View Full Version : Need guidance on taking the next step

23-Nov-2004, 14:38
Newbie question alert.

A friend of mine and I have decided that we have a body of work big enough to start approaching publications-advertisers-etc... Neither of us is formally trained so we take pictures and have no clue about how to begin to market our wares, so to speak.

The gist of what we can find on the net and in research is to "work hard and be dilligent." No one talks about where to start.

So that is my question. For those of you who work with publications, where and how did you begin? We are not looking for the magic bullet just how to find the starting gates. Books are good things to learn from. Good titles would be helpful as well.

Our work is in still life and landscape photograph, 6x6, 6x9 and 4x5 with a heavy emphasis on the 4x5, if that helps.

And what is you folks' opinions about the "photographer's market" book.

Gem Singer
23-Nov-2004, 15:46
Hi Mark,

This is not intended to be a nasty remark. It's free advice. Take it for what it's worth. You stated: "neither of us is formally trained". The easiest way to solve your problem is to get some formal training. Perhaps as simple as attending a workshop, or two. It will be well worth your while. Reading books and periodicals will help, of course, but it won't solve your problem.

Brian Ellis
23-Nov-2004, 18:44
My understanding is that almost all books of work by living photographers, even very well known photographers, are published because the photographer pays all the costs up front. If you have a spare $50,000 or so sitting around you can get a book of your work published with no difficulty. But you'll have to fund everything yourself, no publisher will bear the cost of layout, design, printing and distributing your book. And of course actually selling the book after you have it published is a different matter. 2,000 books sold is a big sale for most photography books by contemporary photographers. To get even that number sold many very well known photographers hawk their books themselves at workshops, shows, anywhere they can. One well known outstanding photographer I know published a book about ten years ago and is still carrying loads of them around in his van selling them at his workshops and wherever else he can.

steve simmons
23-Nov-2004, 19:18
Brian's comments are not a true rflection of reality. You can go to a vanity press and payto to have your work printed in book form. Then you have to find a way to market and distribute the book. You should really start this efore having the book printed

However, many photo books are publised by publishing companies and the photographer does not have to pay everything/anything up front. The publisher takes the risk and then markets the book. This is the more common practice.

You can start be sedng samples to magazines that publish the type of work ou do. You should also use the quality f work in these magazines as a reality check on the quality of your own work. Going to a workshop or portfolio review conference can be a good ay to get feedback on your work.

steve simmons

tim atherton
23-Nov-2004, 19:43
Brian, Geoffrey James, who used to post on the old greenspun.net (he's been too busy to look in on the new incarnation I think) has had numerous books published - some of his most recent are: Running Fence, Paris, Place, Viewing Olmstead, a big new one due on Toronto

I'm pretty sure he didn't pay to have any of those done - some were published (and commissioned) by major insitiutions, such as Viewing Olmstead (Canadian Centre for Architecture) or Paris (Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris). Others were published by main stream publishers, such as Place. Often the publisher and/or photographer will work with a partner - isntitution or gallery, but that's not always the case.

And I know Lee Friedlander doesn't pay people to publish his books - these days the publishers just about come to him...

A good friend just moved from being an editor at Chris Boot Press after being an editor at Phaidon (now she's at Magnum), publishing Martin Parr, Paul Shambroom, the Late Tony Ray-Jones etc - neither "charged their photogorpahers up front" for publication - but the corrolorary is that the book has to have market - which is where the skill and experience of the publisher comes in.

Lumiere Press in the other current thread isn't a vanity press - they publish/ed books by Greenfield-Saunders, Siskind , Gordon Parks, Ed Burtynsky etc as profit making ventures without expecting the photographer to pay them to do it.

Getting a photography book published is both hard work and takes outstanding work to be the subject. You are certainly going to have more luck getting a book published if it can be tied into a show at a major institution or some other major project - but you also have to start somewhere. A good part of it - be your work editorial or "fine art" or whatever is self-publsiicity and self-promotion - if you make a name for yourself, keep pushing until you get a lucky break and are in bhe right place at the right time, it's not impossible.

And if you take pictures of cute babies in big flowers, like Anne Geddes, you can make millions having your books published and the publishers will be fighting each other to publish your books!

Mark Sawyer
23-Nov-2004, 22:48
It wouldn't be a bad idea to try having your work published in a respected magazine or journal. This can be almost as challenging as getting a book published, but having your work already "out there" will help book publishers give you more serious consideration. You might also get some pretty helpful feedback in the meantime, and you can do it with a dozen images rather than sixty or a hundred.

Brian Ellis
24-Nov-2004, 05:32
My comments were directed at the person posting the question, who basically says he has a bunch of pictures and would like to get them published. From his question it doesn't appear that he has had any major shows, been published in any magazines, or has a dealer. He's at the absolute ground level in terms of publicizing and marketing his work. I find it very difficult to believe that any publisher is going to advance all the costs of printing and distributing a book for him or for anyone else in his position.

I realize that Richard Avedon or Annie Liebowitz or other simlar names presumably don't pay to have their books published. But the person asking the question isn't in that category nor is anyone else in this group nor are many photographers well known to most of us in this group but not known to the general public or even to the art world in general. All the photographers in the latter group to whom I've personally talked have said that they pay the costs themselves. The biggest "name" I've personally spoken to about book publication, a name with which almost everyone here would be familiar, told me that all his books have done for him in a direct monetary sense is produce a tax loss (i.e. he paid the cost of publishing them and hasn't yet recovered the cost from sales).

I don't pretend to know the financial arrangements for the vast majority of photographers who have had books published. I do know the arrangements for the photographers with whom I've personally talked and they have without exception said they paid their own costs. Since they are far better known than the peson asking the question, it seems probable to me that if they have to do it that way he likely will have to do the same.

Gem Singer
24-Nov-2004, 08:43
I have read and re-read this question and still don't see where Mark is asking about publishing his own book. The way I interpreted Mark's question: he is a beginner asking for guidance as to where to begin marketing his photographs. Most of us have passed through this phase of our photographic journey at one time, or another.

Perhaps his referrence to a "big body of work" and "publications" confused everybody. "Published" does not necessarily mean publishing a book. When he says "books are good things to learn from", he is asking for suggestions for titles of books that will help him to learn where, and how, he and his friend can go about marketing their photographs. He asked, "besides The Photographer's Market Book any other good books on the subject?" So far, nobody has answered his question.

25-Nov-2004, 18:59
Hi Mark,

There are no magic bullets or one line answer, however there is discipline and procedure. It all begins with knowledge of your craft and the development of a cohesive body of work that displays your artistic prowest. The next step is to figure out whether to summit your porfolio in a traditional or digital manner.
Twenty years ago we did not this marvellous internet that we have today! SO, USE IT! Gather your own resources (galleries, publications, art fairs.) It's all about persistance and hardwork.

Good Luck,

27-Nov-2004, 15:30
I had to go out of town so was not able to follow up on the thread I started. You folks gave some good advice. But I think I might have not been very clear in my question. We do not want a book published. Though in the future it might be kind of nice. What I was getting at is how to go about approaching magazines and other places that purchase photographs for use in their rags as advertising or what have you? Is their a certain protocal for contacting someone? Is it best to go in person, mail a small ten print portfolio or something else? My wife was given an amway "card" that was a minidisk. My first thought was hmm..interesting marketing tool.

Kirk Gittings
28-Nov-2004, 14:06
The easiest way to get published is to produce a "thematic" body of work rather than a random group of pretty or interesting images. A group of images with a theme, say of an endangered natural area, can have broad appeal fro publication or exhibit as art, as history, as politics, as environmentalism, or any number of things.

I have been in this business for 26 years and have a fair number of magazine, book and museum exhibits behind me. My first one-man show was in 1972 and was a random group of images, but ever since then it was not. Last year was the first time since 72 that someone was interested in a kind of "best of" show or book of my work. Prior to that they were all "theme" publications or exhibits. What I mean is the difference between a book about say the Pueblo Indian ruins at Chaco Canyon with photographs by Kirk Gittings (i.e. CHACO BODY, 1991) vs. a book that is about the photographs of Kirk Gittings (SHELTER FROM THE STORM:THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF KIRK GITTINGS, summer 2005). The last book was not my idea they came to me.

New photographers see big retrospective exhibits and books about famous photographers and think that they should aim at that. They submit their images to publishers and get form letters back and then get discouraged. Those retros. books are almost always the by-product of years and sometimes decades of hard work on less personally focused projects.

Work on a theme and then market the work based on the significance of and your dedication to the theme. This works (assuming that your images are interesting and competent). A number of my students over the years have utilized this strategy successfully also.