budget advice: letterpress book project


I am working to develop a budget for a letterpress book project and would like the advice of any publishers of fine press books. If you have a budget for a past project you are willing to share please let me know!

I already have some models drawn from the artist’s book / indie press arenas, but I need help with the nut & bolts aspects of how much it costs to produce a handmade edition. For simplicity’s sake I am willing to look at budgets for projects of all scales! If you don’t have a written budget but have some expertise to share in private correspondence or on this forum, please contribute!

Thanks and best wishes,
sharifac AT juno DOT com

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Do you have any more details of your project:

1. Materials
2. Equipment (for speed, efficiency)
3. Experience
4. Quantity
5. Location
6. Audience
7. Turnaround

hi: thanks for your rapid response

1) my vision is for a coptic-bound book, of about 100 pages, possibly using cotton-rag paper (would specifically like to use cotton because it relates to the theme)

the project would use a combination of image & text

2) equipment - vandercook

3) experience: limited, have taken a letterpress intensive course. will have time / resources for further education and consultations with experts! (consultant fees are actually going to be included in the proposed budget)

4) an edition of 150

5) nyc…promoted via internet and special collections, author events etc

6) audience: i have some ideas about that part…

7) turnaround-timeframe: the project would begin in 2009 and is slated for publication in 2013. long incubation period for the writing / research / skill-upgrade and time for production accidents!

the main thing I need advice on is budgeting materials (paper, ink, polymer plates, binding). i have some notions already about renting press time and costs associated with promotion / distribution. Any advice on pricing the final product for an edition this size with a high degree of hand-labor would be great too!

thanks again for your generous assistance!

Ink will be next to nothing depending on your coverage and the number of colors you require. If you are printing black only I would bet you could easily coast through 15,000 “normal” pages with 1lb of rubber-based ink from VanSon or comparable. Be sure to check with the person who owns the press you are using as they may have a preference on oil vs rubber inks. Your total ink budget should come out to less than $50 per color if coverage is average.

Paper prices will vary GREATLY depending on which stock you choose. The best thing to do would be to track down a paper that you like and get some prices from your local supplier. You will also want to spend some time figuring out the best way to minimize your paper waste as you will probably be spending a good portion of your money on paper. No need to let any go to waste if you can help it. You can figure anywhere between 1 and 5 dollars per parent sheet of 23x35”—maybe a little more or less depending on what you find.

Polymer plates will really depend on the amount of area you are trying to cover. Let’s say, for instance, that you are printing a 5x7” area on a 6x9” page—and that you are printing each and every page of the book. Long story short is that you are going to break the bank with photopolymer. Figure about 50 cents per square inch (including negatives and your bulk discount) and you are in the neighborhood of $2,500+. Of course that’s heavy coverage and I am sure you can economize by ganging graphics together on the same plates…

I would recommend you get in touch with Dan at The Arm Letterpress in Brooklyn. Maybe you already have? He runs a nice shop there and can assist you with renting press time and everything else. I am sure he could also give you some hard numbers on consultation, training, etc.

If I had to give a ballpark of what I thought production and printing costs would be on a handmade book of this sort I would guess in the neighborhood of 50-80 dollars each on the low end… depending primarily on the complexity and materials being chosen. If you are after only the finest materials and a unique book structure you could be looking at 120+ per book.

Is that in the range you were thinking?

Hope this helps.

Dear Brad:

Thanks for taking the time to answer my query so extensively. I am very grateful. You’ve given me a lot to think about and a good guideline for crafting my proposal budget.

The Arm is definitely a place where I want to spend some time. I like the look and feel of the place, based on what I’ve seen on their website!

Best wishes,

One thing that has not been discussed is how much of the work you are planning on doing yourself, and how much you are going to farm out to vendors, suppliers and/or subcontractors. This will GREATLY influence the price. If your shop is very self-sufficient in terms of platemaking, binding and so forth, the price will probably be much lower than if you have to purchase these services.

dear winking cat press:

was not checking this thread…but just got your message. thanks for your input. at the moment, the only work that will be farmed out is making the polymer plates. I have not planned, so far, on subcontractors.