Many people have an idea for a calendar but aren't sure how to turn their idea into a physical product and get it to the masses. There are two basic ways to publish and distribute a calendar: through a mainstream publisher or self-publishing. Publishing through a mainstream publisher will give you mass distribution, but self-publishing will give you greater creative control and more creative sales options.
Creating Your Calendar
The quality of your calendar is going to be directly dependent on the design and layout. When designing your calendar, make sure you have the rights to use the images. If you aren't the photographer and you don't have personal permission from the photographer, your safest bet is to use stock photography through such a site as istockphoto.com. Be aware that they have stipulations on licensing for such things as calendars, and you may have to pay an extra fee for using the photos in a product.
Finding a Publisher
Getting a calendar published through a traditional publisher for mass distribution can be challenging if you aren't a big name. Nevertheless, people get their calendars picked up by larger publishers every day. Publishersglobal.com has a list of companies that publish calendars. Go to the websites of the publishers you're interested in and request their submission guidelines. Each publisher will have different requirements of you before considering your calendar idea.
Such companies as lulu.com, cafepress.com and zazzle.com offer an option to print a calendar through print-on-demand. The risk here is lower, but the cost is generally too high to get someone to buy your calendar and make a profit ($17 to $24 per calendar just to break even). In the case of a calendar, you'll be better off using an offset printer.
Gotprint.com creates high-quality printing for an affordable price and their quantities for calendars start at 1,000 for full-color printing. You'll pay $1 to $2 on average per calendar in the lower quantities (depending on specs), with the price dropping as you print more. Gotprint also offers a variety of sizes to choose from and their calendars look like what you'd buy in a store, instead of the spiral-bound variety you get with a POD company.
Self-publishing a calendar can be a great way to make some money if you know how to distribute it. Contact stores specializing in the calendar's topic. For example, if you're publishing a golf calendar, contact golf pro shops. If you want to keep things local, consider creating calendars that can be used for school or group fundraisers.
Keep in mind your publishing time line. For example, calendars for the 2012 calendar year would need to arrive on your doorstep no later than spring 2011 in order to take full advantage of your sales and distribution options.
If you self-publish your calendar and are successful, and it isn't only of regional interest, you may be able to sell the rights to a publisher for mass distribution by showing your proven sales record as well as the physical product.