I am starting up my own press to do limited editions, but I’ll support this endeavour through commercial work as well. One of the things I’m having a devil of a time with is trying to get a realistic sense of how to price my work. I’ve spoken with a couple of press publishers here in BC, but I was interested in getting as broad a perspective as possible, so I am turning to the Briar Press community.
For those of you actively selling your letterpress service or producing fine press editions, I was wondering if you could give me ballpark ideas of how you price your work (percentage materials costs, markups, time factors that you use, etc). What customers are willing to pay is always a factor to bear in mind, I know.
I am also trying to determine where to focus my energy for fine press books. Who do you sell to, collectors (subscribers, one-off sales), book resellers, libraries, and what percentage would you say they make up of your sales? Do you think your content focus restricts you to any one group over another?
Whatever guidance is offered I am grateful for. If you feel posting any of this information in this forum is undesirable, but still wish to help, please email me instead.
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I’d suggest a trip to the Oak Knoll Fest as you will then get a feel for both pricing and the market.
In terms of pricing it matters most what the market will bear but that is not necessarily based on what you put into it in terms of materials, labor, etc., but quite frankly who you are and what you are doing.
The market for fine press books is severely limited to either collectors or special collections. It is not a matter of merely producing a book but actively marketing it. In that regard, no different from anything else. Except that it is a very, very small market.
To answer that one specific question, yes, content restricts you enormously. If you step outside of the field you are dead in the water. My advice, step outside of the field. Don’t follow the expected path. Another person’s success in fine press publishing is not the model to emulate. You have to find your own way. Don’t expect to survive doing this, do it because you have to. Or don’t do it at all.
I thank you for your honest words. My reasoning behind this post was a matter of surveying the land before I choose my path. I have already committed to the journey. Ultimately, my work will be a reflection of my own artistic style, my personal values, and my commitment. Anything less would not be genuine and it would show.
Getting a sense of others’ concrete experience in the “business” side of things is only a part of my due diligence to ensure I make the right book at the right time (and in the right quantity) and avoid making costly mistakes which might impact my future ability to practice this craft.
My research thus far has already shown that individual printers have widely varying distribution to these markets, widely varying artistic goals which they are attempting to accomplish, and widely varying methods for accomplishing those goals.
Thank you for the tip about Oak Knoll Fest. I had forgotten about it. If I can scrape together the airfare I will make it.