Special FAQ Section: Sales Information for Small Press and Self Publishers

Welcome to our informational page for small press- and self-publishers. We've compiled the list of commonly-asked questions below; please reach out to Jeannette via the contact information given at the bottom of the page if you have additional questions, or want to talk with us about selling your fabulous deck!


Q & As:

Q: I've just published my own tarot deck (or had my tarot deck published by a small press company) -- how do I get my deck listed in your database?

A: The best way to get listed in our database is to wholesale us a supply of your deck for our inventory. We love to buy and promote small press and independent tarots -- but you'll want to read the sections below that deal with wholesale pricing before contacting us with your wholesale information.

However, if you aren't able to sell wholesale, then you may at least want to consider sending us a sample copy of your deck for our library. All tarot decks in the Tarot Garden library are eventually entered into our online searchable database. Sample decks can be sent to us at the following address:

The Tarot Garden
Attn: Review and Library Submissions
1304 20th St
West Des Moines, IA 50265

If you are sending a sample deck, please include a letter or note with the following information:

    • Deck Title (if not clearly printed on the deck in the Western Alphabet)
    • Names of the deck designers, artists, and any contributing developers
    • Year of publication
    • Country of publication
    • Number of cards (not including title, advertising, or instruction cards)
    • If the deck is a limited edition, the number of copies produced
    • A brief description of the deck's theme, intent, or any interesting facts about the deck design, illustrations, structure, card titles, or symbolism.

Q: My deck isn't actually a tarot -- it's more of a {rune pack, parlor sybil, original oracle, etc.}. Will you still stock my deck, or at least list it in your database?

A: While we do obviously list and sell some non-tarot cartomantic decks, documenting and stocking these sorts of products is admittedly really far down on our priority list. We're having enough trouble keeping up with the more-or-less "traditional" tarots being published these days -- we're not anxious to take on the task of being an all-inclusive source for every cartomantic product ever produced. Our focus is on tarot -- the few non-tarot products we list and carry usually got brought on board either by strong customer demand, by accident (on a few occasions), or due to convenience (the latter meaning we just happened to pick up a few copies while ordering something else from an easily-accessible publishing firm or distributor). But if you'd like us to consider your non-tarot product, you can send us your sales information, or a review copy to the address listed in the section on self-published tarot decks above.

IMPORTANT EXCEPTION: Due to the dramatic increase in interest in Lenormand-style sybils, we now give equal consideration to Lenormand decks when evaluating items for purchase.

Q: I'd like to see my deck sold at the Tarot Garden -- how do I arrange for that?

A: You simply need to contact us with your sales information. Here's what we'll need:

    • The name of your deck, and some sample scans (or a sample copy, if you'd care to mail us one to the address given above)
    • The deck's published or advertised retail price
    • Your wholesale price schedule
    • Your payment options and terms

Due to the overwhelming amount of spam emails and phone calls we now receive, we've had to abandon regular checking of our more prominently published addresses and numbers. The best way to reach us is by sending us a message through our FaceBook page, where we will gladly chat with you about your project, and provide you with an email address that is checked daily and a phone number that is answered regularly.

Q: OK -- I sent you the sales details for my deck. Why didn't you buy any?

A: Trust us -- if you have published an original tarot deck, we want to buy it for our inventory. However, with so many decks now being published, our cash flow won't allow us to buy absolutely everything we see. Nonetheless, our criteria for whether we actually stock a particular deck or not is really quite simple: we have to clear enough profit on the deck for ourselves in order to keep our operation running. And we've found that many self-publishers don't really understand how much "margin" we have to have in the sale of a deck in order to achieve that relatively modest goal.

To be more precise: if you sent us yor price schedule, and we failed to place an order, it's most likely because you were not able to offer us "true" wholesale pricing. A 10% discount off of your deck's advertised retail price is not a wholesale price... that's more like a "courtesy discount" for a good direct customer. We do the math in the section below, if you're interested -- but if you want the short, to-the-point version, here it is:

The wholesale standard in the publishing industry is that retailers receive 40 - 60% discounts off of a product's advertised retail price. The average is around 45%, and it's not really possible for a retailer to make a workable profit on any item sold to them at less than a 33% discount off retail, unless they're willing to sell the product for a higher-than-retail price. Furthermore, if you're interested in getting your deck picked up by us for distribution (meaning a higher volume of sales for you), the industry standard for distribution-level sales requires 50 - 75% discount from the retail price (since a distributor has to turn around and resell the deck to retailers at in the 40 - 60% discount range). More information on wholesale pricing appears in the next section.

There is one other reason why we sometimes decide not to carry a tarot deck, or not to restock it once we sell out: dishonest pricing practices. If you tell us the retail price for your deck -- i.e., the price the end customer pays -- is, say, $25, and the wholesale price -- the price retailers pay -- is $15, that's fine and fair. But if you then turn around and sell the deck yourself directly through customers through your website, or on a public sales venue such as eBay, for $15 or less -- well, we definitely have a problem with that. We've been stuck more than a few times by that scam, and we're not anxious to get caught by it again.

It's not that we object to self-publishers doing direct sales... we understand that. You have a right to sell your deck through whatever venues you see fit. We don't even care what kind of sales deals you arrange with customers privately. What we object to is being lied to. If you publicly state somewhere that you're selling your deck for $15, then the retail price is $15, not $25, and a 0% discount does not constitute a wholesale price. And think about it: if you're openly selling the deck for $15, and we have it listed for $25, then we won't easily be able to sell our supply, because customers will obviously buy where they can get the deck $10 less expensively. And not only can we not afford to have a large amount of cash tied up in tarots decks that just sit on our shelf, not moving, you can also bet we won't be helping your sales any by reordering your product.

Q: I don't understand -- a 10% (or 20% or 25%) discount seems like a very fair wholesale price to me. How can you say that you can't clear a reasonable profit after that level of discount?

A: Because there are numerous costs involved in making each sale, and some of those costs are based on the percentage of the sales price, not a fixed amount. Therefore, the lower the discount, the higher the percentage of the gross profit margin that's taken from each copy sold.

We'll provide and example here, but by way of introduction, consider this: we've had deck sellers say things like, "my deck sells for $100, but you can have a 10% discount, and buy the decks from me "wholesale" for $90. That's $10 profit, which is more than you typically make selling your average U.S. Games deck, right?"

Wrong. Oh, so wrong. First of all, even before going through the full calculations of net profit, there's a major error in the statement that we make more selling a $100 deck with $10 gross margin than we do selling an $18 U.S. Games deck with a $9 gross margin. Think about it. If we invest $90 in your deck, and sell it for $100, we've made $10 before expenses. But if we take that same $90, we can buy 10 U.S. Games decks, each with a $9 gross margin, and 10 decks x $9 gross profit each = $90 total gross profit. So from a strictly economic standpoint, it makes much more sense for us to invest $90 in ten U.S. Games decks than in one $100 retail price deck with 10% gross margin.

But let's look at a more typical example. Say you've published your deck, and you want to sell it for $25. You then write to us, and offer to sell us a supply for $20 per copy -- a 20% discount. Our gross margin, then, is $5 -- the $25 we sell the deck for, less the $20 we paid for it. If we could really make $5 on your deck, we'd be really happy, and we'd agree that a 20% discount would be fair. But unfortunately, parts of that $5 get sucked away by other things:

  1. Did you give us free shipping for the deck? If not, the the amount we paid for the shipping has to be added into our "real cost" for the deck. If we order 10 decks for you, and you charge us $5 for the shipping (that's actually low, but let's use that number because it makes the calculations easier), then our actual cost per deck is $20 + ($5/10) = $20.50. Already our profit has shrunk from $5 to $4.50.

  2. When our customers order your deck, do they pay cash for it? 99% percent of our sales are paid for by credit card or other payment processing service (such as PayPal). So typically, no -- our cusotmers aren't paying cash, which means the payment processing service takes a percentage of the gross amount of the sale. That's important: the processing company charges their fee based on the total amount of the sale, not the amount of the margin or profit. The percentage varies depending on how the customer pays, but runs on the average around 2.8% percent. So, for a $25 sale, that's another 70 cents we lose from our $5, increasing our actual cost to $21.20, and reducing our net profit to $3.80.

  3. But wait! In addition to the percentages, payment processing companies also tack on a flat, per-transaction fee. Right now, that's typically running about 30 centers per transaction, so now our cost is up to $21.50, and our profit is down to $3.50.

  4. Now we get into the various other sales expenses. These vary depending on the nature of the sale, so it's hard to put a specific number to them that covers all scenarios, but here is a list of other costs that can be involved in a sale -- usually at least one, sometimes more, of these applies:

    • Venue fees: if we list your deck on another website in order to broaden its exposure and increase sales, then we have to pay a listing fee, and/or give a percentage of the total sale price to the service. Examples of other venues where we may list a deck include eBay or ABEBooks. The cost to do this for a $25 item will range from $1.25 - $2.50. So in this example, our net profit is reduced to anywhere between $2.25 - $1.

    • Additional processor fees: even if we don't list the item on a secondary venue, there are other processors involved on occasion with certain types of payment options (we have yet to figure out why there have to be so many "payment processing middlemen" involved, but that's the way it works). These additional fees run an average of 50 cents per item, so our profit is down to $3 at a minimum, and more if we have to compute in venue fees as described above.

    • Customer discounts: let's face it -- retailers have to be in a position to be able to offer customers some kind of discounts on occasion. If we, for example, do a promotion wherein a customer receives a 10% discount on an order that includes your deck, then for a $25 deck, the profit margin is down to $1, even if no venue or additional processor fees apply. Imagine a situation where two of scenarios both apply, and you can easily see how all of the original $5 gross profit could now be almost completely gone. We could even be in a loss situation at this point.

  5. Finally, there are just the general overhead/operating expenses involved in any business. These are harder to specifically ennumerate on a per-deck basis, but our general calculations indicate that on the averages, these expenses add another 10 cents to the "effective cost" of each deck. So, to sum up for this example:

    1. Retail price: $25
      Minus "wholesale price": $20
      Equals: $5
      Minus prorated shipping: .50
      Equals: $4.50
      Minus payment processing fees: .70
      Equals: $3.80
      Minus transaction fee: .30
      Equals: $3.50
      Minus general overhead: .10
      Equals: $3.40
      Minus other sales expenses: .50 - $3.00
      Equals: Final net profit of between .40 and $2.90

Mind you, we love what we do, and believe it or not, we're not actually trying to get rich from this business (we wouldn't object to it if it happens, but we're not really into this for the money -- we just try to make enough to allow us feed and clothe our kids, y'know). But forty cents is a pretty slim profit margin for a specialty business that can't expect the high volume of sales of companies like Amazon. Apply these calculations to a $100 with a $10 gross margin, and you can see we're actually clearly in a loss situation in some circumstances. It can perhaps be considered an unfortunate fact of life by some philosophies, but in the end, we've got to make money. And we can't really do that on 10% or 20% gross margins.

Please note that we never object to a publisher's retail prices. It's not the retail price that concerns us, as long as your public advertising of that price remains consistent and fair to retailers. Heck -- we're more than happy to explain to our customers why your deck is worth every penny of whatever price you set. Our objection, when we have one, is to the gross margin you're willing to provide to us.

Q: Alright, then -- how about if I offer to sell you 100 copies of my deck at a 35% discount?

A: Offering higher discounts for larger volume purchases is certainly good business all around. It encourages bigger sales, and helps you to regain your initial product investment more quickly. Furthermore, if a retailer is only going to buy a very small amount of your product (say, less than 5), you can make more money with very little extra effort by simply selling those same decks directly to the end-customer at no discount -- so why encourage small purchases with big discounts? All of this is common thinking, and completely understandable.

BUT -- on the flip side, if you're not going to offer any sort of practical wholesale level pricing unless a reseller buys dozens or hundreds of copies of your deck, then you're probably not going to get far even if you offer a 40% or 50% discount. Your typical small reseller (and by American business standards, we are small -- our business has definitely grown well since we started, but we are a "niche business" -- we're nowhere near a million-dollar-per-year operation by a long shot) cannot afford to tie up a couple thousand dollars of their cash flow in one product. If we stock even 50 copies of a deck at one time, it has to be a product with a proven track record that we know is going to move quickly. For cash flow reasons, we can usually only afford to invest in about 5 - 25 copies of a given product at a time, depending on the product price and our analysis of how well we think it will sell. We're happy to reorder frequently if your product sells well for us, or even place larger quantity orders once the sales history of your product is established. But to ask a retailer to buy 100 copies of anything on a first purchase is entirely impractical. In fact, even large distributors often won't order more than a hundred or so copies of a product until they can observe whether or not a product will have solid sales -- and even then, they won't order a product with only a 35% margin. As discussed in the section above called "OK -- I sent you the sales details of my deck. Why didn't you buy any?," a distributor isn't going to purchase a product that doesn't have at least a 50 - 75% discount applied to the suggested retail price, or they won't be able to afford to resell the deck to retailers at a discount margin the retailer can live with.

Q: I need to make money on my product, too. What if I can't sell my deck to you at the wholesale pricing discounts you've suggested?

A: We certainly understand the need for deck sellers to clear their own fair profit on the decks they publish. We're all for win-win sale scenarios. So if you can't provide at least a 33% discount to retailers without squeezing your own net profit margin too much, then you basically have two options:

  1. Raise the retail price. We understand that deck publishers often want to keep the price of their deck down to make it affordable, and thereby increase sales volume. But that doesn't change the "math facts" that retailers can't afford to stock your deck at a low discount. If you do decide to raise the retail price, however, you can't "cheat" by telling retailers to sell the deck to customers for more than you do. State the retail price as you'll advertise it yourself to y our direct-purchase customers, give your discount terms, and leave the final stocking decision to the retailer. Just don't be surprised to hear "thanks, but no thanks" if the "wholesale" discount percent is low.

  2. Don't offer the deck to resellers, and handle all sales directly to end-customers yourself. Retailers can help get your tarot to a wider audience, but if your own product margin is low, and you feel that you can't raise the retail price, then higher sales may not translate to a workable profit for you. In that case, the lower volume of doing 100% direct end-customer selling may make more sense, since you can retain the full profit margin for yourself. We've had situations where this turned out to be the case -- we worked hard to try and find a way we could purchase a self-published deck at a margin both we and the seller could live with, but in the end, determined that it couldn't be done, and the sellers decided to handle all end-customer sales themselves. We're disappointed when that happens, but if every reasonable effort has been made to work something out and a solution can't be found, we completely understand.

Q: I don't care what price you sell my deck for. Can't you just buy my deck for the price I've offered, and then set your own price at whatever level you need to in order to make a fair profit?

A: We do, on occasion, purchase products at prices where we know we'll have to set our price above the publisher's suggested retail price. But when we do, we do so only as a "last resort" situation. Typically, anything we have priced above the publisher's regular retail price meets the following criteria:

  • The deck is published outside of North America (i.e., we have to import it).

  • We have been unable to establish contact with the publisher or one of their authorized distributors. This is sometimes due to language barriers -- we can't find anyone who speaks English or one of the (few) other languages we speak or can have translated, so they don't want to or can't reply -- or because they simply choose not to sell overseas. In such cases, we typically resort to using "secondary agents" in the country of publication to purchase the products on our behalf -- and the agent needs to be paid a fair amount for his or her services, which increases the cost of the product further. Or...

  • If we are able establish contact with the publisher or their distributor, the cost of shipping and/or additional bank or service fees we have to pay (currency exchange services, import dutites, etc.) raises the effective pricing of the product substantially, such that even reasonable wholesale discounts are offset by additional expenses not even covered in the above section on calculating net profit.

  • We have to, through market observation, feel reasonably confident that the deck will be relatively popular, yet hard enough for our customers to purchase through other venues, such that they will be willing and able to pay a price higher than the regular retail price.

If you feel that you and your product fit the profile described above, then we can certainly try to negotiate a sale with a lower wholesale discount for us. If not, you may want to go back and review the three FAQ topics preceding this one.

Q: I'm not interested in doing any direct end-customer sales myself, and I don't want to (or have the time to) market my deck to resellers. Do you do distribution? Can you sell my deck to other resellers for me?

A: We are just beginning to get into distribution. But the basic answer is "yes," we may be able to help you by getting your deck into the hands of both end-customers and other retailers -- as long as you can provide us with distribution-level discounts on your product. For more information, review the second paragraph in the section above entitled "OK -- I sent you the sales details for my deck. Why didn't you buy any?" and the section called "Alright, then -- how about if I offer to sell you 100 copies of my deck at a 35% discount?"

Q: Is there anything else I should know about wholesale selling?

A: The topics above pretty much cover most bases. About all we can add is that on occasion, we've had deck publishers name us as their exclusive sales source (or at least, their exclusive North American sales source), which can do a lot to get around the complexities of computing and dealing with wholesale discounts. We understand that some publishers may not wish to limit their venue options by selling their product entirely through a single source. But if you're just not up to dealing with marketing and shipping and all the organization, bookkeeping, and expense that goes along with selling your product, we're obviously very pleased to deal with those things on our end on an "exclusive" basis. In that scenario, wholesale margins become a moot point. You sell us your product at whatever price you need to (as long as you don't require us to, say, buy 200 copies at a time), and we take care of advertising the product and determining the retail price.

Q: I've reviewed the above information that's relevant to me; how do I reach you for further discussion?

Due to the high volume of spam emails and phone calls we receive from having had our contact information openly available on the Internet for years, where they've been subsequently scooped up by 'bots and the like, we've stopped posting the addresses and phone numbers that will get you to us the quickest. For best service and fastest response time, we now recommend that you message us through our FaceBook page. We are happy to converse with you on that platform, and to give out our best private contact details through that channel.