Creating cosplay props to put on Etsy can be a nice way to get some extra cash for your own projects or simply to fund your life. I’ll briefly be going over this process, and what some of the legal ramifications can be of doing so.
Creating an Etsy Account
Creating an account with Etsy is fairly simple. If you’re only going to be doing this as a side hustle, and don’t plan on making a business out of it, you can sign up with a basic personal email. Otherwise, you may want an email account specifically for business-related emails. Etsy will send copies of your inbox messages on the site to your email, so if you expect to have some clutter, you may want to separate them entirely. For a store name, regardless of what you’re planning, make it something easy to remember, and descriptive of what you’re doing, without being too generic. “Chelsea’s Cosplay Props” is a little bit too straightforward.
Once you’ve made the account and picked a name, remember to write up a description, and get an avatar for your account and shop, as both will be listed on the shop page. If you’d like, you can also put up a shop banner, but it isn’t required.
Listing Your First Item
In order to create a listing that will get people’s attention, you need to have a good title, and great photos. Try to avoid taking pictures of your item on a busy background, or any color that will make it hard for your item to stand out. If you have a prop that is mostly black for example, don’t put it on a black background. Generally speaking, white is always going to be your best bet, but not all of us have a lightbox or a white screen lying around. If you’ve got the space, and a white sheet, you can hang it up temporarily to take pictures with. Next up, make sure your lighting is good. If you can’t get white colored lights, try to take your pictures in a room with a lot of natural light. The natural or white lights versus the yellow color of most lamps will make the colors of your prop stand out better, instead of looking like they’ve been dipped in yellow glaze.
For your title, include the title of the media the prop is from (My Hero Academia, Kingdom Hearts, GoT, etc), and of course what the prop is supposed to be. Also include that it is a “replica” of that item. More on that later. You may also want to include what the prop is primarily made of, such as resin, pvc, or the type of cloth. That part is optional, and you don’t want to get into too much detail, because you can always expand on it in the description, which you absolutely should! Keywords are very important and will bring your item up more often when people search for it. Not to mention, most people look for props that are made of a specific material.
An important thing of note is shipping. Generally, people don’t like to click an item and find out there’s extra shipping tacked on to the cost. You may as well add that in to the regular price in order to say shipping is free. Also, decide if you’re going to ship internationally or not. Most likely the answer will be no, and you need to make sure to indicate that you won’t ship outside your region. Don’t forget this! The worst thing would be if you sold an item to someone overseas that you weren’t prepared to ship to. Either way, someone is going to end up upset in that situation.
The price to set for your item is all up to you, but I recommend of course covering material costs at least. Chances are the amount of materials you went through won’t be so much that you must charge a lot to recover the cost, unless you’re extremely inefficient or using a very expensive material for most of the project. The worth of the item is up to how much work and attention to detail you place in it. However, just because you spent a ton of time on something doesn’t make it worth more if the quality is average, or if you’ve just started making props on a scale bigger than you’re used to, so keep that in mind. No one wants to pay several hundred dollars for a small piece, or one that’s easy to replicate.
The wonderful thing about the internet is that it’s been around long enough for people to try just about anything and put it online. Because of this, we know some of the potential legal problems that come along with selling props.
Technically, selling anything that is modelled after something that’s copyrighted, is breaking copyright law. So selling a light saber on Etsy, even though it’s a fake and you made it yourself, is a potential legal hazard. For you. Thankfully, you can’t be outright sued just because someone wanted to claim their content. If you could, YouTubers would be losing dollars left and right. Furthermore, whether a company actually bothers to claim anything is toss-up, but unless you’re mass producing light sabers and selling them like hotcakes, the chances are pretty small.
This is where some cleverness comes into play. Including “replica” or “inspired by” in the title or description is one way to deter people. In this way, you aren’t claiming to own the rights to the content your item is modelled after. You’re merely stating, “I really like this thing, so I made one! Neat!”. Another thing to do is to not make an exact copy of something. If you make something like a light saber, but say, the handle looks slightly different, or you changed it up entirely to make your own really cool, personalized one, that also puts you less on the “infringement” side and more on the “I like this thing” side of the scale.
Okay, this is all well and good, but what happens if someone does take notice of your store and is like, “dude, that’s my copyright you’re infringing on!”? As stated, you can’t be outright sued without warning. And that’s where Cease and Desist letters come in. A C&D letter doesn’t automatically mean a lawsuit is coming your way. It is a warning from the company to request that you stop what you’re doing, in this case, selling props that look like their content. Only if you continue to sell such items will you end up with a lawsuit on your hands, and trust me, you will not win. Better to cut your losses at that point, and maybe you can sell your item to a friend, if you really need to get rid of it.
If you want to be a little safer, you can create a listing specifically for commissions. In it, you can write what materials you have and what you’re able to replicate, and maybe include some photos of works you’ve done for yourself, original content, or small projects you’ve been able to make for other people. You can make it broad or specialized. Not only will this save you the trouble of making a prop and hoping it sells, but it will also save you some of the copyright risks mentioned above.
I hope this gives you some insight into Etsy selling and how it operates. If you’re a cosplay model and you’d like to write for us, please send us an email at email@example.com!