tech products that I've received are Huion tablets and Adonit styluses (some bought with my own money). Things I have to return are Dell monitors and laptops, the pen displays from Artisul. Things that I've borrowed from my friends include the Lenovo Yoga Book, Wacom Mobile Studio Pro.

For every tech product that I buy for review, I make a loss.

Let me use the example of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 that was bought recently for review purposes. I bought that at SGD 760. When I wanted to sell it, I received a quote of SGD 680. That's a SGD 80 (~USD 57) loss instantly. To break even, my only hope is I can recoup some of the losses through Amazon Associates earnings or through advertising earnings on Youtube.

I would occasionally receive requests from readers or viewers to review specific tech products. For example, recently, I have requests to review the Samsung Galaxy Book 12, the New Surface Pro or the relatively unknown ASUS Transformer 3. Whenever I get such requests, I would email the companies who make them, but 99% of the time I won't hear anything back. My blog and Youtube channel aren't as popular as channels like Linus Tech Tips, Dave2D or MKBHD. Those companies don't need my help to promote their products. You can still send me your requests, I will still contact the companies to ask for review units, but don't hold your breath waiting for those reviews.

To produce tech product reviews without sponsors mean I have to purchase the items, review, and sell at a loss afterwards. So the more such tech reviews I put out, the more losses I sustain. And the more pricey the product, the more depreciation, the more losses I will make. So far, the only high priced items I've bought for review purposes are the Acer Switch Alpha 12 (secondhand), Surface Pro 4 (secondhand), and the Samsung Tab S3.

I want to feature some of those tech products because I know there are artists and designers who want to know those products perform or function. I personally want to know how those tech products perform from an artist perspective.

When it doesn't make financial sense for me to buy and review, I would invite artists and pay them to write reviews on my blog. This again is in line with the mission statement of my blog which is to help you understand exactly what you're buying.

Sometimes I do get free items to review, such as the Artisul pen displays (which I have to return) or Huion tablets. I don't get paid by those companies to feature them. I only earn when people actually click through the Amazon affiliate links and buy stuff. If the products are lousy -- ahem Arti-ahem-sul Pen-ahem-cil -- I would still feature them for the benefit of you but obviously I don't expect any Amazon sales from those.

Hopefully, this gives you a little insight into how I actually get items to feature.

Support me

If you want to support my effort, you can support me through Patreon. Your money will go towards those activities mentioned above. You're directly helping other artists, designers, people like you and me.

Or whenever you buy stuff from Amazon, think of me and click through any of the Amazon affiliate links here before you buy. I get to earn some commission at no extra cost to you. Every little bit of support helps.

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