Self-Published Tarot deck?



I decided start this thread to brainstorm and share some iussues that are the next-step -after creating a deck...

I'm working on mine now, and have about 20-25 cards to go (I have a few half way, I work on many at once...,) I work on it nearly full time. I spend a lot of time studying too, since I was lucky enough to enroll to a graduate study, that accepts my seck as my thesis. To have the accept that though, I can not ever use the word divination! I read tons, and experiment with scholar and creative writing on symbolism, and what not.
(all this academic work, BTW, has helped me understand why I followed the one tradition and not the other, and where i mixed a few, and where i mixed my own. Very important!)

Hope that at the end, i will have a book too, or something like it. There is another thread that discusses "to book or not to bokk", and I agree with everything said there... Yes, a deck is not complete without a book that emerges form the deck (and not a mishmash of ither books). This is the only way that will make the contribution a significant one...

Although, I must say, that I talked about it with barbara moore, from Lwellyn, and she said it not necessary. I wish too I didn't have to do it, but I see that I gain tremendously. the tarot path is one of SWEAT!!!

Now, the next part, is not any dryer. You send it to publishers, they tell you they like it a lot, you believe them, but they won't take a chance. Is that a karmic thing?
Now, you invested in it a lifetime, and probabaly feel like I do?that you HAVE to doo this... After all is done, you don't want to keep it in the drawer, right?

So, SELF-PUBLISHING comes in mind...

I have gotten a quote from carta mundi (the Belgium publisher, where akll the BIF guys print the cards). The price is double that the one I got from China, and i still ask, why everybody prints there. there must be another reason besides quality. I know all the publishers are somehow connected-it's a tight nearly-monopol...
Now, If I want to self-publish, so I have to do what theyt do? (printing at least?)

The issue of the book, arrises again: Packaging and price point. I was told that stores like taht, because they make double profit with the same amount of sales, and looks more attractive on the shelf. And then it has to be similar size that the rest, so it can fir nicely in the Tarot display!
I must say, i just looked at Tarot of Prague, and reallky liked the fancy-dandy ribbon... It looke DIFFERENT and looke dgreat, to my opinion...

And let's get to the mud of....DISTRIBUTION!!!
Another tight belt there. France has one tarot distributor! If they like it, you are in. If they don't like it, your deck will never make it to France, other that via internet...

So, let me summarize some question i would like to throw out there, and see where we go from there...

- What is a good number to start with?
- What are the main, important things, that matter when you do it , your-self?
- How can you enter your publication in an eshtablished way? (from copywriting to publication ID?)
- What is the deal with Belgium printers and Tarot? Is it better to print with them, of maybe in the nearby printer, where you can at least be "hands on"?
- Why nobody (?) prints in china?

OK... It's already a lot to ask...
I'll try to think of more later...

I just feel great frustration... that the niche is so small...
That US games, can ask for your deck to be in their Encyclopedia, but they expect you to find the editor, inquire about deadlines, and sign forms you would rather not. This happened to me twice. and what you get is a copy of the book.

Anyway, is still seems that when there is something you NEED TO DO, you'll do it...
Isn't it all about the journey of the Fool, anyway? I must be transiting through "The Devil" now!



Oh - I know you said in your pm that this was a looOONg message, but you have asked a huge number of questions! But I'm sure between everyone here you will get good answers.

So - number one, quality. Carta Mundi do good quality printing - they are established and very professional. We have used them for another project (not tarot) and they are good. I would say not perfect, as the colour-matching we got on the other project was a little off, but I don't know if this is typical or exceptional. Any printer that isn't local will be hard to check - i.e. if you can't literally be there during printing then you may have to accept some degree of hit and miss.

People do print in China. Tarot de Paris was apparently printed in China. I can't comment, but many people have complained about the quality of card stock and printing (search here for threads). But is this because it was done in China or was it just bad luck, or the particular printer used? Who knows?
US Games print some decks in China. Take a look and decide for yourself if it's the quality you need. Our deck needed extremely high quality printing because it is very detailed, that's why we went with a local well-known printer who specialised in art books (ie very high quality repro) but this may not be necessary for all decks. It's really your own decision.

Distribution? Hard, hard hard! We were accepted by a very large US distributor. Statistically, we were told there is about a one in a thousand chance of that for a first publication. That's right ONE in a THOUSAND. However, we probably won't go with them as in the end they may not be right for us or the deck (for reasons I won't go into). They are good distributors, we have no criticism of them at all - but even a good distributor may not be right for every publication.

So - just be prepared for hard work after the deck is published, as well as before. I don't mean that to sound off-putting - in many ways we are finding distribution and sales a lot of fun (there is nothing nicer than getting feedback from happy users of your deck) but it is quite hard work. Anyway, I am sure you know all this :) You sound very realistic and well organised.

You also ask how many to print? Well, it's impossible for me to advise on this. It depends on how many you expect to sell, whether you want to be a limited edition or not - and how many you can afford to print! I honestly don't think anyone can tell you.

Okay - I hope others will join in as I'm sure this is a useful thread. Thanks for starting it.


To get distributed through warehouse suppliers in the US you need a bar code number, it's all done by those now. There was a thread under the Tarot Deck Creation bb about it somewhere (I might have started it, I'd gotten some info on book publishing which covered getting into the stores & who needed what to do it properly). Without that code, a lot of places won't even look at what you have to offer.

I did hear about China/Asia/Japan for publishing. It's cheap, can be really great with color, BUT you have to pay heavily to have it imported which is where the greater part of the expense comes in. They specialize in Manga and all that animation over there, are very familiar with color separation and various surfaces to put on card stock, and are relatively cheap, however the total 'package' has to include shipping which is where the arm and a leg comes in. Bleh.

Also, like she said--quality. The company I used to work for wanted a little mascot doll made up in Hong Kong on the cheap. They got back some nice samples of the doll, a ghost about the size of a beanie babie. It looked great. They gave the go-ahead and had 5,000 made. They got here & we opened the cases & the fabric was different, the embroidery was different, the eyes & features looked cheaper, the bodies weren't stuffed as full & the bottoms were larger. Side by side we saw nice quality vs half ass job. Make sure you specify that the samples are fully representative of the final product, no substitutions.

You can try an 'end run' for your printing questions by going to any role playing gaming company that puts out printed games and such in your country, emailing them about who they use to print their games and maybe get in on a good printer that way. That was suggested by someone here at a sf convention when I asked about publication & printing 2 years ago at Gencon (that's a sf trade show that attracts companies like TSR, Wizards of the Coast, White Dwarf, etc.) They're in a different field, but use the same services.

As for how many to print...what you can best afford? Lots if you can. Higher print runs get you lower price estimates.


I've finally finished all my CYMK conversions, and am about to start the publisher rounds for my deck, with self-publishing as a backup (and if I do it right, it will be because of the people in this forum, especially baba-prague and HudsonGray).

For me, getting a regular publisher is a plus, simply because more "normal" stores tend to go with standard publishers, and over the long haul more decks should be sold. But I know it's going to be a tradeoff on quality, unless I get spectacularly lucky. Mom worked for Reginsteiner Press in Chicago while I was growing up (they used to have a lock on high-end automotive yearly brochures, and those are QUALITY plus), so I know what really, really good printing ought to look like, and I also know that the reality for commercial deck production doesn't normally measure up, due to financial constraints.

If I do end up self-publishing, it will be with either someone in the close area, or someone who is willing to do a whole lot of FedExing between stages, because if I take responsibility for it, I want it done well. And I'll try and subsidize the costs with spinoff items (well, I'm starting that now, actually).

I suppose the number of decks you print will have to do with how you see your deck, or maybe how you see the people who will buy it. Limited editions strike me as great for artwork, but not necessarily for a working deck. Be that as it may, whatever printer you end up with will likely give you a set of price breaks at different numbers of decks. Let your bankbook be your guide, and think "first publication" rather than "limited edition". Once they have the plates, assuming they expect you to reorder, it shouldn't cost quite so much the second time around.

On the rest of the questions, I'm as much of a beginner as you are, and I'll read the other replies with a lot of interest.


Thank you all for your valuable responses...
I know my post was loooong and maybe it shoud have had more...bullets!

Some further thoughts/questions:
- I like the idea of "first publication" vs "limited edition", but what does it really mean?
if one starts with a Limited Edition, they can not later make another one? they will hve to change something about it (re: packaging) to do it ?
I can also suspect that Limited means fancier, more expensive, a collector's item?

The Bar-code issue (thank you Hudson gray) is something i had in mind too... I didn't think pf uit as "barcode", but more of a formal registration of the product, as a published good...

Another thing I'm thinking, is what else to do around it-meaning: if i put myself in trouble to publish my deck, I would assume that means i'm starting a small press (re: my nickname...). one of the things I thought is having a publication of the major Arcana only, maybe in a bigger format, with a more extensive spread guide, for different uses and stuff like that... Or to also have those cards foiled, so it's different, doesn;t compete with the book+deck set. For this I would like another price. either higher (because of fancy), or lower, to do it small... Not to mention a calendar, notecards and the rest...

OK...i can do this forever...
I'll add things my posts won'y be sooo huge!

thanks all for the collabrative spirit!


Barcodes + preorders

Hudson gray!-thanks so much for the barcode info (found the link)!

One thing about this: It's all true, is the deck is published in the Us. But what if it's not? Do i get then a local "barcode"? and how can I then sell it in the us too?
Do you think that printing with no codes, but leaving one side of the packaging empty, and then putting a sticker there, could be a solution?

I know that Lo Scarabeo for example, that are in Italy, sell through US (Lwellyn), so the good are not necessary called "imported"...

and reading all this, i came up with the word "pre-order":
I read about it some time ago... I guess means selling with a discount., since you sell early... and then also you have estimates of how much to print? so how do you set the pricing?
Anybody has more info of how you do this?

now I have all the questions... one day I might have all the answers! :)


Just to say quickly about barcodes. Any good printer should be able to supply barcodes as part of their job. As HudsonGray rightly says, it's essential now for every book, so printers are completely used to it. They should also be able to advise you on whether or not you need a US barcode - I think not, because so many goods are imported now that every barcode reader can read any standard international barcode. Our printer (who exports books all over the world) just gave us a local barcode and we've had no problems.

A book number is a whole other issue. But that's really if you are doing a book set.

I'd second everything Astra says about printing.

In answer to your question about pre-orders, well bear in mind that it will only give you a rough indication of final orders, as most people probably won't want to pre-order. I think again different people will have different experience and advice about this. We mainly asked for pre-orders in order to let us get ahead with doing all the accompanying "special offer" prints (which are individually done and take some time). In the event, we weren't happy with our early prints so we ended up buying a new printer and doing all the prints from scratch LOL. Not all plans work out!


HudsonGray wrote:
The company I used to work for wanted a little mascot doll made up in Hong Kong on the cheap. They got back some nice samples of the doll, a ghost about the size of a beanie babie. It looked great. They gave the go-ahead and had 5,000 made. They got here & we opened the cases & the fabric was different, the embroidery was different, the eyes & features looked cheaper, the bodies weren't stuffed as full & the bottoms were larger. Side by side we saw nice quality vs half ass job

I don't want to get too off-thread here, but just to say that I did find this story very interesting. We have looked into having production done further east in Europe (not just for cards, but also for the related work we are doing in textiles) and we have heard exactly the same story - you will get some lovely samples but final production may be quite different.
Alex has told me why this tends to happen (all sorts of historical stuff about no-one caring about quality under Communisim). He says it often isn't deliberate cheating so much as a totally different way of seeing thngs. Whatever the reason, it made us convinced that we have to do everything locally where we can supervise all stages of the process. I can't tell you how often we have been to the bookbinders to check that all our little deck "book-covers" are high quality. It takes time, but it is SO worth it. It can be done nicely too - we've stayed on very good terms with everyone, but they now think we are funny, neurotic perfectionists and that's fine by us!

My advice to you as an independent publisher would be to be very, very careful about quality. If things go wrong for a big publisher then they have the clout (and the money) to get them put right, but for a small publisher it really is vital that it's right first time. If in doubt - check everything. Again, Astra is completely correct in saying this. A few fees for fed-exing are nothing compared to the investment lost if anything goes wrong.


CHINA issue:
I have heard many stories about China...
I think that if you have some one in the "middle", that has already an established working relationship with them, you'll be Ok. (I know someone in NY, who is Chinese too, so at least they can speak the language!) but then of course, it's more expensive... It's like having a production agent...

I also heard about someone who manufactured shoes, and when he got his container with goods, there were "planted" there a couple of hundred shoes, that were not his! probably some left over stock!

I think i didn't get that one right...
I thought pre-orders meant that people order in advance, and pay you, so you can use the money to invest, and this way they get a discount, and help you, and make it possible for your work to come out... i haven't realised that you actually created a separate amount, on a separate production line...
Did I get it right, now?

Thanks guys :)



No, we didn't create anything separate. What I meant is that we had a "special offer" for pre-orders of the deck - just as a "thank-you" for people's faith in us really. We could have just said that we would give the special offer for the first orders or something, but by giving it for pre-orders we thought we would have more notice and time to get all the prints ready (sorry, I am SO inarticulate today, I should explain that the offer was a free print for each order). However, like I say, the best laid plans...!

We didn't take payment for pre-orders, we just took emails and said "pay when the deck is out", but some people do ask for payment in advance. Again, up to you. I think it really depends on your situation. We could see that our publication date was going to be delayed (for many reasons, including that it's just the way things are here) so we didn't want to actually take money until we knew 100% when the deck would be ready. But in different circumstances you might feel otherwise.

I think HudsonGray talked about pre-orders in another thread, and might be willing to chip in here again. I think it is something that people go about in many different ways.