Publishing Your Own Tarot (Part One)
So you have produced the art for your beautiful tarot deck, and now you want to print it yourself. You have two options for how to proceed. You pay a professional printer to do the work for your, or you become your own printer.
Three popular options have emerged for today’s tarot artists in publishing their own decks.
Crowdfunding or Print on Demand
The first option is to price the deck and its packaging with a commercial printer, and then try to cover the cost with a crowd funding campaign. Sites include Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Keep in mind they take a percentage of the funds raised. Among factors to consider are:
You provide those who donate with a copy of the final deck or ad specialty. Basically, this is a pre-sale. Also, it gives you an idea if there is public interest in your work. I have found that most successful limit the number of gifts to three or four. A common offering might include postcard(s) for a small donation, a deck in exchange for the projected final price of the deck (often for a slight discount); two decks; and an original piece of art for a large contribution.
Make sure you have priced out what the printing is going to cost you. This is not just the price for the cards, but includes packaging and little white book. Be clear about the number of your edition. Remember that the ultimate asking price needs to factor your expenses and your labor. Anything above your expenses is your profit margin. That profit margin should include a premium for your hard work.
Funding campaigns often will reflect your social media presence. Lots of followers translates into donations/sales.
In general, successful crowd funding campaigns feature videos showing the deck and someone talking about it. Almost all successful campaigns feature them. These are often made with a cell phone and low or no cost software. Of course, it helps to have a spot that is professionally produced. If you or a friend has the technical capability, go for it! Remember if you pay a professional for one, you need to factor that into your budget and how you price your deck.
If your campaign succeeds, then you should go ahead, print your deck and count all the money. If it doesn’t, take a moment to analyze why it did not succeed.
Were the issues with your presentation?
Did you devote enough time to your social media campaign?
Did the theme of your tarot resonate with people?
Any type of self-critique is difficult, but learning from mistakes increases the chances for your success in the future.
You may print on demand. Businesses like Gamecrafters have become very popular with a wide variety of tarot artists, ranging from amateur to professional. Doing so minimizes up front financial risks. If you see that your deck is selling wildly, you can always withdraw it as an offering and either pursue a publishing contract or print the deck yourself. You will have the expense of having proofs printed for the cards and packaging. Do not omit this step. This is your important work. Take steps put it in the best light.
You Decided to Do it Yourself
Another option is to pay an established tarot artist to produce your deck. Mentorship from an expert can help you make better decisions. You pay your mentor an up front fee in addition to the printing expenses. Sometime they will ask a royalty too. Many respected figures in the tarot community offer project development. Some I respect very much. Check the websites of artists you admire to see if they offer this service. (If you’re really serious and can’t think of someone use the contact form and I will if I can find a good fit for you.)
If the above services don’t seem right to you, you can make your deck yourself. I did so with the now out of print Radiant Spleen Tarot, and learned a great deal from both anticipated and unanticipated challenges. Let me enumerate some of the biggest considerations.
The most important area of decision making regards paper. The type of paper you choose effects the appearance of your artwork. A good choice will do it justice. A bad one can seriously undermine it. I assume that you will print your deck using either an inkjet or laser printer. Remember that photographic quality printing paper designed for one of these types of printers does not work on the other. Know which one you are using! (Also, remember sheets printed by inkjet printers require drying time and sometimes fixative spray. Ink can smear until it dries.) The cost of professional printing paper ranges from about $20 to $65 for a pack of 25 letter size sheets. You will be able to print about four cards on each sheet of paper. So printing a single deck of 22 cards will cost you between five and thirteen dollars in printing paper alone, not factoring the cost of toner or ink cartridges.
Manufacturers offer a wide range of paper types with different textures. Consider how these will portray your artwork.
Matte Photo Finish: In general, this works for both continuous tone and flat illustration art. Obviously it does not have sheen. Be careful how smudge sensitive the paper is, particularly with inkjet printers.
Glossy Photo Finish: This comes in a wide variety of grades, and may require use of a fixative. It mimics the appearance of photographs. It tends to be light sensitive. So the images may degrade when exposed to direct light for long periods of time.
Watercolor, wove, and textured finished papers: These tend to be best suited for artwork with solid color fills. The texture of the paper can significantly deteriorate the appearance of continuous tone (photographic) art. For instance, a linen weave paper can make a photograph look like a noise filter was applied in Photoshop.
Metallic and Pearlescent; These tend to be the most difficult to find and are often among the most expensive. The brand I used to produce The Radiant Spleen Tarot has gone out of business. It was a metallic gold. They can add vibrancy and depth to both flat and continuous tone art.
Plastic film and transparencies: Although not specifically meant for image printing, these can offer some unique creative possibility when backed by the right paper. However, especially with transparencies, realize the adhesive you use can distort or destroy your image. There is a lot more trial and error involved in this selection.
With all of these papers, it is important to do test prints. You need to know how it effects your images and gauge whether or not it smears or tears easily. You also need to determine whether or not it requires use of a fixative. I tested about five different papers for The Radiant Spleen Tarot. In the end, it was a close call between a gold paper that did not require fixative and a silver one that did. I broke from a pattern of lifelong respiratory system abuse and opted for the gold. If you choose a paper that requires fixative, you need a well-ventilated area!. For the second edition, I chose a plastic film/paper. The gold paper I used before was discontinued. The film does not smudge and is heavy enough to allow for shuffling and handling.
I will explore the intricacies of backing and packaging next week. If you have questions or wish to leave feedback please comment below.