Money and Deck Creation


<And some other real interesting horror stories.>

There is one I thought it would be worthwhile to mention. The publisher signed a contract with the artist and then never published the deck, effectively making it dead in the water.



Please don't run off (anyway, it's hard to do that while you are gnawing your ankle :) ). Just stay and tell us more of these stories please. You seem to have a lot to contribute here.

By the way, the thing of signing a contract for work that never sees the light of day I've heard several times in design - I haven't heard it specifically about tarot but I can well believe it. Of course it may not be the publisher's fault in any way (plans and budgets can change) but still, what a disappointment for the artist.


I design my tarot decks (Samantha's Tarot, Dolphin Daze Deck, and the Monster Movie Tarot) out of love first and foremost.

Unless your really lucky to fall in with someone who will "make you a star" most artists work hard for very little money. Also artists have to try to judge how much to sell a piece for. I may work 10 hours on a piece and end up selling it for $40.00 because that is all the market will bear and/or so that I can throw that $40 into the supplies for the next piece. :)

To make good money on your artwork you not only have to be a good artist but you need to also sell yourself. It is alot of work to get yourself out there. (Now this is the part of being a artist I hate the most) Also to be sucessful you need to be able to take critism and not take offence when people come up and critque your artwork or just don't like it. Being a artist opens you up to alot of constructive critism. Many artists who make money at their work also have to be open to taking a job not because they want to do it necessarily but because the work is there and the job pays :) .

Unfortunatly there are not any good options for self publishers to publish there decks for a reasonable amount of money unless you have alot of money to put into the project upfront. :( That said there are alot of plusses to self publishing as well (you get ultimate creative control, you own all your artwork etc.).

Well before I get too off topic, I guess I would like to say. It would be lovely to make a good wage off of artwork. But it takes alot of work and it isn't always fun. Do the artwork because you love it, want to do it, and always keep that first in your mind. Keep the joy in the creating process and try to look at the money as just an extra bonus. :)



FearfulSymmetry said:
OH! Sorry, I totally didn't aim this at anyone here, and it didn't even occur to me that someone might think so. That's just me moaning about how I have gotten beat out for a good art job by someone with more references and less skill. Or more education, or more MONEY for promoting themselves. Apparently those are personal issues I have and don't concern anyone here.

Anyway, I will go run off now before I have to start gnawing on my ankle - for lack of any foot left to eat.

Let me try one more time - Marie, what you said wasn't anything to take offense at, and I didn't - I've learned to recognize when my own feelings are giving me a skewed response to a statement, which is why I didn't post immediately after you'd said it. And you're right - when money gets to be the primary motivation, a lot of other good things get booted out into the cold. The article link Karen posted made the case for that opinion very well.

I'm talking about very personal issues and emotional reactions here - why shouldn't you? There was a time a couple of years ago when I thought about looking for paid work doing artwork, only to find that the ability doesn't count for much if you don't have the degree credentials, when you're dealing with personnel departments that have to justify their choices.

So I started looking at the internet. The problem with it as a community is that there's so blasted MUCH of it. But it does offer someone who wants to make a reputation (and money) over the long term an unprecedented advantage. If you can keep your cool and keep posting in diverse groups and not push too hard, you can end up with a dedicated following, and have word of mouth do a great deal of the job for you, as Retrokat stated in the "What you should know" thread.

The problem is finding the forums, and threads, and journals, and being willing to take the time to become a contributing member, and not just a drop in and advertise fly-by-night. And at the same time, avoiding being caught up too personally in what's going on, because then you end up not having time to do more artwork <grin>.

So, did I come to Aeclectic in the first place because I wanted to make money? Yes. I wouldn't have found it in the first place if I hadn't been looking for venues that would put me in touch with people who might eventually buy my deck. Having found it, I'd stay even if the deck bombed out completely, because it's a great community, and wonderfully free of the kind of garbage that populates most boards.


Money is certainly very important, everybody needs money; and if we have or do not have money it depends how the others are valuing our products, or services etc.; Therefore money stands for values. Does it???
Majority of people work only to provide, to keep their existance, if you ask them why they work, the answer will be : “But I have to"/acconpanied with a puzzled look, kind of (are you serious???or what??) .
Do any of us "have to do what we do???
From my point of view this is a question of ethics;
Creative "must" stands for joyful activities and conviction (does any of you consider doing anything else???) no matter weather will be paid or not.
Quite a number of artists, sportsmans and scientists not only enjoy what they do but get payed for it, way above averige. In publishing bussines this is the same; some are just surviving but clearly aware that Harry Potter fenomenon can happen to them one day as well.Therefore the problem is not how much the artist earns in comparision with how much he or she works, but in structure of values, in the world where majority must work in order to survive more or less hating what they do, we keep paying our bills, and we keep other privileges of our exclusive position; free time, free choice of colaborators, friends and coworkers, freedom of choice in almost any level of social encounter including the way we dress. The trick here (when I am speaking for myself) is that we do not feel "work" in common understanding of the word, I may in reallity work 10 hours a day, but how am I going to compensate my effort in the world where labouring wages is moral standard and major prejudice (even psyhological necessity). The possibillity to be well known and appriciated, consequently very well paid, is somehow contradicted with efortless “job” no matter how consuming and intense it really is.
I think that being an artist is a little bit gambling existance; we all have better resistance to uncertanity, or less doubts about winning a jackpot.


Astra, Karen, thanks. I try very hard to respect other peoples feelings and rights to have differing perceptions and get upset when I think I have blown it. coming back to earth now and moving on...

It is a really good point about making money to finance the next project. As artists we are always trying to find a way to be able to spend more time doing our art instead of having a day job!
With my limited edition, I am hoping to put away some money to at least start on what I will need for self publishing if that becomes necessary.

A couple of artists have been very up front about the monetary aspects of publishing a tarot deck.

Arnell Ando documents publishing the Transformational Tarot in the articles section here:

Sarah Ovenall has a diary on her website that covers the process of pblishing the Victoria Regina tarot with Llewellyn. Go back and read the older entries here:

Of all the people I have talked to and who have told me privately what they made off of their decks they seem to fall into 3 categories:

1. Small run, handmade editions. Break even or small profit depending what is charged compared to what materials you choose to make it.
With mine for example, if you were to count what I have spent in materials to make the original art it would about break even. It would be at a loss if you calclated time. I am not calclating either of those since I still hope to commercially publish the whole deck when it is done so I would say I plan on making maybe a few thousand dollars. I know my price is considered at the high end of the range at $65.00 per 27 card deck.
If I were to have created my deck planning on doing exactly what I have done so far but not planning on going the last step and commercially publishing I would be at a loss. Also, if I charged like 25-30 a deck I Would be at a huge loss.

2. Medium run, self pblished, make by a professional printer. I have been told that these usually end up at a loss. Arnells deck for example, she talks about how she didn't take into cosideration the deep discounts for distribution.

3. Published by a major tarot publisher with wide (for tarot) distribtion. Not including decks that were paid as a work for hire, or for art outright purchased it seems the average pay has been about 1-3,000 at signing of contract, the same at completion of the deck and sometimes again at publication. And thereafter you get royalties every quarter which seem to average 1-3,000. So that's about 4,000 to 12,000 a year.

Of course this isn't a perfect sampling, just an average of the people I have personally talked to., maybe 15 decks out of the hundreds or thousands which have been published.

I have no clue what the publishers make off tarot but I doubt they are getting rich either.

******NOTE I don't believe I am giving away any secrets here, but if anyone feels I shouldn't give out these figures or that I am grossly misrepresenting them, let me know and I will edit this post.

So, I hope this gives people a better understanding of what you will make from a tarot deck!



I think that's a really good summary Marie. I know I was horrified the first time I realised the discounts you have to give distributors (anything from 45% to 75% - and from what's left you pay all the production costs - and shipping). But the fact is that most of the medium-sized distributors have gone out of business in the last few years - so they are not raking in profits either.
Without distribution, it's really, really hard to sell any quantity. You just can't get the decks into enough shops.
This is a hard business. It's also - and we should keep saying this - an incredibly rewarding one to be in. But it won't make you rich - not financially anyway.
I'd still much rather be doing this than almost anything else though. I'm grateful that it's possible.


baba-prague said:
This is a hard business. It's also - and we should keep saying this - an incredibly rewarding one to be in. But it won't make you rich - not financially anyway.
I'd still much rather be doing this than almost anything else though. I'm grateful that it's possible.

I totally agree!!

There is a financial benefit to artists that I keep forgetting- promotion. Especially if you are interested in illustrating in the metaphysical community, doing a tarot deck is priceless, I think. It's very expensive to promote yourself as an artist so to get it for free or even to make a little is great.
AND there are so many different images required in a tarot deck that it gives great focus and consistincy, as well as sheer quantity, to your portfolio.



Yes (!) Mandragora, most people tend to divide their lives between what they have to do (work) and what they enjoy doing in their "spare" time. For many of them the spare time activities become the whole reason for "needing" to do their "real" work, which pays the bills, or doesn't, for spare time activities.

And since the enjoyable part usually doesn't include all the drudgery of preparation and cleanup, there's also a loss of realization that the day to day mundane side of life is a part of everything, because it's put in the "have to" category, and kept carefully out of the "fun" side.

Which is why, I suspect, so many people who are interested in tarot, new age, the occult, and general spiritual activities have such an aversion to money (or at least, making money) being a part of the picture. It lets the mundane and non-esoteric side of things intrude where it's not supposed to belong. <Note: That's only an opinion ;-)>


Thanks, Marie, it's nice to know those figures. I've only talked to two deck makers prior to finding Aeclectic--Robin Wood and one of the ladies from the Ancestral Path Tarot (both sort of local to me, we met at science fiction conventions). While neither one gave out any actual figures, you could sort of tell about where they were in the big scheme of things, and heard the bad stories about getting published too.

I think the more info that's available, the better it is to make decisions on things. Otherwise a person is really working in the dark and doesn't know if they're way out in left field, getting ripped off or what.