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My Solitudes project ... the business side

Posted by Dave Bull at 9:34 PM, July 2, 2007

Over the past couple of months, there have been dozens of posts on this RoundTable giving information about the printmaking process for the 'My Solitudes' series. Now it's time for a bit of background to the project ... subscriptions and budget matters!

I mentioned in earlier posts that I am making 200 copies of each print (and book). I am not expecting anywhere near that many subscribers to be on board during the life of the project. The reason I make more than I currently 'need' is that my income for many years now has come from a mix of current prints and 'back-number' prints, and in order to make sure that I have something to sell years down the road, I print these 'extra' copies now.

(I should also mention that out of that 200, ten copies are spoken for as 'freebies'. Who gets these? Four go to family members, one to Iwano-san the paper maker, three to the ladies working on the project - translating, bookmaking and proofreading, one goes to the National Library, and I keep one.)

So how many subscribers do I have, and how many do I need, to make this project viable?

As I write this, there are 45 people 'signed up' to receive the print set. Assuming that I keep to my announced schedule of a print every two months, and with a price of 8,000 yen per print, that gives me an income of 2,160,000 yen per year (just around $17,000 USD at today's rate.)

Is that enough? Hah! Not even close ... Here's a table showing the estimated expenses of the next 12 months of the project, which come to around $45,000 ...

Item Amount
Print Production  
- printing paper 230,000
- wood blocks 150,000
Book Production  
- materials 800,000
- labour (bookmaking/shipping) 600,000
- exhibition 800,000
- newsletter 250,000
- home/studio (mortgage/utilities) 1,750,000
- taxes 550,000
- medical insurance 320,000
Total 5,454,000

Couple of things to note: these are conservative expenses, and ignore lots of small items ... office expense, general miscellaneous, etc., and ... a slight detail ... they don't include my own personal living expenses, little stuff like food, clothing, etc. This is just a list of the necessary expenses to run this project for a year, (based on production of six prints in the series).

There is obviously a huge shortfall. Expenses of 5 1/2 million yen and an income of around 2 million yen, just doesn't add up. But there is a bit more to include: I mentioned earlier that the 'long tail' of the edition will sell bit by bit over the coming years, and that is what is still happening with earlier print sets that I made. I still have subscribers for the Surimono Albums, and other prints. Income from these sales should be somewhere around another 2 million. That helps, but it still leaves me in the red ...

Am I panicking? Well, not yet. The new series is just getting started, and new subscribers are coming in, bit by bit. Once a couple more prints are up on the site, I hope more people will be convinced to join, and of course the January exhibition next year - if I can swing some decent publicity - should bring in some more. If I can lift the subscriber total to around 80 people, I should be able to scrape by. If I can get it higher than that, then I can even start to pay some of my daughter's college expenses again, something that my own parents have been doing this year because I am unable to.

So I guess it's a 'glass half-empty/half-full' situation. Yes, I'm in the red, but on the other hand, having 45 subscribers is a wonderful vote of confidence, and if you think of it as 45 x 12, that's 540 prints sold, not a bad achievement! Mind you, now I have to make them! :-)


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