When 8 mm = $5,000 and Other Tarot Deck Creator Musings

Okay so first, I’m blogging pretty much in real time as I learn these things. Based on known specs and some brainstormed ideas for shipping, we figured out this custom size box that the deck would fit snugly into, how much it’d cost to bulk order the thousand custom shipping boxes we’d need, and so on, you know, your run of the mill biz calculations for cost.

I’ll save you the in-between stuff and get right to the point. In the U.S., if I ship a package that’s under 13 ounces, I can use my own custom box and ship first class for around $5.50.

The moment it goes over 13 ounces, in fact, just 1 ounce more at 14 ounces, it starts at $8.20. So if your package is over 13 ounces, then you wouldn’t go first class anymore. Instead, you’d have to opt for flat rate priority mail.

My box was 1 pound and 1.6 ounces exactly. That’s roughly 18 ounces. Dammit. Way over for economical shipping in a custom box.

So then that means my “only” option is to go priority mail, flat rate. Next hurdle here we go.

At the moment, the USPS priority mail small flat rate box is $7.20. But to fit that box, my deck box needs to be well under 40 mm in thickness/depth. Your margin is between 35 mm and 39 mm in depth, to be exact. At exactly 40 mm for the depth of your tarot box, your flat rate box is going to bulge out.

Based on specs I had gotten from my manufacturer, the depth for my box was going to be 47 mm. I say “was going to be” because now I’m back to the drawing board. Keep reading.

Remember I said my max was 39 mm to fit the flat rate box and keep shipping domestic at $7.20. Calculating the number of decks we’re ordering and all costs factored in, the 8 mm difference in the depth of my tarot deck box is the difference of $5,000.00. Meaning, if I go with a tarot deck box that’s greater than 39 mm, I need to pay an additional $5,000.00 in my shipping expenses and overhead. If my tarot deck box is under 39 mm, my shipping expenses and overhead is cheaper by $5,000.00.

Christ. The things I’m learning.

That means no, Bell, you can’t go with the custom shipping box you were thinking of because your deck weight is over 13 ounces, and oh, also, now you need to go back to the drawing board about your deck box and figure out a way to make it so the depth of the box is 39 mm in depth or less. All just so the domestic shipping rate can stay to an “economical” $7.20.

Because otherwise it starts at $8.20. To be exact, the quote we got from the post office for a sample of what we planned on shipping out was $13.00 for domestic and ballpark $24 for international.

When J found all that out this afternoon, he called me up at my office immediately and said, you need to go back to the drawing board and rethinking your shipping ideas. No custom boxes. Figure out how to get your shit inside that flat rate box.



I asked again, “So I can’t bulk order my custom shipping box?”

J: “Have you been listening to a word I said? No. No!!”


J: “And go back to the manufacturer to make sure the depth of your tarot box is 39 mm or less.”

This is bullshit. I want to say I didn’t sign up for this. I just want to doodle pictures on cardstock and call it a night.

In the meantime, while J continues to crunch numbers, get quotes, crunch more numbers, and channel his financial Merlin to figure out how we can optimize everybody’s purse strings, I’m still tinkering with the image files.

Right now all my cards are 500 dpi and as JPG files. I need them to be PDF files. I haven’t quite figured out what the best way to do that is since my photo editing program doesn’t have an auto convert function where I can just save the file from JPG to PDF. So. There’s that.

Having to work in millimeters has also been interesting. As an American, I only know inches. I can picture and have a mental-spacial sense of what X number of inches is, but call me a moron, because I can’t for the life of me picture centimeters or millimeters all that well. However, in a matter of three days, I’ve gotten a handle over thinking in centimeters and millimeters, so yay. Leveled up.

I’m also astrology-superstitious and not making any big decisions or pulling any triggers until some of this crazy retrograde action goes direct. (At this exact moment of posting, Neptune, Chiron, Hygeia, Eris, Uranus, Mercury Saturn, Pluto, and Mars are all in retrograde. In addition to Hygeia, some of the other key asteroids in retrograde at the moment: Amor, Astraea, Minerva, Pandora, Proserpina, Siva, Siwa, Terpsichore (this is a pretty important one to me), and Urania. So yeah, I’m gonna keep it flying low for a little while longer.

I’ve finished my little white booklet (LWB). It’s 78 pages and 10,590 words, with the bulk of it in font size 9. I printed several test pages of the LWB at different font sizes to see what a happy medium might be. It needed to be slightly smaller font to fit everything I needed to fit in those 78 teensy pages. But it couldn’t be so small that everyone abandons all efforts to try and read it.

You’ll see that the vertical margins on the left and right look uneven. That’s because they are. This is called mirror margins with a gutter space. The gutter space is for binding. That way after the LWB is bound, you’ll still be able to read all the text clearly. So the margins will look even after binding.

The dimensions of the LWB is the same as the tarot cards, so it’s going to fit inside the box. It’s very much an LWB so don’t get excited. Mine won’t even come with card meanings or include any of the detailed info about each card.

Detailed info about each card is going to be in the Big Book. Right now my working draft of the Big Book (The Book of Maps) is 66,000 words and roughly 318 pages in trade paperback. It’s still a working draft and I have a few more sections I want to add to it. I won’t be producing physical print copies of the Big Book. For those who want it, it’s going to come as digital files, formatted for Lulu printing, with an additional pamphlet of step by step instructions on how to upload and order your own print copy.

I’m also at work on the children’s coloring book. I have no idea where I’m going with that. It was just something I felt like doing, so I did it.

I want to end on a fuzzy note. I love the tarot community. I mean I just love us. The overwhelming amount of help, advice, guidance, insights, and words of encouragement I’ve received from other deck creators has touched me to my core. Because of how incredibly generous other deck creators have been with sharing their experiences, I haven’t had to reinvent the wheel. I have such a leg up in this process because of these generous deck creators. So to all of you, and you know who you are, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Read more entries from the

Progress Diary

documenting the production of

Spirit Keeper’s Tarot

22 thoughts on “When 8 mm = $5,000 and Other Tarot Deck Creator Musings

  1. Cheryl Ryder

    Hi Benebel, as a collector of limited edition artist-published decks I will GLADLY pay the $15 shipping to have the custom box. It’s what other deck creators charge and it’s worth every penny of it!


    1. Hey Cheryl! The tarot decks will still be coming in a keepsake box based on the design I shared in a previous blog post. =) Now it’s just more about considerations of cardstock thickness of the box to ensure that it isn’t over 39 mm. =)


  2. I agree with Cheryl, many of us would pay for a quality deck.

    Does the weight and size of the box include the mini-booklet? Can that be made available as a download for free? Will that reduce size and weight?


    1. Haha omg same here! I’ve been writing deck review for years and years and now I kinda feel guilty and awful about some of the gripes I’ve had in the past about guidebooks, production, etc. lol.


  3. modernmysticmother

    I would happily pay the big bucks to receive your deck. Thank you so much for all the work that you have put into this. This is amazing. I wish I had something to give back to you to show you the depth of my gratitude. Not just saying “thank you”, but to offer you a gift of equal value … I am dissatisfied with my lack of ability to correctly articulate what I want to say, as I fear my words may misrepresent my intention.


  4. mereteveian

    I’ve printed the files you shared for the I Ching the way you sudgested, trough makingplaying cards site and am happy with these. I also ordered a tarot deck from their site and am debating ordering the deck Ana Tourin had up there, Hidden Waters.
    Why can you not let that site print your deck? Is it more «real», special if another printing company does the job?


  5. Laura

    This is such an exciting project to watch unfold… the progress diary is really interesting for those of us who love and appreciate independently produced decks but are clueless about the actual production process. I cannot wait to buy a copy, and the Book of Maps too. 🙂


  6. Sally

    Catching up! Hey Benebell I don’t have any skills or advice to tilt your way but I AM among the Appreciative Audience. Love your work and you. I totally admire you and J for trying to keep this baby affordable but I’d be happy to pay the extra for shipping etc. This deck, LWB and Big Book + Coloring Book are SO worth it!!


  7. lolz like reading these!:) just be sure to check out Print on Demand drivethrucards & gamecrafter route!:) it SAVE you lot’s of trouble! I’ll gladly help with formating & all!:)


  8. Brianna Dainiak

    Since I’ve been searching and searching for a deck that does exactly what you’re creating yours to do, id be willing to compromise on price although as a college student, I greatly appreciate the efforts to minimize costs 😂


  9. Pingback: Journal Notes on a Deck Production Process – benebell wen

  10. Pingback: Show Me the Numbers: Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing of a Tarot/Oracle Deck – benebell wen

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