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July 31, 2007

Tues. morning musings and a bit of serendipity…

Filed under: Morning Musings — jackie @ 8:57 am

Good morning readers.

Yesterday we got a good heavy rain shower. My plants and grass are very happy this morning. Of course it also means that the humidity level will be high today.  

Over the years, I have found that when I am pondering over an issue it seems that I always find other folks who are pondering over the same issue at the same time.

Rhonda, over of the My Handbound Books blog, had a great post yesterday on pricing handmade books. I have struggled with this issue myself for many years. How to your price your books so that they are reasonably priced so that people will buy them and are still profitable so you can afford to keep making them?

Years ago when I was participating in alot of craft shows, I would base my book prices on a formula that my Mom gave me. (She is also a crafter and for many years sold custom made jackets and vests at art shows.) I still use that formula but I always adjust the number up, or down, depending on if I think the price is appropriate for the amount of time I put into making the book.

As artists there is really no way we can charge for our time per se so it’s important to be able to work efficiently when making our books. Having a bit of an assembly line for the basic parts helps save time so that you can concentrate more on the decoration.

In her post, Rhonda says “First of all, I have found that when people buy a handmade book, they want it to look handmade. My traditional hardcover case bound books did not look handmade at all, and I even had some people question them thinking they had to be commercially manufactured! I think that makes it harder to get a good price for that type of book because the buyers think it looks the same as a book they can buy at W*lmart.”

I was talking with my friend Holly on the way home from working at the gallery about this very thing.  I seem to have a harder time selling my traditional hardcover books these days. Having so many commercially available books doesn’t necessarily make it harder to get a good price for them as you should still price your work to be profitable or it won’t make sense to continue making them. I do think it makes the consumer question why they should buy your book as opposed to the ones at the B&N. I don’t know how many times someone would walk into my booth at the art show and make some comment to the person with them like “you can get these at Barnes and Noble”. Grrrrrrrr.

That’s where we come in as artists and business people. We need to “know” our market and what they will buy. When making and pricing our wares that’s the first thing we should take into consideration. We need to know what people are looking for in a handmade sketchbook, journal or album as well as how much they might spend for that item. And, we also need to educate our market on the value of a handmade book as opposed to a machine made one.

Thankfully, there are a few people out there that already know the value of what we make and they will seek us out.  It’s just all the others that we need to convince. :D

I hope everyone has a great day.

• • •


  1. I understand what Rhonda means. This is why I still like it more to give my books away or to make one for someone who asks for one. A caterpillar binding sells, and a handpainted cover too. The one I have in my shop right now is much harder to sell. But I still choose to make what I want, not what possible buyers want. I guess it’s not that important to me.

    Besides that the dollar is very, very low for us right now. That makes it even harder: 48.50 is around 35 euro. Which is not much, but because etsy is in dollars, it “looks like” it’s a lot more money.

    Comment by Marloes — July 31, 2007 @ 10:06 am
  2. I, too, read Rhonda’s post and appreciated her comments. I think her point about wanting to create “predictability” for her customers is a good one. Most buyers won’t know what goes into making a book by hand, so they need other signposts. Rhonda mentions that she tries to keep the pricing of books that are of similar size/similar paper approximately the same, even ‘though one binding may take more time than another. Taken to an extreme, this flies against business and marketing principles, because as you point out, the proposition needs to be profitable.

    However, if the discrepancy in time is not large, and if, as you suggest, there are ways to make the production of the more time-consuming binding more efficient, then it creates a predictability that can lead to return business. All this assumes, of course, that you’ve set the price appropriately to begin with. Sometimes it make sense, in setting the price, to split the difference between the lower price you might have charged for the less time-consuming book and that of the more time-consuming book, and come down somewhere in the middle.

    On a different but related note, you make an excellent point about bookmakers needing to know their markets. A correlative to thisis our responsibility to educate the potential buyer. One way to do this is with a colophon-style card that accompanies the book that explains (briefly, obviously) the process and materials used, in a way that highlights the value of the handmade object. How we describe these can help communicate the beauty and poetry of what the buyer is getting that is impossible to get at Barnes & Noble.


    Comment by BookGirl — July 31, 2007 @ 9:03 pm

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