Thank you all so much for your thoughtful replies!
I first want to apologize if my tone came off as accusatory- I certainly don't believe that anyone has ill intentions or is deliberately swindling anybody. I also will be the first to admit that I really enjoy the products I purchase from cookie-preneurs, although I have never paid for any tutorials personally, but I love love love me some 3D-printed cutters and fancy sprinkles! I really admire them for thinking about their businesses and pursuing their interests and am happy to support them. What I was more getting at is that there is generally not a candid (public) discussion of pricing and business models; in other words, nobody is coming out saying directly "By the way these would cost $40 each so don't think I'm selling them!"
My real annoyance here is mostly that customers see these elaborate cookies, and not knowing they were made as demonstrations/art pieces, think they can add a dozen in their set. When trying to mimic these styles, it of course is taking a long time, which is a frustrating realization midway through a set. It got me thinking about my business model, since I (like Julia) enjoy making the detailed and multi-layer cookies, but I can't see a profitable model in selling these cookies to customers.
Your comments were all very helpful and again I am sorry again if I offended anyone!
No apology needed - I really appreciate the candid and good question. I also appreciate your frustration. I do believe it is very difficult to create a sustainable business model based on selling only art pieces (the "struggling artist" metaphor applies to cookies as well ). Some diversification is key - you can see that diversification in many successful brick-and-mortar cookie shops (they sell other things; not just cookies even). However, special art pieces CAN be sold for the right price, just more occasionally. Last year, I did a high-profile event for the owner of a major sports team. I was paid five-figures to run an interactive airbrushing station for the kids, to supply their cookie "blanks" and other decorating do-dads, and to make a 3-D tiered cookie cake centerpiece for the guest of honor. It was a great gig, but I am lucky to have one of those in a year.