Publishing Tips


Hello fellow Western Australian Retrokat!

Thanks for the input on publishing a deck. Yours is fantastic, I can see why US games want to publish it!

I hope to see more of you in Aeclectic.


Rights once you publish

Firstly, thanks for your kind words re my deck, guys! *blush*

Before I published, I'd heard the rumour that USGS "keep" original works. The physical meaning of "keep" is kinda irrelevant to as the deck was produced digitally (ie, the version on my hard drive is exactly the same as the one on theirs) - so in my case it's the copyright meaning of "keep".

In my contract with US Games, I gave them the right to choose if they register it in their or my name, but my guess is it will be theirs, since they're in it for business reasons.

I had to do a bit of soul-searching before I agreed, since as an artist I've always kept my copyright and swore I'd never hand it over. But face it, as a first-time deck creator, what kind of bargaining position was I in? They'd formally offered me a contract and I was thinking about it and also waiting to see if Llewellyn were interested in making an offer too -my hope being that I'd keep my copyright with Llewellyn. As it turned out, Llewellyn gave me a (very nice) no - kindly adding that they thought USGS was more appropriate for the deck. And then Stuart Kaplan rang me personally to ask me to sign - which just blew me away, and made me realise how incredibly lucky I was to get ANY kind of offer from USGS. I am so much in awe of Kaplan's historical tarot knowledge and couldn't believe he'd taken a personal interest in my deck. So I signed.

I don't regret it at all. They only have specific publishing rights (as someone mentioned, merchandise such as cups/t-shirts etc aren't covered). If at any stage they stop publishing for a year, the contract is terminated - so it's not "forever". And as long as they're publishing, I'll be very happy. I couldn't have asked for a publisher with wider distribution - basically anyone who's interested in tarot anywhere in the world should be able to get hold of it, and it won't be prohibitively expensive.

Perhaps if it were my paintings (see instead of my digital collage work, I would have felt differently. There's something very physical about 'real' paintings, and although I've sold hundreds of the buggers I don't think I'd ever part with the paintings for the (unpublished) kids' books I've written. So I can understand why some tarot deck creators have a problem "handing over" their original artwork.

I decided to be realistic. If I hadn't agreed to surrender copyright, none of you would be able to buy the deck 'for real' - it would still just be screen resolution and no good for reading with.

From USGS's point of view, I can understand their commercial decision to hold copyright. For example, if the piracy thing happens again, I think they stand a much better chance of suing the offenders than I did. Also, if I held copyright - what if I changed my mind about publishing because I couldn't handle the pressure of being in the public eye? Sure, I invested a few months of my life to make the deck, but by the time it's in print, they will have invested a lot more than that. So I think it's only reasonable that they want to do whatever they can to protect their investment.

So far, I've found them to be very co-operative with usage - for example, allowing (even encouraging) me to keep running my site, even though they have the online rights to the deck.

Hope that covers all the questions?

Oh, one more - someone asked how long it took. The original deck and site took me a few months part-time while I was travelling around the world. The proper rebuild at high res (for publishing) took about 1500 hours, which is pretty close to a year of normal working hours, but I did it in 4 months. I worked 12-16 hrs/day, 7 days a week. Not because USGS insisted on such a harsh deadline, but because that's as long as I could possibly afford to avoid real, paid work. My lovely little brother supported me - he's sweet enough to think it's an important new deck, and says he's investing in the future *grin* I've kept a list and hope it at least sells well enough to pay him back one day!

Or if anyone needs a web designer, now I'm available...


This is a wonderful thread! Great tips... especially love retrokat's - way to go! :)


yes. thank you for posting this thread. it's really very informative, especially regarding the processes involved in legally publishing decks. :)



I just found this section and I am so happy!

Kat, I went to your website and checked out some of your art. I love the tarot you are about to have published and I have to add that your original art is so incredibly charming I think it would make a great deck too!

There are some incredible artists posting here, Kayne, I saw your deck finally, just recently, gorgeous! The colors are so beautiful!

I just mailed off a big submission package to a publisher yesterday, so have my fingers crossed. I can't wait to hear back.
So maybe sometime soon I can report on the publishing experience.

So far I have found that the publishers either have guidelines on their websites or will give them to you if you email or call them.
That way you can find out what they are looking for.

I have also found that most published artists and authors of tarot decks are more than willing to discuss their publishing experiences and I have gained some priceless information from them.

I personally decided to wait until my deck was nearly done before I submitted it to any publisher because I wanted to retain control of the project for as long as possible, ie. I didn't want the images or content influenced by outside sources. It wouldnt be as big a deal if it only took me a few months to do, but I have invested just about 5 years on it now and have maybe another year to go. Regardless of whether I ever get published though, the process has been so worthwhile. I have learned so much. If I had it to do all over again I definitely would.

Marie (mary-el tarot)


Wow, marie, they are sooo pretty!

I think you did a great job, and I hope you'll get published. Uhn, I feel so humbled now. I could never make anything like that. My own cards are just circles and squares. :( I mean, I do believe they have their own merit in their simplicity and stuff, but... :| I wish I had just a snippet of your skills...

Well, just put me on the pre-order list for your deck, ok? I am keeping my fingers crossed for you. *gapes some more at the cards* Wow.



Willie don't worry what yours look like compared to anyone else's. Look at the Stick Figure Tarot--it's popular & now that it's out of print everyone STILL wants it. Talk about a simplistic image deck!

And the guy who did the Silicone Valley Tarot didn't have much drawing capability either. But his deck is doing well too.

Just work with what you have & keep confident!


WillieHewes said:
I could never make anything like that.

Nobody can ever make anything like anyone else. That's what's so cool, every single one of us has our own way of expressing what we see in the world.
That is one of the reasons I like tarot so much, I love seeing all of the individual interpretations over the same framework.
Thank God we are all different.

<heading over to look at your website>



marie. your cards are beautiful. i hope you do get them published soon, as i feel they're going to start a new tarot craze. :)



Your deck is really beautiful. For all your "you don't need artistic skills to make a deck", I reckon your talent as an artist has been put to excellent use making your deck. Can't wait to see the rest of it, and I really hope the publishers go for it - it really deserves to be in print!