Ever since publishing my own 2013 calendar, a lot of artists have contacted me asking me where I had it printed and who designed it. Rather than answer each individual e-mail, since I now get more e-mails about this than anything else, I thought I'd make a post here so I can link to it in the future.
Getting the Calendar Printed
When I set out to find a calendar printer, I started with online companies, assuming they would have the best prices. My first quote was $1800 for 100 calendars. Yikes! I would have had to charge $18 a calendar just to break even, and if I followed the formula for figuring out the retail price of products, I would have had to charge at least $72 per calendar at retail price. Obviously, that wasn't going to work out.
I looked for four or five years for affordable calendar publishing alternatives. Yes, really. I started looking in 2007 and eventually a friend told me about a company they used. I looked into it and was quoted about $760 for 100 calendars. That was better than the first quotes I was given, but it was still too expensive for me, and I would have had to charge at least $16 per calendar with no option to wholesale them at that price.
I put the idea on the back burner for a few years and during that time I put calendars out through deviantART, LuLu Press, and eventually Zazzle. All of those places offered me around 10% in royalties. Even if I sold 20 calendars through any of those distributors, I would only make about $40. If I sold 100 calendars I might make $200, if they weren't on sale or returned. Meanwhile, the company got to keep 90% of what was made from the calendars, even though they did about 10% of the work!
Kickstarter started to become very popular during this time, and eventually I decided to try a Kickstarter campaign to raise enough money to have my dream calendar printed. I worked my butt off, only to run into a bunch of problems setting up my account because my physical address isn't where I get my mail. I decided to use IndieGoGo, since they were set up with PayPal and I wouldn't have to go through the identification verification process that was giving me trouble at Kickstarter.
My IndieGoGo campaign was about to end when I got a hunch and started looking around for better quotes on my calendars. I scoured the internet, but the quote for $760 was still the best one. Then I decided I would try my last resort, and started calling local printing businesses. I live near the capital building of my state, so there are a lot of copy and printing places here, some of which offer fine art services as well. I started with those, and eventually I found a place about 90 minutes away that blew the $760 quote out of the water.
The best part of it was if I needed help, I could call or go in, and since they were local (in Montana, 70 miles away is local), if I had any problems with the finished calendars I could drive up there and get service. They were very helpful and they did a terrific job. You probably wouldn't guess that the calendars were produced by a mom & pop business, because they look like something you would encounter in the Pyramid catalogs from a high-capacity publisher.
I was, and still am, floored by the work they did for me, and I'll be using them for all my future calendars and probably other projects as well.
Designing the Calendar
I did all of the design work on my calendar myself. The company I used to print them gave me a template so I had the dimensions, bleed, and trim information, and from there I designed the calendar. If you are thinking about designing your own calendar, I highly recommend you pick the printer first and get the correct dimensions from them before you start designing. You don't want to guess and have it turn out wrong. If your dimensions are incorrect, your calendar may print blurry, some parts may be cut off, or the images may be warped to fit or fill the pages.
Some people have asked if they could have my print files as a template, but I'm not interested in sharing my files since they are high resolution and include my artwork. The best thing to do is make your own files. If you feel that's beyond your design capabilities, it's probably best to stick with something like Zazzle for now, until you feel comfortable designing your own calendar from scratch.