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Thread: Recommendations for a photo book

  1. #1

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    Recommendations for a photo book

    Hi everyone,

    I am playing with the idea of putting 40-50 images from my recent Tibet trip into a book. I have no experience in publishing a book. A few people have mentioned Blurb. I bought a Blurb book from a forum member here a few years ago and was disappointed by the quality of its printing. I have heard that Blurb is better now.

    This book will be a very small run like 30-50 copies, but I want the printing quality of the images give its readers an enjoyable experience, like that of looking at contact prints. Is it possible to achieve this by scanning the negatives and digital printing?

    Or is it better to find a book binder and use only 4x5 contact prints for such a book? Or some contact prints and some digital prints? Cost issues?

    Where do I get started?

    Thanks.

  2. #2

    Re: Recommendations for a photo book

    I still would recommend Blurb book. My friends and I must have altogether made over 100 Blurb books (one of my groups of photo friends are in fact veterans of a Stanford continued ed class in photo book making using Blurb), both in colors and B&W. If you are careful with your colorspace, the output should be fine. You can also order sample copies. All other options are $$$, especially for tiny run.

  3. #3
    Zndrson's Avatar
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    Re: Recommendations for a photo book

    Hi Hugo,

    Though my experience with publishing is very limited, from what I've heard Bobs Books out of the UK is near the top of the list. I'll be receiving a sample in a few weeks for a project I'm funding through Kickstarter. If you're interested I'll share my experience. So far their support has been very good, and they've offered significant discounts off of a similar run quantity as you've suggested, including shipping discounts.

  4. #4

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    Re: Recommendations for a photo book

    Another option to a book would be to create a magazine. It is much cheaper than on-demand short run book printing. The most dominant player in this space is Magcloud (and I just noticed that they have been purchased by Blurb). Another benefit is that you can create digital versions too (which begs the question: what's the different between a digital magazine and a digital book...?).

  5. #5
    Richard Johnson
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    Re: Recommendations for a photo book

    If you worked with a good designer you could create a book from a single large inkjet sheet, folded down into a signature or some sort of Japanese/alternative style binding. There is an Avedon book sort of like this (although not inkjet). Then each book would be the cost of one large inkjet in quantity.

    Emmet Gowin did a short, thin folio called Petra sort of like this twenty years ago. Your Tibet work would be similar in scale/scope. You could do some very nice layouts with multiple related images on the pages.

  6. #6

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    Re: Recommendations for a photo book

    Thanks for great suggestions! Another beginner's question: I have no clue how many people will buy this book, my guess is 5 to 30. Do I just publish and print them and wait for people to buy? Should I consider Kickstarter just to generate some publicity?

  7. #7
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Re: Recommendations for a photo book

    Blurb's quality is now very, very good. This assumes you prepare the files properly. It can take some homework to figure out the best way to do so.

    An advantage to blurb is that it can cost you nothing ... if you market through them, people buy directly, and you don't have to have to risk paying for a stack of unsold books. The big disadvantage is that the cost-per-book is high. It's unreasonable to expect to make any money. The price blurb charges will already be significantly higher than the cost of a larger run commercial book.

    The other option for a run of 30 to 50 is some version of handmade artist's book. Binding inkjet pages (as Richard suggested) is one approach that has a lot of advantages. But the investment in labor and materials will be very high. And just to break even, the books will be expensive. Consider who your buyers really are, and how many you really have.

    Photo book publishing is a tough business, because almost no one makes a dime. A book publisher is going to want to see awesome work, an awesome idea, a clear market, and probably also a solid edit and book dummy. AND! They're going to want you to show up with $15,000 to $45,000 of your own money. This can be in the form of cash, or pre-sales. This isn't self-publishing. This is the state of ordinary photo book publishing these days. The publisher, if they like the project, will be investing much more than this. You're just providing insurance against them losing an unpalatable sum of money. If you've been wondering why so many photo books launch via kickstarter and indie-gogo these days, this is why. It's pretty much the only path for the great majority of books.

    Considering the market and the economics, you may want to question exactly why you're doing a book and who it's for. There are all kinds of hurdles for a body of work to clear before it makes sense.

    I've done a few blurb books, but I think of these as printed portfolios. I don't tell people "i've got a book." Mine have been for showing work, and for giving to family and friends.

    I'm working on my first published book now. It's a whole different deal. I'm working with a photo editor and an architectural historian, will soon be descending into the hell of crowd-funding. It's no picnic! And success is hardly guaranteed.

  8. #8

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    Re: Recommendations for a photo book

    The current (August) issue of Photo District News is called "THE PHOTO BOOK & SELF-PUBLISHING ISSUE". They discuss ways to get a book published. In this issue they mention that some publishers do require a photographer to contribute to the cost, but that tends to be for photographers who have no track record in books, or are not a household name. They want the photographer to create the book and sell a certain number of quantities in advance, and then they are willing to fund the rest of the production. Some publishers have not gone this route, and some are blends where they will fully fund books if the topic or photographer are a good risk, while requiring other books to be artists funded, and some are still using the traditional model where they fully find the book

    I'm not a household name, but I have managed to get 3 book projects published without any funding on my part. And each book was very different in funding.

    My first book, oddly enough, was published by Rizzoli, a well known and well regarded publisher. I was fortunate to have a meeting with in their NYC office with the Rizzoli USA head and an editor. I was pitching another concept that they were interested in, but when they saw my portfolio, they countered with a different concept, which was even better for me. They fully funded the book, and provided me with advance money. The pros of this were having the book fully funded, working with a known publisher who would handle all the details, along with a professional editor, designer, ans printer, as well as handle the bulk of publicity and marketing and distribution. You cannot under-appreciate having a major publisher do all the marketing and distribution - that is huge. The down sides is you are on their timetable (very aggressive) and you do not have total creative control. They have a lot on the line so they have a big say in what the cover shot is, and what images are, or are not in the book. This book was named to the Bloomsbury Review's favorite books of the year list, so it is hard to not call this effort a success. This book was also don in associate with a prominent conservation organization who also marketed the book. Rizzoli was very happy with the book and are eager to do more (we just need to agree on concept and feasibility)One comment the Rizzoli head said in our first meeting is that "nobody gets rich doing a photography book". He was correct, but you can make money ) just not enough to retire on.

    My second book I had to hustle to put together. I was able to get an Art Museum and another major conservation organization to back the project. So no money out of pocket for me. I also was able to pull in a small team of people with special expertise and connections who provided their resources on a volunteer basis. The museum and conservation organization had their own resources to leverage in terms of design, printing, and distribution which helped tremendously. The pros hear was to have the backing, resources, and a great team of people to make it happen. The downside was that it was a tremendous amount of work on my part, and the project should have collapsed under its own weight several times. Its a small miracle that it came together and was quite a success. But the publicity that was generated was great. Even Photo District News did a story on it.

    The book that I am working on now is privately funded and will be privately published by a team with much experience int he publishing industry. It is a great project and I was approached to be the photographer. The editong, design, and printing are paid for by the sponsor, and I am paid well the do the photography. The project fits my skills and interests very closely, so is a pleasure to work on. It is again a tremendous effort, but will end up being the best book that I have been involve with and the one I will be most proud of. The pros here are working with an editor who came to me because they appreciate my style of shooting. So I can shoot like I would of my personal work, which is a huge difference than shooting for someone else's vision. And I have a lot of creative control along with the editor and designer.

    The one thing in common is if someone else is funding the project, then you are on their time schedule, which generally is very aggressive and creates a lot of stress to deliver. But the hardest thing with most businesses is building public awareness and and marketing (which generally is very expensive and takes a lot of time). Working with someone that has a built in customer base is huge.

    I would never suggest starting a book project for the profits. The main benefit I have found is building credibility and awareness. Going through a book project that is funded by someone else demonstrates first hand that you can take on a tough project and deliver. Whenever I am in discussions with a prospective new client about assignment work, there is never any doubt about my ability to deliver. And the publicity surrounding the book and its release can generate a lot of awareness in the community. I have a concept for my next book. I will either go back to Rizzoli to publish, or I may solicit backing on my own like I did for my second book.

  9. #9

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    Re: Recommendations for a photo book

    Quote Originally Posted by paulr View Post
    Blurb's quality is now very, very good. This assumes you prepare the files properly. It can take some homework to figure out the best way to do so.
    I can second this ... I've been using Blurb since 2009 for a variety of portfolio books and low-cost wedding books (!) and I've never had issues with quality. Input equals output. Cost per book is seems high but beats other ways of producing one-offs.

  10. #10
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Re: Recommendations for a photo book

    I should have been more specific and made my advice about books sold primarily as artist monographs. Books that have a large appeal outside the art book audience often get published more easily. They call these books "crossover" titles, because they potentially attract a much larger audience. Consider the difference between "Joe Blow: Photographs" and "Hottest Firefighters of 9/11 (photos by Joe Blow)."

    The books that I've wanted to do in the past were a lot like "Joe Blow: Photographs," so I didn't waste my time banging on publisher doors. My current project is more of a crossover book, so it has a better chance. My editor still I thinks I need to show up with a bunch of money or pre-sales.

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