Artists, writers and creatives have so many options on how their work is now shared with the world. Blogging, social media and the growth of online businesses has given us the opportunity to create the work we want, and market it directly to our audience and customers. In the past, anything that was published went through traditional publishing houses and those opportunities were very limited.
Now, the possibility to self-publish your own work is a valid option and one that comes with several advantages to traditional publishing, as well at its own challenges. Understanding both options will help you decide which direction is best for you when it comes to publishing your own oracle or tarot card deck.
Working with a traditional publisher is a goal that many people have. There is a certain authority that comes with becoming a published author, and it’s often seen as influential in raising your individual or business profile. There is truth to this and some people choose this direction not solely for making money but for the credibility. There is also, of course, the fact that if a publisher picks up your work you don’t need to be responsible for funding, printing and distributing your card deck, which is a definite upside.
But how to secure a publishing contract? This is the challenging part, and one of the most important factors will be how much reach or influence you already have. This makes up part of your negotiating power. Publishers love working with people who already have a proven audience for their work.
Some companies will accept proposals. Look up some of the publishers that print a lot of the card decks you see in the market. They often list on their website if they are accepting proposals for card decks, and the info that you should supply them.
The ideal scenario is a publisher reaches out to you to work with them. How do they find you? Well, having a product already in the market is going to be beneficial. Publishers are on the lookout for talented people who are already creating these offerings. They can make an offer on work that is already created, or it will prove to them that you can deliver a project of this type.
So, if you don’t initially have a publisher to work with but it is a dream of yours, self-publishing might actually be a great step to getting a publisher on board. By having a completed product, you’ll have something that you can submit or send to publishers you are reaching out to.
Be patient with this process, it can take months to hear back from people. I had an opportunity come through a whole year after initial discussions with one publisher. Think of traditional publishing as a long-term path, as each part of the process takes time.
I’d recommend traditional publishing if you:
- Are a skilled writer, teacher or speaker but need a team to help with every other aspect of creating your card deck.
- Are interested in increasing your profile for speaking and teaching opportunities and being part of the ongoing promotional requirements.
- Have no desire to sell the product yourself.
Things to consider:
- It can be a lengthy process and may take a while to earn income after your initial advance. Royalties are commonly paid once or twice a year.
- You need to make sure your contract is fair. How well you are able to earn money from your product will come down to negotiating your advance and royalties.
- While there may be a higher number of decks sold, the percentage you receive may be less than selling yourself and earning the full profits.
- The publisher will have the final say on the end product. In the instance that you can provide high-quality print-ready design files, it’s more likely they won’t make many changes.
- If publishers are taking submissions, the number of approvals is limited and requires confidence that your product is something they know they can sell.
- Some publishers offer packages which you need to pay for.
It’s a wonderful thing that this is a real possibility for creators to bring their vision into reality. While it can feel overwhelming to think of the whole process, it’s certainly possible and, like any big idea, you can take a step-by-step approach to make it happen.
The easiest way to begin to see if your idea is going to work is to start to share it with others through the online mediums you use. If you are creating artwork for your card deck, post on Instagram or through your email marketing and let people see your process and progress. If you are a writer, you can share the same thoughts and messages you would want to channel into your deck and see how it resonates.
By beginning to share your work this way, you’ll start to grow awareness around this potential product which is only going to help you when it comes time to produce, sell and market. The biggest challenge for self-publishing is funding the production of your product, so growing your audience will be crucial in any crowd-funding or pre-order campaign.
You can start off with a small number of decks to test the waters, there are options to do that. But if you do plan to continue selling your deck and it’s doing well, it generally works out better to print a larger amount. Some printers will have a 500 or 1000 unit minimum.
If you’re considering how to reach wider distribution, it is possible to get your self-published deck distributed into stores. Creating an ISBN will mean more retailers can sell it, and you can find distributors to stock your deck. Keep in mind that the cost to produce your deck needs to be quite low to make this viable.
The profit you make per deck is much higher than royalties you make through publishing, but you may be selling far fewer decks. Say a publisher sells 10,000 decks valued at $25, and your royalty is 5%. You stand to make about $12,500. Compare that with you selling 1000 decks valued at $45 and it costs you $10 per deck to print. Your profit is $35,000. There may be other expenses to factor in on top and you’ll be spending time on getting those sales and fulfilling orders, but you can see how self-publishing is a financially viable alternative.
And remember, self-publishing could also be the way you are then able to get signed up with a publisher. I’ve had people contact me after finding my deck on Kickstarter and Instagram. So if you are deciding to crowdfund your card deck or it is popular on social media, this is a place where publishers can seek out new artists, writers and creatives to work with.
I’d recommend self-publishing if you:
- Want to get your card deck out into the world quickly.
- Currently have a small audience and still need to grow.
- Want to retain all publishing rights and creative control. Even if you do license, you should always retain copyright. Never sign over your copyright, even with a large publishing company.
- Want to make a regular income through eCommerce and/or wholesale.
- Only want to sell the product for a short period of time or one-time-only.
Things to consider:
- It’s possible to make as much or more income self-publishing than with a publishing deal.
- There will be quite the learning curve if you’re new to the whole process, and you will be taking on the risk of funding and selling your own product.
- How much of the process are you able to take on yourself and where will you need to bring people in to help ie. design, marketing, eCommerce.
- If you have a card deck that is already selling well, has a proved audience and is being shared online and through social media, this can give you more bargaining power if you later decide to license your product.
What’s the third alternative?
There are hybrid publishers. These companies offer services in editing, printing and distribution. They are more common with books, but some that create card decks also exist and could be a great option for those who want someone to take care of everything up until the point of selling and marketing the work. You have a market-ready product, retain all publishing rights, have the option to be able to wholesale or sell directly to customers, and you have full control over the way you market your product.
So how do you choose?
It’s important to know what your values and goals are and how this product fits into your business short and long-term. You need to weigh up how you want to receive your income, how much you want to make, and how you want to spend your time. A publishing deal is not necessary lucrative unless it sells really well, but once you supply your work there is not much else you need to do aside from promotion.
You really have to compare the different options you have. You can be successful in self-publishing, or you could work at getting a few publishing deals for more than one product in order to have multiple royalty payments. A mixture of both self-publishing and publishing can offer you both, and this to me is a definite possibility in diversifying your income.