Selling Your Work
John Ryder, in his letterpress bible ‘Printing for Pleasure’, shares his thoughts on printing for profit:
‘You should dispense with any idea of running a small press as a money-making sideline. In the first place to do so would put you under obligation to people who perhaps know nothing about print. You may be asked to produce items with which you have little or no sympathy and become involved in the keeping of accounts. It would be far better to use your equipment as in instrument of design, to give your designs freely and to take friendship in return.’ This is page one, chapter one, in his book and we agree wholeheartedly with every word!
There's a reason why commercial letterpress barely exists in the UK today; it takes too long and costs too much. Even ultra-efficient lithographic printing is struggling against competition from digital and virtual publishing and cheaper labour costs abroad.
There is a market for letterpress printed products but the few profitable areas, such as wedding stationery, are already exploited by established, experienced printers.
Smaller Private Presses aren't usually in the business of making money. Even, perhaps the most famous, Virginia and Lionel Woolf's Hogarth Press, was (in its early days) funded largely by private means, not book sales. If the craftsmen involved in producing letterpress printed books receive a wage, the costs (even for paperbacks) will be well into three figures. There are people willing (and able) to spend that sort of money but this market is also well supplied, by a few ‘Fine Presses’ with their exceptionally high standards.
You may well be able to sell what you produce, but don't expect it to pay the rent. Our advice is to enjoy the satisfaction of being given money for something you created from scratch and aim to make back what you spent on paper and ink. Maybe there'll be a bit left over for a treat, too!
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