Indie Photobook Publishing
A Practical Guide
Hi there! I’m Éanna, and my goal is to help photographers and visual artists like you create, publish and promote great photobooks that bring your photography projects to life.
I created this guide because I love photobooks, and I want to share with others the tools and knowledge that I have gained over 7 years of publishing with The Velvet Cell, so that they can create amazing photobooks that will make the world a richer place. This guide is the result of the lessons I have learnt in my time as a publisher.
Photobooks inspire me endlessly and I could talk about them all day. I am even more inspired by all the amazing photographers out there self-publishing their work in a thoughtful and creative manner.
Over the past few years I’ve been asked so many questions about publishing that I decided to put the answers into this free, detailed guide.
This guide is over 24,000 words long. Why so long? Because I wanted to create THE best resource online for indie photobook publishers.
So, you want to publish a photobook? This Practical Guide will walk you step-by-step through the key phases, including:
- Why consider Indie publishing for your photobook
- Important questions to ask yourself before proceeding
- The biggest mistakes publishers make
- How to fund and validate your photobook before you go to print
- How to prepare and print your photobook in the most economical way
- How to sell and distribute your photobook online and to bookshops
- Creative ways to grow your fanbase and build an audience who will eagerly await your next book
Not only that, but we’ve also reached out to other indie photobook publishers and interviewed them about their experiences. I’ve made their stories available to you as a bonus set of Case Studies, available as a download with this guide.
I believe that photobooks are the best way to establish yourself as a photographer. Photobooks are not just a great way of getting your work out there into the world, it is also a form of expression unto itself that I believe is truest to the medium.
In a world where websites come cheap and easy, photobooks are an amazing way to bring attention to your work and why you do it, whether it’s a one-time thing or a life journey.
I’ve been publishing photobooks as The Velvet Cell since 2011. As of 2017, I have published over 60 books by different photographers, including six books of my own photographic projects.
Since 2014, I have sold over 5,000 books to buyers and bookshops all over the world. I’ve published books by both up-and-coming photographers, such as Jordi Huisman, Sander Meisner and Sam Laughlin, and world-renowned photographers such as Peter Bialobrzeski, Alexander Gronsky, Greg Girard, Toshio Shibata and Alejandro Cartagena.
This is not to brag – indeed many have done a lot better – but to show you what even one person can do!
Yep, that’s me on press for Moment by Wolfgang Hildebrand.
I also run Indiephotobooks.com, an educational site dedicated to sharing knowhow, ideas and strategies about photobook publishing. I work with publishers and photographers through coaching and consultation, showing them how to take their concept from an initial idea to a final publication, covering all aspects including funding, printing, selling and marketing.
If, after reading this guide, you still have some questions, or feel there was something still missing, please email me at eanna [at] indiephotobooks [dot] com I read and reply to every email.
Table of Contents
If the link doesn’t work, click here to download.
Here are all the details you’re about to learn in this guide…
Chapter 1: What is Indie Photobook Publishing?
Chapter 5: How to Fund your Photobook
Chapter 6: How to Print your Photobook
- Printing Types
- Format and Binding
- Choosing Paper
- Page Size
- How many pages?
- How many books should I print?
- Paper Weights
- Special Finishes
- Blank Dummies and Advance Copies
- Preflight and Proofing
- How to find a reliable, trustworthy printer
- How to Get a Quote
- Do you need to be on print?
Chapter 7: How to Sell Your Photobook
- How to price your photobook
- Selling Online
- How to get your book into people’s hands
- Working with a Distributor
- Reaching out to Bookshops Yourself
- How to work on Consignment
- How to sell Wholesale to Bookshops
- Shipping copies to Customers
Chapter 8: How to Promote your Photobook
- Who are you trying to reach?
- Your website is your catalogue
- Write a Compelling Description
- Cooperate with Galleries and Museums
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Social Media
- Getting Reviews
- Participating in Photography Festivals
- Media Kits
- Influencer Marketing
- Have a Book Launch
- Attending Book Fairs
- Entering Photobook Competitions/Awards
- Think outside the Photobook Market
What is Indie Photobook Publishing?
Before we dive in, what exactly does indie photobook publishing mean? ‘Indie’ is short for independent, and being an indie publisher means that you are your own publisher, or that you publish the works of others, or a combination of both.
In this guide I will be using it as an umbrella term to refer to both self-publishers, who exclusively publish their own work as books, or independent publishers, like The Velvet Cell, who publish the work of others (and sometimes their own).
The beauty of being ‘indie’ is the freedom to decide exactly what kind of photobook you want to make, how you want to make it and how you want to sell it.
In some ways it has never been easier to publish a photobook: the ‘means’ are there, but we still often lack the ‘how’. Distribution and funding can be two of the biggest challenges for many aspiring publishers. We will talk about these in later chapters.
While large publishing houses may be part of a larger company, have teams of people in-house responsible for each step of the publication process and even have their own printing press (see Steidl, Kehrer), indie publishers will need to be resourceful about finding the money to publish their books, and will most likely need to outsource a lot of the work, including the printing itself. But this also means you get to form your own team based around your interests.
Being an indie publisher means retaining full control over what you do and having the luxury of choice. All aspects of the publishing process, from editing to distribution, are decided by you. You can choose to do things yourself, or you can select designers, marketers etc to help you. Either way, it’s your decision.
Who is this Guide for?
Being able to independently publish your projects as a photobook is, in my opinion, an amazing thing. It can be hard, but it’s always rewarding.
This book is not intended to map a definitive roadmap for you as a publisher. It doesn’t try to teach you how to edit and sequence your images or design your photobook. It doesn’t talk in great detail about the conceptual history of the photobook. Those are best left for another time.
What I offer is a practical and actionable guide to starting and growing your imprint. I’ll walk you through fundraising, physical production, promotion and selling.
Along the way, I’ll help you avoid the numerous pitfalls that have derailed many an indie photobook project. I will share with you the tools, resources and knowhow necessary – what you choose to publish is up to you. That’s the joy of it!
This guide is for anyone looking to self-publish their own photobook, set up an independent photobook imprint or, like The Velvet Cell, a combination of the two where you publish the work of others alongside your own work.
Some of our releases from early 2017
Whether you are already making photobooks, planning one or simply dreaming of making one someday, I hope this guide will give you a clear introduction to the often-overwhelming world of photobook publishing.
Why should you consider Indie Publishing?
If you are passionate about photography, you may have noticed the relentless onslaught of online content in recent years. Suddenly, everyone is a photographer and can share their work with the world. Photobooks are the antidote to this onslaught.
They are, in my opinion, the best way for photographers to stand out from the crowd and establish a name for themselves as photographers.
Few indie photobook publishers make a full-time living from publishing; it’s a passion project based on the need to be creative and to communicate a story with those around them.
For others, photobooks are part of their practice; they showcase their talents and help them secure other jobs that can support them financially.
In recent years large and established publishers have begun requiring the photographer to raise considerable sums of money to cover printing, design, marketing, etc. In return the photographer receives a few hundred copies of the books which can be given away or sold privately.
Royalties are usually only an option, not a given, if the first edition sells out and the publisher decides to print a second edition. I believe that photographers, if they more knowledge of the ‘how’, would be in a better position to make their own books.
Not only would it cost them less, it would also help them to gain knowledge and experience in the process. Finally, they would also be free to make the book of their dreams.
In many larger photobook publishing houses, you, as the photographer, will not be in control of the publishing process. Photographer involvement differs from publisher to publisher, but it may be that you will not get a say over which photographs will be used, how and in what sequence they will be presented, the paper used, and the format and design of the book.
Also, the timing of publication will be a decision for the publisher, not you, and it could take a couple of years for a publisher to find time to publish your book.
During this time, the publisher reserves the right to push back your project if something else comes up, or to cancel it completely.
My intention is not to discourage you from using established photobook publisher, because they have many advantages.
Firstly, they will be able to do larger print runs because they much broader distribution networks than most indie publishers.
Secondly, they will be able to offer you their knowledge and expertise regarding production and marketing.
Thirdly, some publishers, because of their own reputation and position in the art market, can do a lot to raise the profile of the published photographer.
However, bigger doesn’t always mean better, and there are other routes to print. The purpose of this book is to show you those other routes and the benefits of indie publishing. The main benefit is not having to wait for approval to start publishing and building an audience. You can take control, set and execute a plan to bring your ideas to life.
Let’s look at three distinct advantages of going it alone. Firstly, you get to control exactly how your book looks – you are not dependent on a publisher’s vision or budget. Secondly, who better to connect your work with your audience than yourself. Why let someone get in the middle of that? Thirdly, your own imprint is a playground for your most creative ideas – go big, keep it small – whatever suits you best.
Indie publishers are important to the future of photography because without the constraints of a larger publishing house with huge overheads, they are free to publish smaller projects that might not appear to have the appropriate “return on investment”, but are worth publishing.
I have composed two tables below detailing the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs indie publishing. However, a small number of large publishers may give the artist full control. Always check to find out how your project will be handled before you assume.
Why I made this guide
When I started photobook publishing in 2011 I was soon overwhelmed with the amount and variety of knowledge required. Every now and then I would google for resources about indie publishing specifically for photobooks, but I rarely found anything useful.
Finally, some years later, I came across a book written by Dewi Lewis (of Dewi Lewis Publishing) entitled Publishing Photography. I bought it and read the entire book in one day. It was fascinating and I am so thankful that Dewi took the time to write the book. There was only one problem: it was published in 1991 and was now out of date.
This is my attempt at an updated version.
I have made so many costly mistakes in my publishing adventure but learnt from these with each book. Publishing opened up a whole new world to me full of interesting people and opportunities.
I hope this book can show you how to you avoid those mistakes and help you grow your practice, because that’s what photobook publishing is: It’s not a one-moment event, it’s a part of a wider process that forms your practice as a creator.
It was a steep learning curve and as I’ve started doing more and more complicated books that learning curve has never really let up. This guide is a collection of the lessons I’ve learnt along the way about the production and business side of photobook publishing.
Before you jump in, it’s worth noting that The Velvet Cell is largely a one-person publishing house. Therefore, my process of doing things may be different to yours if you have experience working at larger publishers where different people do different things. I hope what my guide proves, however, is that it is possible to do this on your own.
However, what works for me, might not work for you. Everyone has their own approach. This is mine and hopefully this guide will help you find yours.
4 Essential Questions to Ask Yourself Before you Begin
We have established that indie publishing is a real possibility for you. Now let’s think about your ‘why’. Publishing is a lot harder than it might appear, and understanding your ‘why’ will keep you on track. Over the years, I have lost my ‘why’ many times, but whenever I took the time to re-ask myself why I do what I do I always found a sense of clarity which dispelled the temporary confusion.
So, why do you want to be an indie publisher?
What are you in this for?
Indie Photobook Publishing is far from a viable career business option. When you compare photobooks to other indie publications, such as indie magazines, you really start to see how small the photobook world is.
Consider this: the production costs of many indie magazines are covered in full before even going to print by advertisements and sponsorship; the print run and corresponding market is large, most print runs are between 5,000-9,000 copies; there is an established distribution network, and more shops stock magazines than photobooks; the materials are not as expensive and thus the unit price is lower. Even with these ‘advantages’ independent magazines, for the most part, still face a daily struggle to stay afloat.
Photobooks on the other hand are usually produced in editions of 300-1,000 because the overall market for photobooks is small. There is a small distribution network and fewer stores stock them. They usually cost more to produce due to the materials needed, and there are few sponsors or advertisers queuing up to pay for photobooks.
Therefore, if you were thinking of producing some photobooks and living off the profits, think again! You don’t want to find yourself in debt for creating something you love. Therefore you need to take a realistic approach to your publishing and expectations.
Why should this project become a book?
It is easy to think today that all photography projects merit publication as photobooks, but that’s simply not true. Not all projects are suitable for book format, and even those that are, will require determination if you are to experience the joy of seeing your work in print.
Some photography projects look better in other formats, whether as installations or on a gallery wall. I advise all photographers to think long and hard about this. As I already mentioned, just because you can make a book doesn’t mean you should. You need a good reason and a strong passion for convert your project into a book.
Is my idea new and unique?
What is new and fresh about your project? How does it differ from other books already available? The photobook world is full of amazing books that make my jaw drop when I see them, but there are many projects that are only slight variations on other projects that have gone before them.
Do your research. Ensure that you can offer something new that will be remembered for what it is, not what it resembles.
Do I really want this?
Indie photobook publishing is hugely enjoyable and rewarding, but it’s also a lot of hard, unglamorous work. It can take over your life. After you have completed the fun bits are you prepared to spend the necessary time ordering barcodes, collating orders between your website and fulfillment centre, arranging distribution and marketing, chasing down lost copies and updating the website?
About 70% of photobook publishing is simply hard work, juggling multiple roles as designer, creater, editor, marketer, producer, distributor and so on. There is only so much one person can handle, but plan ahead and sometimes-overwhelming tasks will all be accomplished!
Self & Indie Photobook Publishing: A Short History
Self-Published Photobooks have come a long way in a short time. Not too long ago self-publishing was regarded as vanity publishing, but today it’s an accepted and admirable way for image makers to publish their work. This chapter will examine some photographers who have self-published successfully, and some of ways they did it.
When did self-publishing start to take off? Certainly it feels like a recent thing, but it has actually been around for decades. One of the earliest self-publishing success stories was the books of Ed Ruscha who self-published his, now seminal, photobooks Twentysix Gasoline Stations and Every Building on the Sunset Strip in the 1960s.
In total, Ruscha self-published fourteen photobooks. Similarly, the now world-famous Japanese photographer, Daido Moriyama, self-published his Another Country in New York by stapling together pages printed on a Canon photocopier.
In more recent times, photographers such as Stephen Gill and Alec Soth have both set up their own imprints (Nobody Books and Little Brown Mushroom respectively) to share and distribute their work. Both photographers wanted to retain full control over their projects, from conception to publication and even distribution. Little Brown Mushroom, unlike Nobody Books, also published the work of other photographers that appealed to Soth.
Hackney Kisses by Nobody Books. Established in 2005 by Stephen Gill.
Others who found freedom of expression in self-publishing include Alejandro Cartagena, a Dominican photographer based in Mexico. One of his biggest successes over the past ten years came with this self-published project Carpoolers, which even ran to a second edition.
Carpoolers was admired by Martin Parr, Jeffrey Ladd, Douglas Stockdale and Cristina de Middel, amongst others, and Cartagena continues to publish some of his own books while entrusting others to other indie publishers (watch out for his release with The Velvet Cell in Autumn 2017).
The first edition of Carpoolers, self-published by Alejandro Cartagena.
Many photographers embark on self-publishing ventures as a way of making their own work available and also retaining full control over the final publication. Photographers are coming to see the book as an integral part of their practice and are increasingly unwilling to outsource it to mainstream publishers.
Brother and sister Beth and Thom Atkinson self-published their first photobook, Missing Buildings, through their imprint Hwaet Books by raising funds through a Limited Special Edition of 100 copies. The book has proved an excellent vehicle for their project, enabling it to reach a wide audience.
Missing Buildings by Thom and Beth Atkinson, Hwaet Books,
The American photographer, and Magnum associate, Carolyn Drake, also self-published her two books; Two Rivers and Wild Pigeon to great acclaim. Both projects won numerous awards and critical acclaim.
Similarly, Paul Gaffney, an Irish photographer, established himself in the photography world with his self-published book We Make the Path by Walking, which was nominated for a number of prizes. This success has led to two more books by Gaffney, also self-published.
Wild Pigeon, by Carolyn Drake, self-published in 2014.
Perhaps one of the most notable self-publishing success of recent years was the project The Afronauts by Cristina de Middel. The first edition of 1000 copies was shortlisted for the prestigious Deutsche Borse photography prize, and now changes hands for over £1,000.
On the back of its success, de Middel has gone on to build a very successful and esteemed imprint for her own projects, including Sharkification, which was one of the top sellers of 2016. You can check out her catalogue on her imprint This Book is True.
British photographer George Georgiou, whose project Fault Lines/Turkey/East/West had previously been published by the Dutch photobook publisher Schilt Publishing, turned to self-publishing for his book: Last Stop, a concertina book exploring the diversity of London from the top deck of London buses. The project raised almost £12,000 on Kickstarter in late 2014.
Egyptian photographer, Laura El-Tantawy, successfully self-published her project In the Shadow of the Pyramids, which was a finalist in the Athens, PhotoEspana and Unseen Photobook awards. Her book was also chosen as one of the best books of 2015 by such well-known names such as Yumi Goto, Alejandro Cartagena, Colin Pantall, John Gossage and Martin Amis.
In the Shadow of the Pyramids, self-published by Laura El-Tantawy
A project that makes me very excited about the potential of self-publishing is Borealis by photographer Jeroen Toirkens and journalist Jelle Brandt Corstius. Rather than release a book out of the blue, their approach is one of ‘slow journalism’, with a website dedicated to the project.
The project features eight trips, and the site displays the trips as they take place, with five updates on the project in 2016, including images. These updates offer readers a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the project, to learn about the creators and their intentions.
Perhaps most ingenious of all is that Toirkens and Corstius’ website offers the reader an opportunity to participate in the project, which in turns supports the making of the work. This is a great way to build an engaged following, and to work with them to create something worthwhile.
Readers who subscribe receive a well-designed birch wooden box with eight compartments. After each trip, the subscriber receives a photo, handwritten text, postcard, or another ‘relic’ from the trip to place in the box. Each subscriber can thus build their own collector’s box and play an active role in the project’s creation. At the end of the project each subscriber also receives a signed and numbered copy of the book.
The Sochi Project by Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen is another example of a ‘slow journalism’ project that built up an audience over time to examine one subject in considerable detail. What is clear from both these examples is the sustained passion and commitment of the creators for the work they are doing – which in turn inspires their followers.
Forbidden Land, by The Sochi Project Bookstore by Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen
Rorhof is another excellent example of an indie publishing house that publishes both their founders’ work and the work of others. Rorhof came to prominence with its book Hidden Islam (also by Degiorgis), which was one of the most successful photobooks of 2014, winning the Gold Award at the Deutscher Fotobuchpreis, the First Book Award at Paris Photo and the Author Book Award at Les Recontres d’Arles. Rorhof has since gone on to publish more books by Degiorgis as well as by Max Pinckers and Daisuke Yokota.
Hidden Islam by Nicolo Degiorgis, published by Degiorgis’ own imprint Rorhof.
Self-publishing has become a viable way of creating books today. The audience has expanded and you are in full control of your project, from the beginning to the end. The list of inspiring self-publishers and indie publishing houses is endless, and more and more are appearing every year.
I could really go on forever with this list. The point is, there are people out there taking control and making their own projects, and those projects are amazing! For this guide, I interviewed 10 self-publishers about their experiences.
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The 8 Biggest Mistakes I’ve Seen Indie Photobook Publishers Make
Over my time mentoring photographers looking to self-publish I’ve noticed a number of frequent mistakes. This chapter will look briefly at some of those, so that you can avoid them in your project.
1. Rushing the Process
The publishing journey is exciting, and we want to see the project become a book as soon as possible – but the project will benefit if we take our time and resist rushing it through.
The quality of self-published books has improved so much in recent years that fans can now purchase projects of real depth and quality, not only in terms of the physical appearance of the book, but also in terms of the originality and excellence of the photographic project. This means that expectations have also risen and your photobook will need to be something special to warrant consideration. Quality can not be rushed.
2. Trying to Reinvent the Wheel
While everything may, ultimately, be a variation on a theme, it’s vitally important that your project brings a new perspective and does not simply revisit old ground. Take your time, find your own voice, and deliver when you have something worth sharing. This is true both for photographers looking to self-publish and indie publishers like myself who publish the projects of others.
3. Thinking the Books will Sell Themselves
You may have lots of Facebook likes on your photography page but that doesn’t mean they will convert to customers. Beyond your close friends and family, who will actually be sufficiently interested in your project to pay for it? You need to think about your audience if you hope to sell your books. Anyone can make an image diary and publish it but will it connect with others? Publishers need to have a promotional and sales strategy in place when they publish, it’s never enough to rely on ‘hope marketing’.
4. Misunderstanding the Relationship between the Book and the Project
There is a difference between a photobook and a book of photos. The latter is a catalogue, a holder for images, whilst the former is a body of work where the book and the images inside the book all combine to tell a story. It is not enough to print images and publish them in book form. Editing and sequencing is necessary so that the design of the book will reflect the overall aims of the project.
5. Going it Alone
This can be tempting. It took me years of trying to figure out everything on my own before I learnt to reach out to other publishers for advice and support. That is how I began to coach others as I remembered how lost and frustrated I was at the beginning of my publishing journey.
It is always worth developing a network of people who are facing similar challenges as yourself so that you can support and learn from each other.Search for people who are doing similar things and reach out to them. The photobook community is remarkably helpful and will be enthusiastic about your project if you share it. You don’t need someone who has been publishing for 25 years – you only need someone a few steps ahead of where you are now.
6. Trying to Start Too Big
Many of us want to see our work in a beautiful, heavy, clothbound book on the finest paper. But without an established audience to purchase all of your book inventory, you may find that your first book is also your last. So it makes sense to start small.
Build your following organically. I have seen self-publishers raise production funds for a book on Kickstarter, but how many times can you do that? Wouldn’t it be better to experiment with smaller book forms that don’t cost more than you can afford and build a sustainable audience for the long term?
7. Over Designing
I love a well-designed photobook, but it’s important not to allow the design to intrude on the story being told. A tightly edited, well-laid out book is more powerful than a book with hundreds of flaps, gate-folds, removable parts and colour cards.
Remember that the purpose of the book is to tell your story through the images; they need to be allowed to speak. Some of the best photobooks I’ve seen are simply designed and work because the photos, rather than the design, leave a lasting impression. Let form follow function – the design of your book should enhance, not overpower, your message.
8. Relying Exclusively On Images
You are creating a photobook, but can the story you would like to tell be told through images alone? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Would people see your project in one way before you explain it to them and in quite another way after you do? Often photographers feel that they should be able to communicate their entire message in visual form, but that is not always possible.
A piece of text, such as a foreword, introduction or afterword, prepared by you or another writer, can give a context to the project that helps to illuminate the story. Remember, photographs are just a medium, like writing, to tell a story, which is the aim of every good photobook.
How to Fund your Photobook
Photobooks can be expensive to print, even before you factor in the time, design, editing and all the other soft costs. It is important to consider how you will fund your book so that it doesn’t become your one and only book. It is worth noting that even larger, more established publishing houses struggle to make money from books, which should serve as a reminder to be careful with your financing.
Let’s consider what you’ll need money for. Of course, many small publishers do all of the above tasks themselves. At The Velvet Cell I design all books (except for the City Diaries series), as well as managing each project, proofreading and editing. Other aspects, such as printing, binding, and fulfilment, I outsource to others.
- Printing, Paper, Binding and Delivery
- Writing and Proofreading
- Postage and Fulfillment
It is easy to be tempted to think big, but I advise starting with a small softcover book in an edition of 100 rather than a hardcover book of of 800.
When I began publishing, I remember thinking that if I could make books similar in size and substance to bigger publishers then I would be able to mimic their success. But in reality, a book without an audience is an unsold book. Very often photographers spend thousands producing a beautiful photobook only to realise that they don’t yet have an actively engaged audience willing to buy the book.
When I began my own publishing house, The Velvet Cell, my very first publication cost me £55 to make. It didn’t win any awards, but the profit I made allowed me to make another, and another, and another. The best thing was that this growth was organic – I was publishing books that reflected the demand of my audience, not the other way around.
In other words, it is better to sell small zines to true fans, than to have a 100-page clothbound book that sits unsold in your garage.
Crowdfunding gives creators the chance to raise funds for a project before the begin production. This means that you can create an account, show people what kind of photobook you want to make, give the story behind your project, and ask for the funds to make it. If enough people like your project and you reach your funding goal, then you get the money.
Croedfunding is also a great way to validate and promote your project, and will indicate, before you go to print, if there are enough people interested in your book or not.
The most popular crowdfunding platform today is Kickstarter, and this is the one we will focus on here. The Kickstarter model is one of the most basic crowdfunding models. Each project on Kickstarter gets its own fundraising page, which displays the funding goal, features a video explaining the venture, and gives a deadline, which must be under 60 days.
Campaigns offer “rewards” to contributors to encourage their support, but if you don’t hit your goal by your deadline, you won’t receive a penny. Successful projects must also pay 5% of funds raised to Kickstarter, plus another 3-5% percent to Amazon Payments, which processes contributions.
Here is a good article by PetaPixel on Tips for Self-Publishing through Kickstarter: https://petapixel.com/2016/07/29/10-tips-self-publishing-photo-book-kickstarter/
One Sun, One Shadow – crowdfunded by Shane Lavalette on Kickstarter
It is worth looking around before you decide which crowdfunding platform to use for your project. IndieGogo, for example, allows you to keep any funds you receive, regardless of whether or not your funding goal has been reached. In my opinion, however, this could potentially disincentive backers to support your project because it lacks the all-or-nothing aspect. IndieGoGo takes 4 percent if the fundraising goal is met and 9 percent if not.
Crowdbooks is an interesting venture dedicated to crowdfunding for photobooks exclusively. Authors can submit their project idea with the possibility of being published by Crowdbooks, or simply to use it as a platform to self-publish (or be published elsewhere). The advantages of Crowdbooks are that the audience is already interested in photobooks, whereas with Kickstarter and Indiegogo you will be competing with thousands of other projects from different fields.
Successful projects crowdfunded by Crowdbooks include You Could Even Die For Not Being a Read Couple by Laura Lafon. You can read their handbook on crowdfunding here which gives a good indication of the efforts needed for any crowdfunding campaign.
You Could Even Die For Not Being a Real Couple, crowdfunded by Laura Lafon on Crowdbooks
Countless photobooks have been funded through crowdfunding, but for every successful book project there are a dozen more that did not meet their funding goals. You should be fully aware that using Kickstarter is a lengthy, time-consuming process with no guarantee. You cannot just set it and forget it. You need to be actively promoting your project, getting people engaged and asking for support.
You will need a list of rewards for those who support the project, and a way of fulfilling these rewards if you are successful. It is vital that you include the cost of these rewards in your funding goal so that you are not left out of pocket once all the rewards have been fulfilled.
Even when you achieve your funds, you will need to keep your audience informed on the progress of your project. In this sense, it is better to be as close to going to print as possible before your campaign begins, treating it more like a pre-order campaign than an out-and-out funding campaign.
Here are some examples of great self-published photobooks that have been funded through Kickstarter. These funding campaigns succeeded either because the author had already spent years sharing their work online and offline and building up an audience, or because they had a very eye-catching project and a strong social media campaign.
If you are thinking of crowdfunding your photobook, I recommend taking the time to look at how others have done it successfully, and speak to them personally too if you can.
- Knives – Jason Koxvold
- Fifty High Seasons – Shane Lynam
- One Sun, One Shadow – Shane Lavalette
- Lost in the Wilderness – Kalpesh Lathigra
- Last Stop – George Georgiou
Lost in the Wilderness – Kalpesh Lathigra, crowdfunded on Kickstarter. Kalpesh was also interviewed by Ben Smith on the Small Voice Podcast.
You can also see the Most Funded Photobooks Ever on Kickstarter by clicking here: https://www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/photography/photobooks?sort=most_funded
If you want to understand how Kickstarter works, you can use a Kickstarter calculator such as: http://crowdfunding.io/. You can also see a list of really interesting statistics about success and failure on Kickstarter by visiting that page, such as “Campaigns with videos under 5 minutes were 25% more likely to reach their goal than those with videos that were longer”.
This model is not so different from Kickstarter but is usually is hosted on your own site, and there is no funding goal. In the ‘Pre-sell’ model you tell your audience about the book that you plan to make and give them a chance to pre-order it from your website. The funds you gather can then go towards production costs.
Obviously, this model works best if you already have an engaged audience which supports your work by purchasing prints or other books you have published. You can entice pre-orders by offering a reward of some sort, such as a discount or a free print.
This model has a number of advantages and disadvantages. An advantage is that you keep any money contributed – you don’t lose everything if you don’t reach your funding goal, as in Kickstarter. Secondly, you are not required to hand over 10% of your funds to Kickstarter once you reach your goals.
An excellent example of a photographer who took this route is Colin Bell. He asked for pre-orders through his website for his book Healing, and in return he included in the book the name of each person who pre-ordered. As he explains in his blog post, he was inundated with pre-orders, showing just how powerful this way of doing business can be.
One of the major downfalls of this model is that it is not transparent, unlike Kickstarter. Contributors have no way of knowing where you stand on your funding goal, and thus it lacks the ‘event-like’ feel of Kickstarter where suspense rises as closing date approaches.
The Pre-Upsell model was best exemplified by brother-sister duo Thom and Mary Atkinson of Hwaet Books for their book Missing Buildings. To raise the funds required to print the trade edition of their book, they offered a one-time special edition which was limited to 100 copies. Once they had sold the edition of 100 they used the funds to print both the special and the trade editions of the book.
As a customer, purchasing the Special Edition Pre-Order copies meant the book you got was signed, numbered and your name was printed in both editions as a contributor to the project. In addition you also received a 10×8“ print of your choice.
This is not only an innovative way to fund your book, but also a great way to promote the project as a whole. Rather than thinking of funding, marketing and printing as different aspects of publishing, try to combine them to greater effect.
Art Grants & Funds
Certain countries and states have progressive arts policies that might mean you are eligible for funding. Although the application process can be lengthy, it is worth checking with your local institutions if there are grants or funds you can apply for.
There is no reason why you can’t invest your own money in your photobook. Doing so is often a good way to keep the brakes on the project as you will be more reluctant to lose your own money than that of an organisation. Funding your own projects is also a good motivator to continue promoting your book to the best of your ability if your sales start to plateau.
If the link doesn’t work, click here to download.
How to Print your Photobook
Photobook printing and binding is a complicated business with some pitfalls, but if you invest some time in learning about the process, then the entire operation will be smoother and less expensive.
Printing mistakes can be expensive, which makes finding a trustworthy printer so important. A good printer will guide you through the process so that you don’t incur a lot of additional expenses or end up with a book that doesn’t match your vision.
This part of the process may appear complicated at first. It certainly took me years to understand the offset printing process and how each part affects the whole. So I’m going to break it down into a quick summary of the main decisions you need to make when printing;
- How will my book be printed? Offset or digital lithography?
- What kind of book will it be? Hardcover, softcover etc (format)
- How will my book be bound (binding)?
- What type of paper will I use for my book (stock)?
- How thick will that paper be (gsm)?
- What size will my book be (trim size)?
- How many pages will the book contain (pagination)?
- How will my book be printed? Four colours, spot colours etc. (printing process)?
- How many books will I be printing (print run)?
- Will I be including any special finishes in the book?
- Where will I get my book printed (printer location)?
- Who will print my book (printer)?
Let’s look at the different elements of printing and how they affect the cost of making your photobook, as well as contributing to appearance of the book and the overall impression it will make on the reader. Printing is all about trade-offs – nothing happens in isolation, as you are about to learn.
There are two main ways to print photobooks: offset presses and digital lithography presses.
Digital Lithography v Offset Printing
Offset is the traditional way to print large quantities and has been around for centuries. Offset presses can have four, five, six or more printing sections to print the basic four colours (CMYK), add special (spot) colours, create duo-tone or tri-tone black & white images and add features, such as a spot varnish, to your images.
Example of a 4-Colour, sheet-fed offset printer
It is important to remember that printing has constraints. The printed image can never ‘match’ the digital image as seen on a screen, due to the limitations of the printing process and the fact that printing is a physical process that involves many trade-offs. At best, your images are represented rather than replicated during the printing process.
With digital lithography printing, you can print very small print runs, even just one book, but the unit cost will be higher per book than with offset. Digital printing is quick, easy to manage and offers fast turnaround times.
Depending on who you print with, and in what country, the break-even point between offset and digital lithography appears to be somewhere between 500-800 copies. If you are printing over this number, it usually makes more economic sense to go with offset. But price isn’t the only reason to consider going with offset.
Digital lithography can sometimes leave streaks and tones in solid blocks of colour, but offset is not without its occasional reproduction issues too. The main issue with digital is that there are fewer papers, size options and formats available. Special finishes, such as embossing, are not available with digital lithography.
Digital lithography printing, with machines such as the HP Indigo, is still a relatively new technology and it will undoubtedly keep improving. Its main drawback at the moment is the small number of materials and finishes available, but this will surely improve.
Offset printing usually costs less per book, printing times are faster, and there is a wider range of papers, materials, inks and finishes. You also have better control over printing quality. However, you cannot print small quantities (<500-800) cost-effectively, setup costs are high and turnaround is slower.
Format and Binding
There is a certain relationship between formats and bindings. Some bindings are only possible with some formats, and vice versa. There are no rules when it comes to choosing the format and binding for your book, but there are certain guidelines that, if known, can help you avoid wasting money and time.
Binding usually refers to the way the pages of the book are held in place so they won’t fall out, though this doesn’t have to done in a purely functional way. Format usually refers to the type of book it is: zine, softcover, hardcover etc.
Hardback books comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. What they have in common is that they use boards glued to the endpapers to form a case around the book block. A material of your choosing (see formats below) can then be used to cover the boards. Hardback books can have round or straight spines.
Example of a Hardcover Book (Hotel Okinawa – Greg Girard – The Velvet Cell)
Softcover Books (also known as Stiffcover)
Softcover books use a card that is lighter and more flexible than the boards used for hardbacks, but thicker than the actual paper used in the book, to create a protective cover around your book block.
An example of a softcover book (Lauterstr. 50 – Sabine Lewandowski)
Zine / Booklet
A zine is usually a publication that is fewer than 48 pages and bound using the saddle-stitch method. Any more than 48 pages and the book block usually becomes too thick for staples to be effective.
Example of a 16-page zines – The Chronicles Series
The newspaper format is inventive and inexpensive as it doesn’t require any binding, as the pages are folded, creased and assembled as in a newspaper (however, you can use staples, if you wish). Newspaper-type papers tend to be cheaper than other papers.
However, the quality of reproduction is sometimes affected, not due to the printing, which is still offset, but rather because of the quality of the paper used degrades the image quality. We will look at this in further detail below when we explore paper choice. The newspaper format is perhaps best exemplified by the LBM Dispatch Series created by Alec Soth and Brad Zellar at Little Brown Mushroom.
Example of a newspaper-style photobook: 2ha
Hardcover / Case-Bound
Typically, this involves sewing the signatures together into sections. These are then glued to end papers which are glued to the cover’s spine.
Different types of hardcover books include:
The cover boards are covered by paper which can then be printed on or left blank.
Hardcover, paper-wrapped book. The cover is printed 4/0.
The cover boards are wrapped in a cloth, available in a wide range of colours and textures.
Smyth Sewn / Section Sewn
This type of binding often goes by two different names, but the process is the same. It is one of the most durable and high-quality binding types available, and is able to withstand years of wear and tear. With this type of binding, the signatures (groups of folded pages from a single sheet) are stitched together using binder thread. Each signature is sewn together individually, and then joined together with the other signatures to create the complete book block.
You can tell that a book is smyth-sewn when you see thread stitches in the centre fold of each signature as you page through the book. Similarly, the book is able to lie completely flat.
Example of a section-sewn book. In this book, the spine is exposed.
This hardcover book has also been section-sewn. You can identify the individual signatures from the side. (Hotel Okinawa – Greg Girard – The Velvet Cell)
With perfect binding, either flat sheets or signatures are bound together using a flexible adhesive with a wrap-around cover that creates a square-shaped spine. The major drawback about perfecting binding is that the book will not open flat. If you have ever fought with a book to keep it open, chances are it was perfect bound.
There are two glue options.
Hot (EVA) glue is the less expensive option, but because of the way it is applied, it is less durable. If you have ever seen pages fall out of a paperback book, this is usually the reason. The solution is to use cold glue (PUR) which allows the glue to be forced up into the book block penetrating the spine and creating a much stronger bind. PUR is a more expensive method as it requires 24 hours to dry, compared to EVA which takes five to eight seconds.
In this example, flat sheets have been bound together with adhesive.
Concertina / Leporello / Accordion Book
In this format the pages of the book are all glued together to form a continual sequence, allowing the entire book to be unfolded in one go.
The spine is left unattached, and the book block is only connected to the cover via the back inside cover. This means the entire book can be opened flat.
Example of swiss binding. Note how the spine is unattached. (Out West – Kyler Zeleny – The Velvet Cell)
The book is stitched through the spine (usually known as the saddle for books without a real spine). Different colour threads can be used.
This is one of the most common forms of binding for smaller publications of fewer than 48 pages. The saddle is stapled together and this holds the pages in place. Staples of different colours and shapes can be used.
Example of a saddle-stitched book. (Urban Landscapes – Sander Meisner – The Velvet Cell)
The most popular type of binding for indie photobooks is perfect bound or saddle stitching, due to their relatively low cost. You can expect to pay a premium for case-binding your books, regardless of the size of the actual book. If you plan to have double-page image spreads then I recommend using saddle stitch or swiss binding, as they will allow the book to open almost or completely flat.
For a great resource on choosing the right binding type, check out Designer’s Insight.
I like to think of the photobook as an art object, rather than a book of photos. In this regard paper is not simply a placeholder for your images; the paper and its smell and texture are integral parts of the photobook.
The paper that you choose for a book can truly make or break it. I’ve had good and bad experiences choosing papers. It is important to understand the different types and how they will affect the images you wish to print.
When you are printing using offset printers, there are countless different stocks of papers available with sometimes little difference between them. The availability of certain types of paper is limited depending on your location. Different wholesalers in different parts of the world actively change the names of papers to suit their home market. Your printer can help; don’t be shy about asking for samples.
For environmentally-aware publishers, many printers now offer FSC-certified papers too. FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) Certification gives publishers the option to choose paper stocks that have been sourced in an environmentally-friendly, socially-responsible manner. If you are looking for paper that is smooth and uniform, FSC-certified paper is a great choice. Financially speaking, choosing FSC-certified papers can increase your paper costs by around 20% but not always.
If you have found a book that has paper that you like, look at the colophon and see if the paper name is mentioned. Otherwise you can email the publisher or send a sample directly to the printers (just a page will do) and they can check if they have it in their stock. Very often they may not have paper of the same name, but something almost identical from a different supplier that will be just as good.
The most important factor when it comes to choosing paper is understanding how it reacts to ink. Some papers with thick fibres will absorb a lot of ink, thus causing the printed images to lose clarity. Other papers have a coating that prevents the ink from seeping into the fibres below, giving the images more definition.
There are generally three different categories of papers, with thousands of variations in each category:
Offset / Uncoated Paper
Generally, uncoated papers have a nicer touch and feel than other papers. This is because the fibres of the paper are left exposed which creates friction when we touch it. However, this paper is often unsuitable for photobooks because there is no coating. Therefore, the inks seep into the fibres of the paper and your image will lose contrast and detail. This is also known as dot gain because the ink dot expands outwards once it hits the paper, losing its density.
It’s suitability depends on how you want your images to appear when printed.
Coated Paper (e.g. Gloss, Matt, and Silk)
Coated papers are born as uncoated papers before a light coating of clay is applied. This gives them a smooth finish, and they become a new category, separate from uncoated papers. Most photobooks used a coated paper of some sort because the coating is ideally suited to holding ink and preserving clarity and definition. Coated papers also come in lightly-coated, normal and heavily-coated variations.
Text papers are similar to uncoated papers. They are the types of paper you find in a paperback novel and usually have a yellowish tint. They are usually only available between 70 and 150 GSM.
Choosing the right paper for any project is always about balancing paper texture and image quality. Coated papers will give you the best reproduction, but the coating reduces the sense of texture when touched. Uncoated paper, meanwhile, will give you a beautiful texture, but you must compromise on image quality and definition.
One of the biggest mistakes I made as a publisher was choosing an uncoated paper for a book because I liked the feeling of the paper between my fingers. Yes, the paper felt great, but I didn’t understand how it was going to react to print. When I received the books the contrast had totally gone from the images.
Another consideration to take into account when choosing a paper stock is the colour of the paper. Paper is never 100% white, and for this reason it is often called the 5th colour. Its own natural colour will affect the colours of your images.
For example, if you are printing on a paper with a yellow hue, the areas of your image which are meant to be without colour (or almost), will have a yellow cast. Areas of your image that are meant to be yellow will also be stronger and the hue will give all your your colours extra warmth.
Therefore, it’s important to take the specific paper you are printing on into consideration when planning your book. If the paper is 5% yellow, then it might be advisable to reduce your images by 5% yellow to compensate.
CMYK is a subtractive colour space that ultimately adds up to 100% black (RGB adds up to 100% white). Therefore, there is no way of printing white in offset printing, except by not printing, or leaving it blank. You will see the page, no matter what its colour is.
If you do need to print white, then a Spot Colour will be required.
Sample packs from printing companies are a great way to see how an image will appear on different paper stocks, and you can judge the smell of the papers too (not to be overlooked!)
Have you ever wondered how we arrived at such standardised page sizes as A4, A5, B5 etc.? In my first year of publishing with offset I received a quotation from a printer for a book that was A5 in size, that is 21 cm high and 14.8 cm wide.
However, when I asked for the book to be 1 cm wider the price jumped considerably. How could 1 cm make such a big difference to the price?
It turned out it all goes back to the original sheet the pages were printed on and cut from. What I didn’t know was that, whether I was printing A6 or A4, the printer was printing everything on the same large sheet.
Once I understood that the sheet is fundamental to page size, and that the sheet size never changes, I understood how to estimate the optimum page size.
Once the dimensions of your page size fit on the sheet — with a minimum of two pages — you can theoretically print any page size you want. However, there are a variety of sizes that have become standard for books because they make the most sense economically.
The more pages you fit on a single sheet, the less paper, plates and time you need to print and bind the book. It is always recommended to discuss optimal page sizes with your printer.
For our U.S. readers, here is a quick conversion chart from metric to American sizes. The sizes don’t exactly match up — A4 is not the same size as a ‘Letter’, but they are close matches.
In the examples below it is vital to remember that when offset printing, we are not printing individual pages. We are printing a sheet, which will later be divided into spreads. One spread has four pages in total, two front and two back.
From these sizes, you can start to see where the most common book sizes come from, such as 8 x 10 in, which is a very popular size for American photobooks. For the rest of this chapter, I will be sticking with the A and B sizes, but you can use the conversion chart above to help you if you are not used to these classifications.
All books start off from the sheet, and there are many different sheet sizes. However, for the purposes of this piece, we will be looking at the two most common, the ‘A’ sheet and the ‘B’ sheet. We print on both sides of the sheet.
Let’s begin by looking at the ‘A’ sheet. If you want your pages to be an ‘A’ size (or within those dimensions), your pages will all be printed on the ‘A’ sheet, no matter if you are printing A4, A5 or even A6, or a combination of those sizes. The A sheet is 63.5 x 88.9 cm (25 x 35 in), which is a little bit larger than an A1 sheet, leaving sufficient room around the edges for bleed.
Here is a breakdown of the ‘A’ Sheet and the page sizes it accommodates most efficiently.
A3 (29.7 x 42 cm / 11.7 x 16.5 in) = 4 pages per side, 8 pages in total
A4 (21 x 29.7 cm / 8.3 x 11.7 in) = 8 pages per side, 16 pages in total
A5 (21 x 14.8 cm / 5.8 x 8.3 in) = 16 pages per side, 32 pages in total
A6 (14.8 x 10.5 cm / 4.1 x 5.8 in) = 32 pages per side, 64 pages in total
Let us begin with A4, one of the most common page sizes for books. The ‘A’ sheet can fit eight 8 x A4 pages (4 spreads) on one side of the sheet in 2 rows of 4 (see image below). This gives us 16 pages in total, when both front and back are used.
The page combinations that make up each spread depends on if we are printing a landscape or portrait-orientation book.
This is how an ‘A’ sheet divides up for A4 sizes. The diagram below depicts a portrait-orientation book.
The diagram below depicts the layout for a landscape-orientation book.
Here is a real-life example from when I was printing Moment by Wolfgang Hildebrand. Moment is a landscape-orientation book. Here you can see 8 pages, 2 of which are blank.
However, that same ‘A’ sheet could be also be used to print A5 pages. In that case, because A5 is half the size of A4, we could fit 16 x A5 pages on one side of the sheet in 4 rows of 4. This equals 32 pages in total, when both front and back are used.
This is how an ‘A’ sheet divides up for A4 sizes. The diagram below depicts a portrait-orientation book.
The diagram below depicts the layout for a landscape-orientation book.
Going down one more increment, the same sheet could be also used to print A6. In this case, because A6 is half the size of A5, we can fit 32 x A6 pages on one side, in 8 rows of 4.
This equals 64 pages in total, when both front and back are used. Therefore, there would be 64 pages in this signature.
Here is an example of an A sheet printing A5 sizes. There are 16 pages on this side of the sheet.
If you don’t want to stick rigidly to the exact dimensions of A4, A5, A6 etc, the printer will cut away the excess strips of paper for you – leaving you with a custom-size book. However, your custom dimensions should try to fit into the A4, A5, A6 divisions to be economical.
There is also a B sheet used to print B sizes. As it is larger than the A sheet, each sheet will be more expensive. The B sheet size is 78.7 x 109 cm (in).
Here is a breakdown of the ‘B’ Sheet and the page sizes it accommodates most efficiently:
B3 (35.3 x 50 cm / 13.9 x 19.7 in) = 4 pages per side, 8 pages in total
B4 (25 x 35.3 cm / 9.8 x 13.9 in) = 8 pages per side, 16 pages in total
B5 (17.6 x 25 cm / 6.9 x 9.8 in) = 16 pages per side, 32 pages in total
B6 (12.5 x 17.6 cm / 4.9 x 6.9 in) = 32 pages per side, 64 pages in total
These are the most common sheet sizes made by paper manufacturers. However, when you are choosing a paper you should always ask what sheet sizes it comes in, so that you can understand how it will affect the dimensions of your book. It is possible that your manufacturer for your desired paper will use a custom sheet size.
Going back to my original example, you can see why the extra 1 cm sent my costs skywards. The extra 1 cm meant that the sheet could now only print 8 x A5 spreads per sheet (instead of 16), and thus many more sheets would have been needed to print the book.
How many Pages?
Page count is closely related to the page size and format that you choose for your book. Although the primary factor for consideration should be how many pages you need to tell your story, you should also be aware of the sheet size you are using and how many pages it can print.
Once each sheet is printed, it is then cut and folded into a signature. Each signature represents the total number of pages you can get from one sheet.
If you can fit 16 pages on a sheet (8 on the front and another 8 on the back) then it makes sense to think of your page count in units of 16s. The printer can also cut your sheet in half before printing, meaning you could also think in units of 8s.
Using the example above, it would be far more economical and practical to print a book with 80 pages (16 x 5) than to print one with 76 or 84, as this would involve a considerable waste of paper (that you have already paid for).
Here are some examples:
- 16 x 3 signatures + 4 page cover = 52 pages
- 16 x 4 signatures + 4 page cover = 68 pages
- 16 x 5 signatures + 4 page cover = 84 pages
- 16 x 6 signatures + 4 page cover = 100 pages
- 16 x 7 signatures + 4 page cover = 116 pages
All printing on offset machines takes place in the CMYK colour spectrum. CMYK is a very different colour spectrum from RGB, which is what your computer monitor uses.
All RGB files must be converted to CMYK before going to print. This can be done when working on individual images, or at the final stage when exporting the PDF from InDesign. Otherwise, a printer can do the conversion for you, but you will sacrifice quality control if you choose this option.
What it all comes down to, though, is that your printed images will never look exactly the same as they do on your monitor. CMYK has a smaller colour gamut than RGB.
This usually means that strong, bright colours are outside the CMYK gamut and thus unprintable. The conversion from RGB into CMYK will take this into account and automatically find the closest match to the missing colours in CMYK.
RGB is made up of Red, Green and Blue and ultimately adds up to 100% white. CMYK, on the other hand, is made up of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, and ultimately adds up 100% black. For this reason, CMYK is often called a subtractive colour gamut.
All colours produced by the printing press are a combination of these colours in varying degrees. This fact also limits the colour gamut available, unless your printer has more print units on their offset press to add a spot/additional colour.
There aren’t many savings to be made by using fewer colours, unless you are only printing with black. However, even black and white images usually use between two and four colours for printing to add depth and definition to the images.
You will often see terms such as duo-tone and full colour. These refer to the number of colour units you are using for your print job. Duo-tone means you are using two colour units on the printing press only. Duotone is most typically used for printing black and white images. Tri-tone is the term used for printing with three colour units.
Full Colour, or Quad-Tone, meanwhile, means you are using a unit each of CMY and K for both sides of the sheet. You may see it written as 4/4. A cover, meanwhile, will often only be printed on one side, and will be written as 4/0, as the inside cover is often left blank.
For areas of solid colour or special colours that go beyond the CMYK colour gamut, there is also the option of spot colours inks. Because CMYK is a relatively limited colour gamut, there are some colours that can’t be reproduced accurately.
Spot colours help you render a colour perfectly, or to avoid the slight variations in consistency that can occur when CMYK is applied as solid colour. Most often they are used for logos and endpapers where variations would be obvious to the viewer.
Using one or multiple spot colours in your project can increase the overall cost of printing significantly. This is because each separate spot colour used needs its own plate for application.
There are numerous Spot Colour systems. One that you may have heard of is called PANTONE, but there are also other systems such as TOYO and DIC in Japan, and HKS in Europe.
How many books should I print?
The advantage of offset printing is that the heaviest costs are incurred in the actual machine setup. This means that the materials used to print your book – the ink and the paper etc. – are relatively affordable, and become less expensive the more the printer buys on your behalf.
What this means, for you, is that there is little difference in price between printing 500 and 750, or 1,000 and 2,000.
From a printer’s’ perspective, the more you print, the greater the profit. Therefore they are likely to encourage you to print a few hundred more copies at a very low price. On the other side, however, it’s not always worth their time to print only a few hundred copies.
The photobook market is not a large one and most publishers start at 500 copies or less. In Taiwan printers are quite flexible, and I began printing offset books in editions of 300, but many printers will consider this number too low to be worth their time.
I have found 500 to be a sweet spot, and I go higher only if I am confident that there will be a strong demand for the book.
The measuring unit used for paper is called GSM. GSM is an acronym standing for ‘Grams per Square Meter’. The higher the GSM number, the heavier the paper.
In general, photobooks usually use paper between 150-170 GSM. This GSM is thick enough that the printed image won’t be visible from the other side, but not too thick that it becomes card-like. Normal paperbacks novels, for example, usually use text paper that is between 70-90 GSM, with a card cover that is often 300 GSM.
GSM does not always tell you everything you need to know about a paper stock, however, as different papers have different degrees of bulk. In our City Diaries project, for example, we print on 130 GSM paper which I would normally consider too thin, but this particular brand has quite a bit of bulk that increases the thickness of it.
It is always worth asking the printer for their opinion and suggestions rather than forcing through a paper that you like. Every printer will be used to different types of papers and know how each paper ‘prints’.
If they have experience using a particular paper and can show you samples, then you have a great reference point to begin with, compared to printing on a new paper that is an unknown to both you and the printer.
Printing offset gives you a huge range of options when it comes to special finishes that you can use for your book. It can be easy to go crazy here with things like embossing, dust jackets etc. Start by asking your printer what they can and can’t do, and how it would affect your quote. Usually you can get special finishes quoted as separate line items on your estimation so that you can see how much the production would cost with and without it.
Here are some quick examples of special finishes, but there are many more not included in this list. If you see a book somewhere with something special about it, take a photo for later and ask your printer about it.
Dust jackets are detachable outer covers usually made of paper and printed with text and images. We are all familiar with them in fiction publishing. A dust jacket has folded flaps that help it latch onto the inner cover, which can be a hard or soft cover.
Endpapers, as we have seen, are used in hardback books to hold the book block and the cover boards together. Endpapers don’t have to be afterthoughts, though – you can also print on them as you would the interior pages. This often adds that special something to your book as not many book publishers do it. It’s often a great place for a map or a diagram, as in the example below.
If you decide to print an image on the endpapers you should be aware that the paper used for endpapers is usually different from that used inside the book, meaning that your image and colours will look slightly different.
The material (cloth or paper) is stamped, leaving a lowered recess. ‘Blind’ refers to the fact that nothing is used to fill in the recess.
Examples of Blind Debossing and Foil Stamping used on cloth. (Missing Buildings – Thom and Beth Atkinson – Hwaet Books)
The opposite of a Blind Deboss. The material is stamped from behind, leaving a raised mark.
Foil Stamping / Blocking
Similar to Blind Debossing, but instead of being blind, a foil is used to fill in the recess. A metal die is used to stamp the foil onto the material.
An example of black foil stamping on a cloth cover. (Michael Wolf – 椅子 – Steidl)
A recess is created, usually on the front or back cover, which is then filled with a printed image. The recess keeps the image safe from damage.
An example of a tipped-in-image on a cloth cover (Yasutaka Kojima — New York — Sokyusha)
Varnish is a light coating that reflects light. It can be used for both protection and decoration. Varnishes can be applied to the images inside the book either to the page as a whole (flood varnish) or just to the sections of the page with an image (spot varnish).
Varnish is better if applied after the printing, but it’s also more expensive this way. The cheaper alternative is to apply the varnish when printing, but the effect is not as strong.
A plastic coating that offers protection. Hardback covers with an image wrap-around will usually have lamination to protect the cover from scratches. Available as either matt or gloss.
Blank Dummies and Advance Copies
Blank Dummies and Advance Copies are two important parts of the printing process that are often overlooked.
A Blank Dummy is a blank copy of your finished book. The printer will send you this after you have decided on your specs, but before you have sent files for printing. It will show you exactly how it will look and feel, so that you can get a true sense of the finished product. It is also an important chance to check that you and your printer agree on binding, size, paper etc.
Advance copies are hand-bound copies of the final book that are sent to you after printing, but before the books are professionally bound. Advance copies are your last chance to check that everything is as it should be. If the binding is wrong or if there is an issue with the images, now is the time to find it – not when all the books have been bound and put on a ship.
Preflight and Proofing
While the dummy book gives us an idea about feel, size and format, it doesn’t give us any indication of how the images will be printed on the page. Proofing is essential. However, most of the preparatory work on y images takes place before printing. If the early stages are completed with care, your proofing experience will be relatively smooth.
The first chance to ‘proof’ is before you actually export your project as a PDF. This is known as a ‘Preflight Check’ and can be done within InDesign (or whatever desktop publishing software you are using). The Preflight Check will help you to identify if your file has any common errors such as low resolution images, images that are still in RGB, missing bleeds, font issues etc.
Actual proofing involves physical materials. The primary goal of ‘proofing’ is to verify that the entire job has been done to spec and that the text is accurate. We proof for two reasons:
Colour Fidelity — in other words, getting as close a match as possible between your original files and the printed images as they will be in the book, while understanding the limitations of CMYK.
Text and Layout Checks — checking the document one last time for any typographic errors and making sure the layout works.
Do not expect the printers to proofread your text or check your colours for you. A good printer might mention if something looks strange to them, but that is not their concern and they will assume you have checked the files in detail before sending.
There are many different way a printer can prepare your proofs. Below is an overview of the most common forms, arranged according to cost, starting with the cheapest.
Soft Proofing – The printer will email you a PDF or JPGs of what will be printed. Soft proofing is not an adequate way to judge colour fidelity, but it can be useful if you have already used one of the proofing methods below and simply need to proof a small change in the layout or text.
Digital Proofs – These proofs are usually generated from digital printers such as EPSON printers. They are the industry standard for proofing today because of their affordability, value, and high degree of colour accuracy (around 95%). However, digital proofs do not use the same paper, machine or printing process as the final book, so discrepancies may arise.
Traditional Proofs – These proofs are generated on a special proofing machine, using the same paper as the final book. They don’t use the same machine as the final book, so the colour will not be a 100% match. They can achieve a higher degree of colour accuracy than digital proofs, but at a much higher cost.
Press/Wet Proofs – These proofs offer 100% colour accuracy as they use the same paper, ink, machine and plates as the final book will use. Essentially, it is a small pre-run of the final book. Due to the high cost involved in production, press proofs are not always used. However, they are, hands-down, the most reliable way to proof your project.
How to find a reliable, trustworthy printer
Printing is a tricky affair and it’s important to choose a printer you will have confidence in. This can be especially harder for small publishers because our business doesn’t bring a lot of extra business to printers, so we often have to fight for their attention.
Many indie publishers find it works better to establish a relationship with a printer before asking for quotes. It is better to spend time looking for a printer that you can work well with in the long run than to choose someone simply because they can get your book printed quickly.
If you are struggling to find printers, it might be worth reaching out to other indie publishers whose books you like, or look at the colophons of art books – they will usually mention the printer there.
When you do find a printer that you think you would like to work with, don’t approach them until you have a reasonably clear idea of what you want. Printers will probably not reply unless they can your request is clear.
If you can, arrange to visit the printers in person for a tour of the facilities. Printers are always happy to do that and it’s a great way to see their operation for yourself.
It’s not always the case, but if you are contacting a printer for the first time it is likely that they will give you an enhanced quote compared to what a regular customer would receive. From their viewpoint, they don’t know if you will be a one-time or a life-time customer and their aim is to maximise the profit from your project.
However, if you can get someone who already works with that printer to introduce you, chances are your prices will be lower if your contact already has a good working relationship with them.
Once you are have made a cordial beginning, you can ask to see samples of other artbooks they have printed. It is important that these are artbooks, as artbooks usually require more specialised bindings and papers than a lot of the everyday books produced by printers.
If you are happy with the samples, ask for quotations for your own projects. There are a few ways to do that. You could send them some books and ask them to draw up an estimate based on these. Equally, you could send them photos.
The last, and probably best, option is to send a proper Request for Quotation (RfQ) form with photos. There is an example RfQ form in the Publishing Planning Pack that comes free with this guide when you download your own personal copy.
You don’t have to print locally. Thanks to the internet and the speed of global logistics you can now print anywhere in the world. When I was living in Taiwan I spent time getting to know the printers in Taipei before settling on one or two that I still work with today.
Although printing in Asia is often much cheaper, shipping costs add to the final price. Most of my customers are in Europe and the US; therefore it makes sense for me to store my books in the UK. It takes 6-8 weeks to ship the books from Taiwan to the UK.
Here are some golden rules when choosing a printer:
- Don’t pay 100% of the fee upfront. The norm is 50% when you deliver the files, and 50% when the book is ready to be shipped and the advance copies have been checked..
- Get everything in writing.
- Get the printer to send you samples so you can judge the quality for yourself.
- If you don’t understand something, say it. Don’t pretend you understand printing jargon if you don’t.
- Don’t get talked into seeing quality. Judge for yourself.
- Sign a Pro-Forma Invoice before you officially go to print.
How to Get a Quote
Once you have found a printer you want to work with, the next step is to get an accurate quote for your project. Over the years I have found that the more prepared and knowledgeable I am about a project when I ask for a quote, the better chance I have of getting a fair and reasonable price.
However, when there are gaps in the information I provide, the printers will often fill in the holes with their own, sometimes more expensive, solutions.
In this section, I will guide you through the RfQ process (Request for Quotation) so that you are covered from every angle. This is the information you must provide to the printer for an accurate quote. If there is anything you are unsure of you can write a question instead.
Unless I am printing a self-cover zine (where the first page is just page 1 of the book block), I will separate the RfQ into 2 separate parts – one for the cover, one for the book block.
A printer needs to know the following to draw up an estimate for you:
What are the dimensions of your book? Ask your printer about the most economical sizes that can be obtained from a sheet.
No. of Pages
How many pages will be in the book block? (not including cover or endpapers). Ask your printer about the most economical numbers (usually sections of 16,8 or 4).
What format will your book be? (softcover, hardcover etc)
How will the book be bound? (Perfect bound, thread bound, saddle-stitch)
What cover style will your book have? (cloth, dustjacket, card). How will it be printed on the front, back, inside front and inside back?
How many colours will be used for your cover? How many colours will be used for your cover?
What gsm will your paper be?
Paper name or type
What is the name of the paper you wish to use? (you can send samples if you don’t know, or describe a paper and the printer will send you samples)
Do you want to apply varnish/lamination/embossing etc. on the cover or inside? Spot or Flood?
How many books? (You can ask for different amounts to compare)
How will the books be delivered from the printers to your place of storage?
I always include images in my RfQs for binding and finishes, because I have found that different printers often use different terms for the same binding, so an image is a way to be crystal clear.
Remember this is just an estimate. If you make changes the costs will go up (or down). You can always ask for revisions and don’t be afraid to ask for more details – for example, what percentage of the estimate is taken up by paper costs? If it is a lot, perhaps you can find a cheaper paper.
I always recommend getting a number of different estimates from several different printers each printing job, so that you can compare prices. Always check the estimate in detail against the original RfQ to ensure that nothing was missed. If there are terms on the estimate that you don’t understand, ask your printer for an explanation.
Do you need to be on print?
This is a difficult question, as the answer is very subjective. The truth is, if you have done prepress properly, received and approved your proofs and dummy books, and you are working with a printer that you trust, there is no need to be present during the printing.
That being said, many people prefer to be on press for the entire day, me being one of them. It’s a great way to learn about offset printing and to make any final colour tweaks necessary, There are also a number of excellent publishers printing remotely now, using modern technology, to ensure that the project turns out perfectly.
If you are interested in being on press, I recommend checking out Colin Bell’s illustrated blog post detailing his experience printing his self-published book Healing.
If the link doesn’t work, click here to download.
How to Sell Your Photobook
You may be feeling that you have got over the biggest hurdle – printing – and that it’s all downhill from here. Not so. Selling your photobook is where the hard work really begins. Too many people (including myself in the early days) sit back and wait for customers, but remember that, although you have known about your book for some time, very few others do. Now it’s time to tell them about it.
When it comes to selling your photobook, there are 2 main channels:
- Direct Customers,
- Bookshops/Retail Stores
The best way to reach direct customers is through your own website, or at fairs, but when it comes to bookshops, you can choose to (a) self-distribute, or (b) to use a distribution company.
No system is ideal – it all depends on what works best for you.
How to price your photobook
Before you start selling, however, you need to price your book. Again, this is up to you. As the publisher you are free to name your price, or even to give it away for free.
The guidelines that many follow, however, is that production costs should be 20% of the retail price. Production doesn’t only mean printing, it also includes proofreading costs, design costs, colour correction and any other soft costs costs incurred in the making of the book.
For example, if the production costs of your book added up to $5,000 for an edition of 500, then the unit cost of each book would be $10. Therefore, based on the guidelines above, you should price your book at $50.
However, you also need to be realistic and think about what people will be willing to spend on your book. If you are struggling to choose a price for your book, I recommend taking a look at books similar to your own online and in bookshops.
Beware of underpricing your book to try and increase sales – this is a common mistake made by new publishers, but it may undervalue your book and put people off.
In general, the publisher sets the price at which any bookshops or distributors will sell it. But in many cases bookshops will chose their own selling price. For example, if a shop in Australia orders books from a UK-based publisher, the shop will usually cover the shipping costs. The shop can then try to recover some of the shipping costs by raising the price of the book to their customers.
ISBN numbers are an important asset for international distribution. If you are starting off with a zine in a small edition (as I did) I wouldn’t worry about this, but if you are hoping to develop professional relationships with bookshops and galleries an ISBN number is a must.
The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a 10 or 13-digit number that is unique to a specific book or edition. It allows booksellers to find your book in seconds, as opposed to trawling online sites to find out about it. Many larger bookshops will not take your book if you don’t have an ISBN, as they use it to keep track of their inventory.
ISBN numbers can be purchased one at a time, or in bundles of 10 or 100 from ISBN agencies such as Nielsen in the UK. Having an ISBN number also allows you to submit a copy of your book free of charge to the British Library where it will live forever as a testament to your work.
Today, websites allow you to do something that publishers of yesteryear could never do consistently: reach customers directly and build relationships with them, without any middlemen. This is the holy grail of any business.
I recommend to all publishers starting out to concentrate on selling and promoting to online customers. It means a higher return on your investment, and you get a chance to build proper relationships with customers who may become loyal fans. Furthermore, if you are doing well online, you can be sure that bookshops will start to take note, without your having to approach them.
Rather than coding your own site, I recommend availing of one of the many Content Management Systems (CMS) available. A CMS is an out-of-the-box eCommerce solution; it offers everything necessary to begin selling: stock, catalogue, taxonomy, search engine optimisation, payment, delivery, fees calculator etc. See below for a list of CMSs that may suit your needs.
The main things you need are: a domain name, a web host, and a way to take orders and capture payments. There are plenty of domain providers available, and I recommend Namecheap.com.
I recommend getting your domain and hosting from different providers to stay on the safe side should you wish to swap host someday. When it comes to taking orders, payment processors such as Stripe or PayPal will facilitate payment capture for you in return for a small fee.
There are a number of great web platforms that will help you set up an attractive site in minutes. Many of them, such as WordPress, are technically free, although you will have to pay for a domain and hosting, and for certain themes.
Here is a list of web platforms you can use to present and sell your photobooks:
Basic Website + PayPal
This is the most basic way of doing business. Set up a simple website (you can self-code or use WordPress) and make a simple page with your book on it. Add a PayPal button to take orders. This is a great option when you only have a few books, but it doesn’t work so well once you start doing a higher volume of orders and have many different types of books.
Shopify is a great eCommerce system built for online stores selling physical products. You can sign up for their complete package, which includes a backend system for taking orders, and a fronted system for displaying to your visitors. Alternatively, you can just sign up for the backend system and use WordPress or Squarespace for the frontend system. Shopify offers a $9/month Lite plan with very limited functionality. Shopify charges $29/month for its Basic plan, and the Unlimited plan costs $299/month. Each step-up in pricing includes more advanced features.
Editions du Lic is a indie publisher using Shopify for its website.
Squarespace is relatively new to the market, but is fast becoming the weapon of choice. It offers an all-in-one solution for bloggers, marketers and online stores. The themes are beautiful and hosting is included. There is nothing to download and install (unlike WordPress), but you do pay a monthly fee.
Cafe Royal Books uses SquareSpace for its website.
WordPress is one of the best-known and most reliable web platforms today. There are hundreds of themes and plugins (many of them free) and you can easily convert your website into an eCommerce store by connecting it to Shopify or by installing and configuring a plugin like WooCommerce or MarketPress.
You can use a self-hosted version of WordPress (known as WordPress.com), with many limitations, or download the open-source code from WordPress.org and upload the files online to your host. This implies you already own a domain name and a web hosting. In this case you have to configure it yourself, including the customisation of a theme, free or commercial.
Tictail is a social shopping site that makes it really easy to set up a store and start selling. It’s completely free, and your books are visible on their marketplace. It also lets users, who are registered with Tictail, follow your site and automatically receive updates from you.
Morel is an independent publisher using TicTail.
Big Cartel is another simple way to set up an online store from which you can start selling within minutes. Unlike WordPress or Squarespace, however, it is not totally customisable and there are some constraints to personalisation. Pricing depends on the number of products you want to list. Big Cartel’s 25-product Platinum plan is $9.99/month, and Big Cartel’s highest-tier Titanium plan is $29.99/month. There is also a Forever Free option for up to 5 products.
It is also now possible to sell on Facebook directly. The only payment option available, unfortunately, is Stripe. Stripe is a good payment system but it’s not yet as widespread and trusted as PayPal. Once you have set up your store within Facebook, you can start to add your products to it.
Opening a store on Facebook has certain advantages, the biggest one being their huge user base. You don’t need to, nor should you try, to sell to them all — but even a tiny percentage of the 1.7 billion Facebook users can make the world of difference to your sales.
I haven’t dabbled too much with Facebook Stores because my aim is always to bring potential customers back to my website, rather than selling to them on another platform. Plus, I don’t see many people buying through Facebook yet, although this may change in the future. There is no doubt that this platform has potential, and is not to be discounted.
Of course, we couldn’t finish this section without mentioning Amazon. Personally I do not sell on Amazon as I focus on growing a following through my website and media channels. Although Amazon can give you much larger exposure to the world market, I’m not sure how many people search for indie photobooks on Amazon.
In addition, Amazon takes a sizable chunk of your sales (more than most indie publishers can afford) and they don’t share your customer information with you, so you can’t contact those customers in the future if you release another book.
How to get your book into people’s hands
Try to tackle the issue of distribution as early as you can in the publishing process. There are few things more disheartening than having spent effort, time and money on a photobook only for it to sit, unviewed, in boxes.
If giving 20 per cent of your cover price to a distributor doesn’t make financial sense to you, you can always self-distribute. Selling your own books yourself, directly to customers or bookshops, guarantees the best margins.
The idea behind self-distribution is that you take on the traditional role of the distributor and focus on targeting your two main markets – direct customers and bookshops. When somebody purchases from your website, you are responsible for ensuring that their book gets to them.
That might seem pretty obvious, but until the recent wave of indie publishing, this was almost unheard; publishers supplied their books through distributors and had no involvement in the process.
There are two main ways you can self-distribute. The first option is to hold your books in your garage, spare bedroom or storage unit and send out copies as you get orders. The second option is to work with a third-party fulfilment company who will store your books and send out your orders for you.
With The Velvet Cell I tried the first option for a few years, until it became too onerous – packing, addressing and posting books is very time-consuming. Since 2015 I have worked with a third party fulfilment company in the UK who holds my entire back catalogue and ships orders as they come in.
Since I’m using Shopify, my orders are automatically synced to my fulfilment company and fulfilled by them – so I can be on holiday and my orders will still come in and be sent out to happy fans!
Doing your own fulfilment gives you a chance to write a note, add stickers, or anything else that adds that personal touch and helps you to build relationships with your fans. For the first few years, when I was doing my own fulfilment, I would write a personal thank-you note to each customer.
A big publisher won’t have time to do that (nor can I anymore) but it can be really effective in forming strong bonds with your fans.
Fulfilment companies, because they are sending out so many packages every day, often have cheaper postage and courier rates, which you can take advantage of as one of their customers, and pass on the savings to your customers in the form of cheaper postage.
Working with a Distributor
Distributors act as middlemen between you, the publisher, and bookshops. Their job is to promote your book to the right retailers, supply according to demand and collect payments on your behalf.
Distribution is a tough business, and the smaller you are, the harder it is. Up until fairly recently, bookshops were the only way of getting your book to customers, and distributors were crucial gatekeepers in this process.
But this process has changed in recent years with more publishers selling directly to fans through their website, and more bookshops being willing to cut out the middlemen and deal with publishers directly.
Working with a distributor is a time-saving way of getting your book into bookshops. A standard agreement is usually a 40/20/40 cut of the price of the book, with 40% going to the publisher, 20% to the distributor and the final 40% to the bookshop.
Working with a distributor often requires an exclusive contract, which means that you are obligated to sell to bookshops through your distributor for their region, and you can not use another distributor for the same region.
Distributors do not pay for your books upfront, rather they pay you periodically based on the actual sales of your books that they have made. In fact, you will be the last person to be paid in the chain between you, the distributor and the retailer.
You will be also expected to cover the costs of getting your books to the distributor’s warehouse, and you may also be asked to cover storage costs depending on the quantity of books. Once the distributors have your books in stock, they work on pushing it to their network of shops, invoicing the bookshops, sending out copies, collecting unsold copies and paying you.
If you are interested in working with a distributor, you must first find one that deals with photobooks. There is no point in being distributed by a distributor who specialises in academic titles, for example, as it’s unlikely that they will have the right relationships in place to promote your books.
Furthermore, distributors cannot guarantee placement in specific shops. They will only deliver books to shops once the shop has placed an order for that book with the retailer.
There is no magic wand that distributors can wave to place your book all at once in bookshops everywhere. They depend on orders from bookshops. However, there are a number of factors that make a bookshop more likely to order from a distributor than a single publisher.
Bookshops enjoy the safety of working with distributors because they offer more security than individual publishers. I’ve heard many bookshop owners complain about indie publishers who don’t know how to package books securely or send invoices.
Bookshops that buy through distributors only pay for postage once, no matter how many different publishers’ books they are buying – that’s if the distributor isn’t offering free shipping – and the bookshop can return unsold stock for credit within a certain number of days. It pays to understand what bookshops need too, if you want them to stock your books.
There are many advantages to employing a distributor. If you find one who appreciates your work, they can do a great job of getting your book into bookshops and in front of new audiences.
Dealing individually with bookshops take a lot of time, and distributors save you that time, allowing you to focus on designing your next book, or marketing etc. If your distributor can get so many shops to take your books that you don’t have to focus on selling, then you have a perfect world.
However, there are also many downsides, and more and more indie photobook publishers are choosing to do their own distribution, for a number of reasons. Firstly, selling to bookshops through a distributor means you are ‘giving up’ 60% of your cover price. Secondly, more and more bookshops are willing to buy directly from publishers today, meaning that you can sell to the same bookshops but only lose 40%.
However, a distributor will have the ability to target and penetrate a far greater market than you could ever hope to achieve on your own!
It’s also worth being aware of what you are offering the distributor. If you are publishing a relatively obscure photobook in an edition of fewer than 1000 copies, it is unlikely that you will be able to generate enough revenue to make it worth a distributor’s times.
Most indie distributors today focus on the magazine market, and photobooks are often overlooked. As a business model this makes sense as magazines usually have a wider circulation than once-off, more expensive, more niche, photobooks.
Personally, I have chosen not to work with distributors for The Velvet Cell. I thought of doing so for a long time, but I wasn’t a big enough catch for them. I empathise with their position – distribution is a business – but ultimately it became easier for me to focus on select stores that I have built relationships with.
I love it when fans discover my books in a shop, and while distributors offer certain advantages, the current system needs to be improved to make it attractive to indie publishers.
Here is a short list of independent distributors that you may wish to contact. Although each distributor will supply shops around the world, they will specialise in their own region:
- Antenne Books, UK
- Vice Versa, Germany
- Motto Books, Germany
- Les Presses du Reel, France
- D.A.P., USA
- Idea Books, Netherlands
- Twelvebooks, Japan
- Perimeter Distribution, Australia
A Step-by-step guide to the distribution process:
- Approach distributors about your book. Check their specifications on how they like to receive pitches. Antenne Books, for example, ask for a physical copy.
- Agree on a deal, and exchange contracts.
- The distributor will begin pitching your book to suitable retailers and begin compiling a list of orders. Or, they might make an estimate about demand and start off with that number of copies.
- You send copies to the distributor’s warehouse at your own cost.
- The distributor ships copies to retailers who requested the book, and invoices them.
- After a set period, the distributor prepares a report for you based on the number of copies actually sold by retailers (Not the number of copies taken by retailers.).
- You invoice the distributor for your share of all sales made.
- The distributor pays you.
Working with a Distributor
Reaching out to Bookshops Yourself
If you are not working with a distributor to get your books into bookshops and retail stores, don’t despair. You can do this yourself by visiting them in person and showing them your books, or emailing them. The former is always a great way to make connections and build relationships, but not so easy to do unless you live near a range of suitable shops.
You don’t need hundred of retailers selling your photobook, you only need the right ones.
You won’t always get an email response from shops. Therefore, I often give them a call, introduce myself and ask for the email address and name of the book buyer. Then, after sending off an introductory email about The Velvet Cell, I follow up with another call in a few days if I haven’t heard anything.
If the shop doesn’t take your books, don’t worry about it — reaching out to them is still a good way to put yourself on their radar.
Photobookstore is a well-established online store run by Martin Amis in the UK.
Don’t be surprised that not all shops will want your books. When I released my first few books I found the process of contacting shops very painful. I received many rejections. But in hindsight, their feedback also helped me to improve my books, and they became aware of who I was and the books I was producing.
With a little persistence, and better books, I was able to turn most of these shops into customers eventually.
A Step-by-step guide to working with bookshops:
- Compile a list of suitable bookshops that you would like to work with.
- Approach bookshops by phone or email. Send them a sample copy if requested.
- Agree on a deal including the percentage of the cover price you’ll get from each book sold, and payment terms.
- Invoice the bookshop.
- Send the books to the bookshop.
- After a set period, receive payment from the bookshop.
- Follow up to learn about how your books performed and if they are interested in ordering more copies.
How to work on Consignment
If you are new to publishing and haven’t built up relationships with shops before, then most shops will want to take your books on a consignment (that is sale or return) basis.
With Consignment, the bookshop agrees to stock your books in their shop(s), but only pays you if and when the books are actually purchased by customers. This is the bookshops’ way of protecting themselves from the risk with new books/authors that haven’t been tested before.
Essentially you are loaning your books to the bookshop, and the delivery costs are covered by the publisher. If the books sell, the bookshop will send you your cut, usually 60% of the cover price.
Consignment is obviously more beneficial to the bookshop than the publisher. However, keep in mind that it is not easy for bookshops to sell books by unknown publishers and photographers.
You may think your book is great, but bookshops know their market. Consignment gives them a way to test the waters with you. If your book proves successful then you can move to a different business model for the next order.
However, from the publisher’s perspective consignment has more than just a few drawbacks. Bookshops have been known to lose books or even go missing when payday comes around.
Also, the shop has no real incentive to sell your books and they can easily find themselves being tucked away on a higher shelf to make way for other books.
I stopped doing consignment a few years ago as I found the extra administration was not worth it. Instead I offered a generous payment period for bookshops to pay me. This gives them time and an incentive to sell the books before paying me in full.
I would consider doing consignment again if I had a particularly good relationship with a shop. You can minimise the risk by creating an agreement between you and the bookshop.
The agreement should state:
- The books you’ve supplied, their quantities, descriptions, retail prices and images
- The length of time before any unsold books should be returned to you
- Who is responsible for return shipping costs
- When sales updates and payments will be made to the publisher
- What happens if the books are stolen/damaged while in the bookshops’ possession
- How you would like to be paid (PayPal, bank transfer, etc)
- A statement of ownership, which states that the books remain your property until you are paid for them by the retailer
How to sell Wholesale to Bookshops
When you become better known to bookshops, the option to sell to them using the wholesale model will become available. For established bookshops this will be their only way of buying your books, whether they have worked with your before or not.
Wholesale means that the bookshops pay for the books upfront, or within a set time period (as stated on your invoice). The usual terms are 60/40 which means that if your book sells for £10, the bookshop will pay you £6 and keep £4 profit. You can experiment with offering a bigger discount to shops the more copies they sell.
I find that only offering wholesale is a statement about your confidence in your own books. You are saying your books are worth the investment by the retailer.
This has a beneficial effect as it gives the retailer more confidence to push your books and the bookshop visitor/customer will notice the bookshop’s confidence in the books when browsing.
I offer a 45-day period for bookshops to pay me. This gives them time to sell to their own customers and recoup their investment. However, I insist that bookshops I am dealing with for the first time pay for their first order upfront as a result of a couple of bad experiences chasing people for overdue payments.
It could also be beneficial to set a minimum order quantity and to offer bookshops a display copy if they order more a certain number of books. Bookshops usually have to pay for a display copy but cannot then sell it at full price meaning they would lose money on their purchase from you as a result.
It is important to speak to your bookshops and understand what works for them — what is good for them is often good for you.
Independent bookshops might take anywhere between 3 to 10 copies of your book at a time, sometimes more if the photographer is well known. A wholesaler, or a distributor, on the other hand, may agree to take far more copies.
Be careful about giving away too many books at once to one outlet as it can be difficult and costly to get them back if you need to sell them through another sales channel later.
Shipping copies to Customers
If you are doing your own fulfilment, then you will need to set up a shipping model for your books. Many publishers, big and small, overlook the importance of getting the shipping process right.
There is no better way to disappoint your customers after all your hard work making the book than not packaging your books properly and having them arrive damaged.
When it comes to fulfilling orders, there are two main things to consider: packaging and postage.
Postage depends on the size and the weight. The post office will have pricing tiers according to weight: 250g, 500g, 1kg, 1.5kg, 2kg and so on. It’s helpful to bear these pricing tiers in mind when determining the size and format of your book and don’t forget to include the weight of the packaging in the final calculation.
A few extra grams can make a big impact on the postage costs that your customers need to pay.
The type of packaging you choose is also important. The goal is to find affordable packaging that is both lightweight, offers good protection for the books inside and doesn’t cost too much.
I recommend purchasing envelopes/book wraps in bulk because the price is considerably lower if you buy them in packs of 100 or more. If you are using a fulfilment company to send out your orders they will often provide packaging – though you should check in advance if it is suitable for books.
If the link doesn’t work, click here to download.
How to Promote your Photobook
How to find your audience is one of the biggest challenges of any business, and especially for photobooks. Marketing is not about convincing people to buy something that they don’t want. Rather, it is about building that bridge between your work and people who are already interested and could be encouraged to be more so.
Who are you trying to reach?
And no, the answer can’t be everyone.
The main aim from the beginning should be to try to build a community of like-minded people around your books. The clearer you understand who your ideal audience is (and isn’t), the easier it will be to stand out from the crowd.
Instead of worrying about the people you are putting off, focus on the people who will feel a magnetic pull to your work as you define your readership. This will help you find a supportive, community looking for a voice.
Not everyone will be interested in the style and content of what you do. It’s important to think about who would be interested in your book. For example, if your content is architectural, then you can presume those people with an interest in architecture and the built environment might be interested.
Very often, our audience is made up of people like yourself, so look at yourself as an example of your audience — what are you interested in, where do you spend time, what is your background?
Your website is your catalogue
A web presence is a must today. A website enables you to promote your book, and, if you have a webshop, to sell your book directly to fans. More fundamentally, it is also a way to build your audience and provide information and updates on the projects you are working on.
Consider using your site not just as a place to sell books from, but as a place to share your purpose and your values. Give readers who come to your site something to engage with, not just a webshop to buy books from.
The focus should be on building relationships with people interested in your work. Just trying to sell books to people who land on your site is a short-sighted approach that will be harder to maintain over time.
Digital platforms like websites allow you to do many things that are not possible in print, without losing sight of your core product — a printed photobook. Recognising the strengths of each — print and digital — can be key to a successful project.
Digital can be used to drive sales of print. However, it is also worth considering the benefits of giving people an intimate insight into your work and your books despite the risk of compromising the mystique that draws people to your projects in the first place. A fine balance to strike.
Create a Dedicated Project Site
If your project is a particularly big one, perhaps it could be best served with a website of its own. This approach can really help to spread the project as, rather than sharing your own site, you are sharing the story directly.
Some great examples of dedicated sites are:
- The Imperial Courts Project by Dana Lixenberg
- The Sochi Project by Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen
The Imperial Courts Project – A dedicated project website by Dana Lixenberg
Write a Compelling Description
There is a good reason why you made your book, but don’t make the mistake of presuming that reason will be instantly obvious to anyone who lands on your website. Invest time in creating a relevant and compelling project description. Images can only go so far as a medium of communication – use words to bridge the gap.
Let viewers know who you are, what the project is about, why you made it and where too, if relevant. Many self-publishers think that, as photographers, their images should do the talking and that they, the creator, should not be seen.
But as consumers of art ourselves, are we not sometimes as interested in the backstory and the creator as we are in the work itself? Don’t miss the chance to share your message.
Here is an example of the description we used for Greg Girard’s Hotel Okinawa. You can see that it goes into detail about the project and explains the motivation behind the images.
|Japan’s southernmost prefecture, Okinawa, hosts a concentration of US military bases unlike anywhere outside the continental United States. More than half the 50,000 US troops stationed in Japan are based here. On the main island of Okinawa nearly 20% of the land is occupied by these bases. This large US military footprint, and the legacy of Okinawa’s history as a US-administered territory until 1972, means that the social and physical landscape of Okinawa is shaped by this relationship with the US military like few other places.Hotel Okinawa looks at this unique world “on base” and off, separate and yet conjoined, the result of decades of living in close proximity with the US military. Additionally, archival photographs, periodicals and other artefacts, some dating back to the US occupation, appear throughout the book, registering historical strands that are part of the complex fabric of Okinawa today.|
Cooperate with Galleries and Museums
If you, or the photographers you are publishing, are represented by a gallery, then teaming up with them is a great way to promote your book.
Whenever I publish books by photographers who are represented by galleries, I contact them and offer them generous terms to stock higher quantities of the book so that they can promote their artist.
Gallery owners and staff will often be well connected with other galleries, museums and the press. These connections can be a great help when you are trying to promote a project and attract interest.
Are you working on a long-term project that you hope will become a book? Is there a way you can actively involve your audience along the way so that, when you are ready to publish, you already have an engaged and hungry audience who are interested in your work?
Unless you are publishing new books regularly, it will be quite hard to attract people to your website. The idea behind Content Marketing (or blogging) is that publishing regular, fresh, and useful content on your site will attract new visitors, some of whom will, with luck, become customers.
A blog doesn’t have to be complicated or take hours to write. An example of a great photographer blog that I love is Laura Pannack’s Image of the Week. As the title suggests, she shares one image each week with a short write-up.
When I log on to her site, it’s always the first place I go and it helps me build a connection with the work she is doing.
In the case of photobooks, there are lots of things you can share. And, it doesn’t all have to be about your own practice. If you are publishing photobooks about nature, for example, then share other books you love on your blog for others to find.
This way you are serving your audience, who may not have heard of these titles, and building trust with them.
Alternatively, you can share behind the scenes insights into your publishing experiences, or thoughtful pieces on photography and photobooks in general. Make sure you don’t deviate from the topic too much; remember why your audience have opened your page and keep your content relevant.
Photographers like Douglas Stockdale (The Photobook) and Matej Sitar (The Angry Bat) have been blogging about photobooks for many years now, which has helped them build an audience that, when the time came, were also interested in their own self-published photobooks.
The Angry Bat by Matej Sitar
The ideas above are some suggestions for Content Marketing. Try to think of yourself as a media company with a mission, rather than a website selling photobook(s).
Frequent blogging helps to create a dialogue with your fans online and to build a relationship, so that the next time you release a book, you are not just contacting them to ask for a sale.
Be about more than selling, and build a relationship with your fans that is not just selling.
Email marketing gets a bad rap sometimes because of how certain companies abuse it. But there is no doubt that, used carefully, email is the best way to connect with your audience. Email marketing can be used to build on your content marketing.
One of the negative things about email marketing is that it’s hard to estimate its effect on others from simply viewing websites. We can all see how many Twitter, Facebook or Instagram followers someone has by visiting their profiles, but we don’t see the number of email subscribers.
However, if they are doing well, then they will have a healthy mailing list behind the scenes.
Email lists should be treated with special care. Our inboxes are a ‘sacred’ place and people will unsubscribe if they feel you are sending too many emails, or content that is not relevant.
There is no point telling your fans in Berlin to come and see you at a show in L.A. next week. Don’t treat your emails like social media, and choose carefully what you share and how often.
Collecting the emails of people who show an interest in your work by visiting your site should be one of your top priorities. Books are no good without an audience. Consider giving something in return for subscribing to your newsletter, such as discount on a first order or, even better, free shipping.
It is important to treat your subscribers as the special group of people they are who have shown an interest in your work.
There are a number of email service providers that you can choose from. These providers offer a dashboard of information about the user’s behaviour so that you can create a more efficient promotional campaign based on data.
You can see how many people are opening your mails, which ones are most popular, what links are getting clicked (and not clicked). All this information can help you create a mail that your subscribers genuinely enjoy receiving.
Most new Indies start with MailChimp as it’s free up to your 2,000th subscriber. If you are using PayPal too, you can link your accounts so that new customers are automatically added to your list.
One last note; the health of your list is far more important than the number of people on it. That means that it’s better to have a small list of people who open your emails and click your links than a large group of people who don’t do either. Remove people from your list periodically to keep it healthy.
Popular Email Service Providers:
It is tempting to put all your efforts into promoting your book over social media – and it does work for some – but there are certain things you should be aware of.
We have already looked at email marketing and its power to communicate directly with an audience that is actively engaged in what you do. Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) is a very powerful tool for reaching fans, new and old, but it is not your platform and you should be careful about building your profile exclusively on someone else’s platform.
Do you remember MySpace or Bebo? If social media is your only way of connecting with your audience, then you are not in full control of that relationship.
Years ago, engagement rates for Facebook Pages were far higher than they are today. Now, it is necessary to pay for ads if you want to reach most of the people who liked your page.
Who knows what changes will be introduced in the future. Facebook, along with other platforms, are expanding businesses. In the future it seems we will get less for free.
Perhaps most importantly, it is worth thinking why people use Facebook – usually to relax or get in touch with friends. People don’t usually have a buying mentality when they are scrolling through their feed.
Facebook, in particular, offers a great way to get in touch with photobook communities through its groups. Consider reaching out to photobook groups such as Photobooks and Flak Photobooks, as well as other special interest groups that may be interested in your project.
These groups don’t necessarily need to be photobook or even photography-related, as long as there is a clear connection between their subject matter and yours.
Just like your content marketing, treat your followers with respect. “Buy now” messages are not appreciated. Focus on engaging people in a conversation about your common interests. Avoid boring updates that have no personality, relevance or flavour.
This is your place to write about what you do, about what you are passionate about and give people an insider look into your work. Ensure you reveal the human being behind the profile.
If, for some reason, you still want to go down the traditional publishing route, then a mailing list and some content marketing can still be major assets to you. A trend that I have noticed among indie fiction authors today is their focus on building a list and an audience for their self-published books.
Why? Well, if they stay on the self-publishing route a list and an audience are key, but if they want to attract a traditional publisher such as Penguin, what better incentive for the publishing house than an author with a readymade list and audience.
It puts you in a stronger bargaining position come discussion time if you have your own list and buying public.
When it comes to photobooks, there are two different aspects that you can get reviewed. The first is the photobook itself as an object, and the second is the project that the photobook contains as a body of work. Let’s look at each in turn.
A. Getting Photobook Reviews
It can be worth your while to reach out to blogs and sites that review and promote photobooks to see if they are interested in reviewing your book. Blogs usually have a much longer lifespan than the likes of Facebook, Twitter and the like.
Your book review may be available for years to come, and open for all to see. Blogs such as The PhotoBook Journal have some reviews that have been shared, commented and read for many years, with “read” numbering in the thousands.
Getting reviews will not only serve as helpful testimonials for your book (see Red String book by Yoshikatsu Fujii), but if the have a large fanbase, you might be able to leverage their audience and get new eyes on your project.
Testimonials on Yoshikatsu Fujii’s Red String
This will require you to give free copies of your book(s), cover the postage and hope for a timely review. It is important to get in touch with potential reviewers before sending the book to them to see if they are interested or not. As much as we like photobooks, that doesn’t mean you should send them without asking first.
If you are looking for more in-depth reviews of your work, consider contacting magazines or independent reviews with a following and a reputation for actively engaging with content.
Getting reviews can often take a long time, which can be good and bad. Although it can be frustrating, late reviews can also serve as new promotion many months after the initial buzz has worn away.
Some examples of these sites/reviewers are:
B. Getting Photography Reviews
Depending on your content, it might also be worth getting in touch with other media outlets. Spend some time on research outlets that have a track record with similar work and pitch them on the subject of your work, not the work itself.
A friend of mine, Louis de Belle, was featured in the Washington Post for his project on the Italian market for religious goods. The Washington Post wrote about the story, used his images to illustrate the story, and mentioned that the work had just been released as a book. Louis got over 60 orders that day alone for his book.
Louis de Belle’s feature in the Washington Post
The important point to remember here is that if you pitch bigger media outlets with just your book, there is a strong chance they will ignore you. They are not in the business of marketing books for publishers.
But if you can package the content from the book into a way that gives them something valuable to share with their audience, then you stand a much higher chance of attracting new viewers.
Alternatively, you can contract with a specialty publicity agency, usually also an Indie operation, who have the necessary connections to get you wider publicity and place your stories.
Here is a short list of photography magazines that maintain a regular online presence:
Participating in Photography Festivals
Applying to photography festivals, and attending portfolio reviews, are other excellent ways of increasing the visibility of your project.
Here is a short list of some of the most prominent photography festivals:
- Les Recontres d’Arles, Arles, France
- Athens Photography Festival, Athens, Greece
- Brighton Photo Biennale, Brighton, UK
- Daegu Photo Biennale, Daegu, Korea
- Format Photography Festival, Derby, UK
- Nooderlicht Photography Festival, Groningen, Netherlands
- Hamburg Triennale, Hamburg, Germany
- Fotofest International, Houston, USA
- Kaunas Photo Festival, Kaunas, Lithuania
- PhotoIreland, Dublin, Ireland
- PhotoEspana, Madrid, Spain
- Photolucida, Portland, USA
If you are interested in applying for awards for your project, I recommend you check out The Huge List of Photography Awards compiled by Fotoroom.
Get on a Podcast
Considering the visual nature of photography and photobooks, it might surprise you that one of my favourite ways of discovering new work is through a podcast called A Small Voice.
Created by Ben Smith, a London-based photographer, it is a “fortnightly podcast, featuring in-depth interviews with a diverse range of talented, innovative, world-class photographers from established, award-winning and internationally exhibited stars to young and emerging talents, discussing their lives, work and process.”
This is truly a brilliant podcast, and I look forward to it every two weeks. The interviews are all-encompassing and Ben will discuss all aspects, even finances. One of my favourite questions is when Ben asks the photographer what percentage of their income pie comes from photography-related work.
Some notable episodes for me include those in which Ben interviewed Mark Power, Simon Roberts, Kalpesh Lathigra, Phillip Ebeling, George Georgiou, Seamus Murphy, Laura El-Tantawy, Jack Latham and Niall McDiarmid,
It is worth preparing a media kit in order to have content ready for media outlets. This will make it easier for them to use your project (and who doesn’t want things to be easier!).
A media kit will offer images (from the project and of the book) and project descriptions for third parties to use in their promotions of your work. You can also include a low-res PDF of your book. It makes their job a lot easier, and makes you a more exciting prospect.
This can be done by simply putting some jpgs and text files in a Dropbox or Google Drive and enclosing the link when you contact potential reviewers. Make sure your images are suitable for both online and print, and are clearly labelled.
It is recommended that you include the actual details of the media kit in the appendix of your book with a concise, easy-to-remember URL, so that the reader is not put off by the idea of finding it.
Influencer Marketing involves contacting influential people who have large followings online and asking them to share your work and provide an honest review. In return, they get a free copy.
This can be a very powerful way to get your photobook in front of a new audience and attract them to your website.
Be sure to contact influencers in advance to see if they are interested. Respect their time and don’t push it if they are not interested.
There are two main avenues to this type of marketing. The first is to contact a prominent, and relevant, individual who has a healthy online presence, or writes for a publication.
This also gives you a chance to be featured in one of the number “Best Books of 20XX” that pop up on various sites at the end of each year.
Here is a list of sites that run “Best of” lists. You can see who their regular writers are and reach out to them with your photobook.
The second avenue is to contact blogs that feature photobooks to their online audience.
There are plenty of Indie bloggers out there who will give exposure for your book in return for a free copy. Any exposure is good exposure but remember that some of these bloggers will not write original reviews about the book – so it’s important to know what you want and to check in advance.
At a minimum, they will share the technical specs, a link to where you can buy it and some photos. Here are some examples of such sites:
Have a Book Launch
Although so much of our world takes place online, your book launch doesn’t need to! There is still a place for a good old-fashioned physical book launch in your favourite bar, bookshop, cafe, gallery etc. This kind of event serves as a great promotional tool for the book, plus the chance to get to meet many of your customers and followers.
If you can, try to organise a talk or a presentation of the work so that you can tell your audience all about the great work you are doing and why they should support you.
Is there anyway you can hold a virtual book launch? Create a countdown, jump on Facebook Live and tell your story and answer some questions?
Participating in Book Fairs
The number of art book fairs has increased hugely in recent years, and there is now a constant rotation of large and small fairs all over the globe. Some are specifically for photobooks, some are for art books and others are just for books.
As an Indie photobook publisher you are eligible for all, though your ideal audience mightn’t necessarily attend all of these fairs.
A quiet moment for me at the Tokyo Art Book Fair in 2016
Book Fairs are not only great ways to promote, but also to sell photobooks. Although some people who know your books may come to your stall to buy from you, the majority of people will be discovering your work for the first time.
Therefore, it’s important to connect with them and tell them about what you are doing, and why. Book fairs offer modern publishers, who now exist almost exclusively online, a real chance to meet people and connect with them.
I always offer a Mailing List sign up sheet on my table, – and I usually offer a discount or free shipping to whoever signs up because I don’t want the fair to be the last contact I have with these people.
Book fairs are great ways to cultivate lifelong fans of your work, but you can’t just hope they will look you up online sometime in the future – you need to give them a way to stay in touch with you.
If you are selling your own books, or the photographer from one of your books is also attending the fair, it can be a great idea to organise a book signing event. The book fair will often help you to promote it by including the time and date in your catalogue.
It should be noted, however, that participating in fairs can be quite expensive. There are the hard costs such as the fee for the table, but also a range of soft costs such as getting the books there, sending back unsold books, decorating the table.
If you are not living locally and need to travel to attend the fair, then there are obvious costs too such as flights, accommodation and food to consider.
Here is a list of some of the most prominent art book fairs in the world today:
- Tokyo Art Book Fair, Japan
- New York Art Book Fair, USA
- Les Recontres d’Arles, France
- Unseen, Netherlands
- Kassel, Germany
- Offprint Paris, France
- Offprint London, UK
- Vienna Photobook Festival, Austria
- L.A. Art Book Fair, USA
- Hong Kong, China
- Vancouver Art Book Fair, Canada
- Miss Read, Germany
Entering Photobook Competitions/Awards
Entering your photobook for an award is another great way to promote it. Here is a list of some of the most important photobook/dummy awards today:
- MACK First Book Award
- Prix du Livre, Arles, France
- Maribor Photobook Award
- Kassel Photobook Award
- Paris Photo – Aperture Photobook Award
- Anamorphosis Prize
- Bar Tur Photobook Award
- PhotoEspana Best Photobook of the Year Award
Think outside the Photobook Market
Although the primary medium of your book is photography, that doesn’t mean that it will only appeal to photographers. The photobook market is a small market, and your real challenge as a photobook publisher is to make your books and projects attractive to other markets.
To do this, think of the subject of your project and how you could leverage it to appeal to other markets. Once you have an idea, it’s time to do a Google search for different sites and influencers in those spaces. Research is your best friend here, and approaching the right person could make all the difference for your project’s exposure.
A word of warning. You may think it’s a great idea to get a list of names and send them all the same generic email. This is a mistake – you will just get yourself a reputation as a spammer.
Carefully select the people you want to approach based on their interests and write a personal email to them. It might take a bit longer, but you will have a much higher chance of success.
That’s it! Congrats on finishing the guide! I’m really thrilled you made it this far.
I put more than a 50+ hours into this 24,500 word guide. My aim was to create an actionable guide that covers the basics of indie photobook publishing, the kind of guide I wish had been available when I was starting out.
This guide is the first step in my plan to help photographers make better photobooks through coaching, courses and more books. So, if you have a question that you feel wasn’t answered in this guide, please send it to me at eanna [at] indiephotobooks [dot] com. I read and reply to every email.
I would like to remind readers that publishing photobooks is not easy, and that it is important to know why you are doing it. Just surviving as a publisher is a major achievement in itself. In my short seven years I have seen quite a few indie publishers disappear quietly.
So pat yourself on the back and know that each book you bring out is a significant achievement!
I would also like to sincerely thank my editors who kindly donated their time and wisdom to this project. Your contributions helped to make this a better guide.
Thank you Clare Rowland, Tom Westbury, Douglas Stockdale, Euan Ross, Kalen Lee, Domenico Bruno Lobkowitz, David Flynn, Gabriele Harhoff and Uwe Bedenbecker.
A Quick Favour (Before You Go)
One more quick thing before you go – if you enjoyed this guide and know someone who you think would enjoy or benefit from reading this guide, would you mind sharing it with them?
And, of course, if you feel like it, it’d be wonderful if you could share this link through your own Facebook, Twitter or email list (or all 3!).
To do that, simply share this link with them: http://indiephotobooks.com/indie-photobook-publishing-guide/
However, if you are interested in getting the 10 Case Studies, the best way to share it would be to click on the orange box below first. Once you enter your email you will be given share buttons to use that will enable you to download the Case Studies.
If the link doesn’t work, click here to download.
If you feel like doing that, here’s a quick script you can use to do it:
If you want to self-publish your own photobook, check out this free Indie Photobook Publishing Guide (I read it and loved it).
In this guide I learned about:
- The biggest mistakes publishers make
- How to fund and validate your photobook before you go to print
- How to prepare and print your photobook in the most economical way
- How to sell and distribute your photobook online and to bookshops
- Creative ways to grow your fanbase and build an audience who will eagerly await your next book
You can check out the guide here: http://indiephotobooks.com/indie-photobook-publishing-guide/