So You Created An Oracle Deck
The term “Oracle deck” includes Tarot, LeNormand and Kipper paradigms as well as an incredible array of stand-alone designs. In fact, a deck of standard poker cards becomes an Oracle Deck when used that way. The number of decks available to purchase now is definitely in the thousands; Print On Demand and crowd-sourced funding has greatly expanded a designer’s options from licensing to a major publisher or paying to print and then sell hundreds of copies.

Publishing Strategies
Licensing a deck to a traditional publishing company (US Games, Llewellyn, etc) offers perhaps the greatest retail distribution, although for a reduced share of revenue, with long launch times. and loss of control. And is still a rare occurrence as each company generally has only a set number of new releases each year.

There are 3 other ways to publish your deck; each a variation of ‘self-publishing’. Direct self-publishing is still an option, although the investment of money, time and energy to have a deck printed in bulk and then have to store, market and sell it oneself is extensive. Inventory, shipping, sales taxes, damaged or missing shipments- all those details! This leads to publishing through a POD site or Crowd-funded self-publishing.

Crowd-Sourced Funding
Using a crowd-source website to fund a deck is incredibly popular at the moment. Such sites offer deck designers the ability to pre-sell their decks so they can then order in bulk for maximum volume pricing. Printers overseas have lower labour & operating costs that more than make up for the additional shipping costs. So long as campaign supporters are aware of the longer lead times.

In addition to volume discounts and lower overseas production costs, crowd-funding projects are able to offer fancy packaging. While this obviously appeals to deck collectors, many Card Readers no longer keep their decks wrapped in a cloth. As Card Readers start to purchase a larger number of decks, there’s a desire to keep them each in a clearly labeled box. Tuck boxes, even in a thicker stock used by ‘major publishers’ are not long-term solutions.

Anyone spending significantly more than US$20 on a deck appreciates a truly custom box; perhaps fabric lined or printed on the interior. A cardboard insert to hold the cards in the middle of a larger box that includes a book, and a fabric pull or fabric hinges. Over-all, crowd-funded campaigns are ‘upscaling’ their packaging.

Crowd-funded decks are generally printed overseas and shipped via boat. Having a few dozen or few hundred boxes assembled by hand is not as expensive as it necessarily would be if done domestically.

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 most of your life for an entire year.

Not every deck creator has the ability or desire to do so.

Print On Demand Production
do you think of POD (Print On Demand) sites as producing a single tee shirt or coffee mug to order? That’s the most common type. The Gamecrafter (TGC) is a different sort of 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 & remitting sales taxes, delivery delays and claims for damage. What a relief. Also, it’s much easier to take a break for a few months from marketing your deck once it’s published in their marketplace, then in the midst of a crowd-funding campaign.

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. And perhaps encourage designers to offer some of the upgrades they have available.

If the thought of taking your project from art files to finished product at TGC seems overwhelming, I can certainly provide support; from an initial consultation to managing the entire TGC experience. Please contact me via contact(at)digitalgryphon(dot)com.

See also these 3 posts at my personal blog that discuss why I (and other deck creators should) use The Gamecrafter.