(Part One of Three)
Even before the clusterf*ck that is 2020, there’s been a rise in “spiritual not religious“/ mystical/ pagan believers interested in doing Card Reading as well as designing oracle decks. (Side note- although many people use “Oracle” to refer just to decks that are outside Tarot, leNormand or Kipper paradigms, they’re all Oracle decks if used that way.) One of the ‘democratizing benefits’ of the intertubes is the ability to crowd-source funds for Creative projects- from musical albums to art books to oracle decks.
Many deck creators are using crowd funding sites, often successfully. However, that process has limitations and requirements that may not work for every designer. Such sites offer deck designers the ability to pre-sell their decks so they can then order in bulk. The cost per deck is obviously lower when ordered in bulk. Printers overseas have lower labour & operating costs that more than make up for shipping costs. So long as campaign supporters are aware of the longer lead times.
Those crowd-sourced sites offer various kinds of support, but as with every form of self-publishing the bulk of Marketing effort and expense is on the creator. From creating the artwork to designing the campaign (pricing, premiums, marketing materials) to advertising and being very available on Social Media, to receiving (then shipping out) the finished product and any bumps along the way, a successful Oracle Deck campaign can easily consume life for an entire year. Not every deck creator has the ability or desire to do so.
Another benefit of the Internet is the rise of POD (Print On Demand) sites that will produce a single tee shirt, book or canvas art print to order. The Gamecrafter is a POD site, established in Wisconsin in 2001 to produce tabletop games to order. Of course decks of cards are a common part of such games, and TGC has a fabulous deck production system in place. As POD is still a form of self-publishing, designers are still responsible for marketing their creation. But TGC deals with processing payments, collecting sales taxes, delivery delays and claims for damage. What a relief.
I helped Sister Who publish The Tarot of Sister Who at The Gamecrafter and then created Choose JOY (Sister Flirt’s Meditation Tin and Portable Altar), also available at TGC. I love the quality of their product, and would like to help other deck creators use them, or at least appreciate the benefits that TGC offers. And perhaps encourage designers who have, or are considering, a deck at TGC offer some of the upgrades they have available.
At this point I’d like to address what seems to be the 2 major disadvantages POD sites have in competing with other options.
Not having to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket before making any sales was the primary USP (unique selling proposition) for crowd-source sites. Since then creators have experimented with increasing the visual and tactile experience of their deck. Custom boxes may include fabric lining or gold foil printing (exterior or interior). Some have a cardboard insert to hold the cards in the middle of a larger box that includes a book. As a deck buyer, I do appreciate an upgrade from the traditional tuck box. My marketing background knows the value of quality presentation.
Crowd-funded decks are generally printed overseas. Having a hundred complex boxes assembled by hand is not as expensive as it necessarily would be if manufactured domestically. Offering such complex packaging on a Print On Demand basis within the USA would drive costs (and production times) through the proverbial roof. TGC has expanded their packaging options from tuck boxes to sturdier Stout and Pro boxes. Not as fancy as those overseas custom boxes, but still a nice presentation. In future posts I’ll go into more detail on these and other options.
The other concern is not so much POD vs Crowd Funding, as POD vs Mass Market publishers; pricing.
This is an issue that is faced by artists and designers who use POD sites for all kinds of items; from books to fine art prints to t-shirts & coffee mugs. Many (but not all) shoppers who use POD sites don’t compare merchandise prices to products in discount stores. T-shirts may be found at lots of places for $5, but few expect a made-to-order custom design shirt to be the same price.
As noted above, many crowd-funded projects have confirmed that once an item is priced well above an average ‘mass market’ item, adding a few moderate-priced upgrades increase the perceived value more than the additional cost. Most Llewellyn, US Games, and Weiser decks have List Prices in the US$20 to $26 range (actual retail pricing online may be even lower) but other publishers have shown that prices up to double that range can succeed even for Mass Market items; your unique Oracle Deck should not be trying to compete with low end mass market prices.
# This is NOT a ‘sponsored post’ – The Gamecrafter has not paid for, nor approved, my comments;
# Links to the Tarot of Sister Who and Choose JOY are not Affiliate links; I do earn the Designer’s Royalty on sales of either item.