Making and Pricing a handbound journal

Journal of Scraps no 1 - from above
I’m calling this one the Journal of Scraps no 1. In this journal I have collaged and painted a bit on almost every page. It is so much fun, and very time consuming.

I love making journals, and I always come up with new ideas for them. I decided to try to sell some of them, moslty because I made more than I can use. But how to price a handbound, painted, sewn and decorated journal? It takes for ever to create one of these beauties. I get caught up in the details of it…

Journal of Scraps I: camera in the world

Making a hand bound journal

To make a journal I save and collect envelopes, papers and images for a few months (and years). Then I assemble the pages, cut & fold them, sort through them, punch holes and sew all of the signatures together. I’m using red bookbinder’s thread for sewing (because it’s important to me that they keep together and don’t break), but other than that there are no fancy material in them. But lots of loved papers – and a whole lotta prettiness!

Journal of Scraps I: red rose

I also need to cut cardboard for the cover and spine, create a pretty cover fabric, glue it all together, press it and line the inside of the covers. It’s a few hours of work, except that I’ve also kind of decorate and play on all the pages. They are not as “almost finished” as the ones I make for myself, but instead they provide a starting point for the person who will work on them. At least that’s my hope. I think of them as prompts or a way to spark your imagination, and to prevent “blank page syndrome”.

Journal of Scraps no 1 - lots of pages

I like my journals to be bound books. They should be 1) sturdy, 2) rather thick, and 3) have lots of room to play on. Many handmade journals for sale on Etsy are quite expensive even though they are a few pages (20) stapled together with flimsy and thin fabric or paper covers. To me, they are not books but booklets. Yes they are super cute too, I know and I love making those. But to me an art journal is different. It’s something to throw in your bag and bring places. A journal should have room for writing long stories in or to experiment with sketching and painting.

Journal of Scraps I: maps in pink

A journal is something you work in for at months or at least a few weeks. I love when a journal is thick enough to become a part of my life for a while. I hope the pictured Journal of Scraps no 1-journal will make someone happy.

Pricing a handmade journal

You see a lot of journals for sale, but not many that are similar to this one: sturdy, thick and with lots of pages. Natalie Uhing wrote about this a while back:

Why anyone would underprice their work when they make special, laborious, one-of-a-kind items is beyond me. Is it just to get shop ratings up? Is it to become popular, at any price? Shouldn’t we help raise the standards and public awareness of how time-consuming a handmade item is by setting a realistic price that takes some of our time into account? We all stand to gain from increased value, I think.

She herself makes beautiful writing journals with patchwork covers, & charges 52 dollars for them in her Etsy Shop Smallest Forest (shipping from Australia to Europe is 28). I think it’s cheap if you consider the amount of work + time that goes into making a handmade journal. But pricing is hard. How do people do it?

I showed you how I made a stitched and painted cover for a journal way back when (so if you don’t remember it take a look at it now). The cover has acrylic paint, applique and awesome yummy free motion sewing (love free motion sewing!). I’m calling it Journal of Scraps no 1 in the hope there will be a #2 someday soon.

I promised to follow up that post with a post showing the many inside pages, and to list it on Etsy (my Etsy shop has been empty during the summer). It took until now to do this, and I still don’t know if it’s priced “correctly”, what ever that means… It’s a journal made out of paper, but also a work of art with many many hours in the making presenting a potential buyer with many many pages to play on!

You can read more about this journal in the Etsy listing, and in tomorrow’s post I will show images of almost all the inside pages to inspire and make your mouth water! ;-)

Want it? Grab it quickly – it’s a one of a kind never to be reproduced again.

9 Responses

  1. It looks to me that you’ve priced it pretty perfectly!
    But you’ve really hit on one of the stickier issues in pricing: WHY you’re selling it matters. If you make something laborious, and sell it just because you have too many, you’re going to think about your time differently than if you made it TO sell, and if you were building a whole pay-the-bills-business around handmade journals.
    If this was your main product and main way of paying the bills, everything about the making would be different, so the price would be different. For example, you’d probably buy supplies in bulk (at a discount), and make them in a more efficient way, in order to make your time investment line up with what the market would bear.
    When I see arguments over how to price something, it usually comes down to that issue: people have different reasons for selling, and so they approach it differently. On the flip side of that fact is that you can’t compare your prices to other’s, because you don’t know their motivation (or their system).

    All that to say – it’s a lovely journal and I’m glad you’re sharing it with the world!

  2. This is an always returning issue you pick up here. It’s very difficult to price ones own makings. What I’ve landed on is this. If I don’t price it for what I feel is the right/fair price for me, how can I expect others to? I have to appreciate my own work/time and things, if not I can’t expect anyone else to do it either. And , it shouldn’t be cheap just because I had fun making it. My advice, appreciate yourself and your time!
    Good luck.

  3. I agree it’s so difficult to price such handmade works. I think when we try to price lower, it changes the product itself… whereas if you do what you want to do first, then you have to find the right price. Even though it’s all worth the money, it doesn’t mean you’ll find a customer either way… so it’s definitely a challenging situation. I also started selling some journals because I made too many to use myself… but then I started to think that perhaps I like journals a certain way and others might not… it’s hard to know!

  4. I made some handmade sewn pages journals with a hand stitched sturdy binding and machine stitched appliques on the front and back covers. I had over 10 hours of time in the making of the journals. I put them in my etsy shop for $85. I did not sell one journal. I had the same journals at the Art is You artist trunk night sale last year. I got a lot of nice comments and how it was a “fair” price because people could handle it and see how much work went into the making of them. Again not one sold. I have sworn off making more journals. It looks like to me from the sites where you can see what sold, that $40 is about the limit that people are willing to spend. I do not know how to reconcile working for $4 an hour to sell them that low so I have stopped selling journals. Very discouraging.

  5. This is still a problem with me. I actually cringed that you mentioned the price of a journal, because after all my lecturing about underpricing myself, I think that perhaps I do it all the time. It’s true that the reasons affect the prices, and because have a day job to earn my serious money, I “sacrifice” the journals. BUT if I continue this way, I will never be able to do what I love for a living, and I am trapped at my day job for the rest of my life. Which is a pretty sobering thought, if you remember that I peel vegetables and make sandwiches. :( While trying to be modest, I venture to suggest that I think I am, and probably everyone on this planet is, too good to spend the bulk of their lives making sandwiches, when they happen to be creative, artistic people. So…the question is still hanging up there, for me. I would love to do my books and art for a living, wouldn’t you? :)

  6. This is a wonderful dialog about pricing handmade journals. I too have had a lot of internal grief trying to figure out how to price my handmade journals. They take a lot, lot, lot of time to make, and it is not simply the time but yes, Hanna, collecting the items to include, composing each page, the look and feel, even the palette so that it is pleasing to the eye, to the touch. And the covers take time and creativity to craft. Having held one of your handmade journals in my hands and used it for journaling our List Journal challenge these past few months, I feel confident that others will cherish your works of art!

  7. I make notebooks & other paper goods & is SO hard to price them! I start off with a price that is closer to what I think it’s worth…. but then disconnection notices start coming in & the fridge is empty & I start to marking things down in the hopes that somebody will just buy something!

    I think your journal is great! I adorable nice fat notebooks (I like my journals to typically last 6 months to a year) & mixed papers :)
    And I am loving your blog!

  8. I read your interview with Eden and then I followed the link here. Sometimes Hanna I am so happy about your journals I just smile. I remember the two you made and sent to me years ago, little ones that still make me happy. I’m off to visit your other links and your shop. I want to see all those inside pages!

  9. It is a tough question for sure! I know there is no way I can make a living selling one of a kind journals simply because of the time it takes to design and construct one, but I enjoy making them and tea staining paper and coming up with something someone will enjoy. What the journal making is worth to me is what matters to me. So the way I go about pricing is by figuring up the cost of all materials plus the 20% fee and cost of my selling venue plus 30% for my time. I get back enough to continue making plus a little extra, and they sell.

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