Forums > General Industry > Self publishing

Photographer

Twisted Images

Posts: 96

Paterson, New Jersey, US

Hi,
I was wondering if any photographers here have self published their own coffee table book and if so what site did you use? I see some using Blurb, but have found others and wanted to know peoples feelings about them before deciding on one. Thanks!

Mar 16 17 07:33 pm Link

Photographer

C.C. Holdings

Posts: 743

San Francisco, California, US

I've done a few

Blurb is not high enough quality for resell and the on-demand print prices are too high. But if you want hardcover, and print-on-demand-because-you-currently-have-no-customers-and-no-money-thats-why-youre-considering-this-in-the-first-place then Blurb what you're stuck with.

If you don't want hardcover then Amazon's Createspace and their infrastructure is good

If you want hardcover done right, then you need to use an offset printer and warehousing/fullfillment center, which is what I currently do

Mar 16 17 10:46 pm Link

Photographer

Derek Ridgers

Posts: 1522

London, England, United Kingdom

C.C. Holdings  wrote:
Blurb is not high enough quality for resell and the on-demand print prices are too high. But if you want hardcover, and print-on-demand-because-you-currently-have-no-customers-and-no-money-thats-why-youre-considering-this-in-the-first-place then Blurb what you're stuck with.

I’ve 10 books on Blurb (although none recently).

My view is that the quality of printing of Blurb books is very good for what it is.  It’s obviously not as good as decent offset printing but for some photographic subjects, the quality of the printing is not the critical thing.

And I agree, the prices are too high if you want to sell a lot of books quickly. 

It does still depend on the subject.  Some people will pay a lot of money - and I’m talking hundreds of dollars - for something they can’t get elsewhere.

However, if you are prepared to source your offset printers globally, you can get fantastic printing done at a shockingly low cost - even including delivery.

But… IMHO a crowdfunding publisher is the best way to go if you are unsure if you have a market or not.  That way, it won’t cost you anything and you’ll have made enough sales to cover your costs before you start.

Mar 17 17 02:28 am Link

Photographer

Abbitt Photography

Posts: 12877

Des Moines, Iowa, US

There are a lot of places that print good quality photo albums.  What you need to figure out is how many you want to print and what price point will work for you.  Places like Blurb are great for one-off and limited speciality items that people are willing to pay more for, but their price point won't allow you to sell at competitive retail prices.  I've done one book on createspace. Their price is good, but I'm not impressed with their print quality for interior color images   They don't offer a good quality gloss paper, so their images come off looking a bit flat.

Mar 17 17 06:19 am Link

Photographer

hbutz New York

Posts: 3664

New York, New York, US

I've done blurb and lulu and echo previous sentiments.  I looked into doing a "real" printed book and worked the numbers.  I would have to spend close to $5g-$10g to have the books printed and store them in the garage which I don't have.  Then after they're printed I would have to get them into bookstores, who only deal with their core group of publishers (self published not so much).

Forget about any of that unless you can get an ISBN number and they're sold in blocks.  ah, but I managed to snag one from lulu but, again, it's not an ISBN from a well accepted publisher so I was back to finding a publisher with established distribution in addition to the printer.  The printer and publisher grab a lot of the profits.

Then I found an advertising channel for photography books.  They wanted a percentage of the retail price.  When I added up the numbers there was no way to sell the books for profit - I mean, the only way to do it was to sell them at a loss.

which is what I do.  I print up books for myself and give them away as Christmas presents.  Print is dead.

Mar 17 17 07:05 am Link

Photographer

Twisted Images

Posts: 96

Paterson, New Jersey, US

Hey thanks for all the input. I actually don't expect to make a profit from this project, just would like to get something out there and I don't think I could swing doing it myself. Blurb or something like that is the only way I can go. Just disappointed in hearing about the print quality.

Mar 17 17 08:58 am Link

Photographer

Randall Holden Photography

Posts: 1613

Baton Rouge, Louisiana, US

I'm in the magazine publishing biz and I've done three books on military history, not photographic, which were published by myself and the company I work for.  Self-publishing is a no-win situation if you're attempting to make any money at all, it's simply a means to an end to get your work in a form you like and can share with others. 

I've not found the printing quality of Blurb books to be very bad - in fact, I've done four Blurb books just for myself and I've been satisfied with every one of them.  If you want to go with Blurb and just try to break even, I wouldn't have any qualms about it.  Good luck!

Mar 17 17 09:56 am Link

Photographer

Derek Ridgers

Posts: 1522

London, England, United Kingdom

hbutz New York wrote:
Print is dead.

What all print or just photography books?

Either way I think you are completely wrong.

The obvious answer to making money from books is having a product that people want.

A publisher friend of mine got hold of the Kanye, Juergen & Kim book a while back and he told me that he had "every major media company in the world" onto him about it.  IMHO a dreadful book but I think the could have sold every copy ten times over.

Mar 17 17 10:12 am Link

Photographer

Eagle Rock Photographer

Posts: 1041

Los Angeles, California, US

Look at CreateSpace & LightningSource. See if their quality is good enough.

Is the book's purpose to make money? Or to enhance your fame/status?

I have dealt w/ both firms in fiction books but not in photo/art realm.

Mar 17 17 10:36 am Link

Photographer

Eagle Rock Photographer

Posts: 1041

Los Angeles, California, US

hbutz New York wrote:
Print is dead.

WRONG!

Mar 17 17 10:37 am Link

Photographer

Twisted Images

Posts: 96

Paterson, New Jersey, US

Randall Holden Photography wrote:
I'm in the magazine publishing biz and I've done three books on military history, not photographic, which were published by myself and the company I work for.  Self-publishing is a no-win situation if you're attempting to make any money at all, it's simply a means to an end to get your work in a form you like and can share with others. 

I've not found the printing quality of Blurb books to be very bad - in fact, I've done four Blurb books just for myself and I've been satisfied with every one of them.  If you want to go with Blurb and just try to break even, I wouldn't have any qualms about it.  Good luck!

I think there might be a typo....you've found the blurb books to be very bad....but were satisfied with them?

Mar 17 17 01:19 pm Link

Photographer

Twisted Images

Posts: 96

Paterson, New Jersey, US

I'm definitely not doing it for the money....I've even known some who were published and didn't make much at all....just want to get a book out there that I can promote myself with.

Mar 17 17 01:21 pm Link

Photographer

Twisted Images

Posts: 96

Paterson, New Jersey, US

Eagle Rock Photographer wrote:
Look at CreateSpace & LightningSource. See if their quality is good enough.

Is the book's purpose to make money? Or to enhance your fame/status?

I have dealt w/ both firms in fiction books but not in photo/art realm.

Enhance fame/status

Mar 17 17 01:22 pm Link

Photographer

Derek Ridgers

Posts: 1522

London, England, United Kingdom

Eagle Rock Photographer wrote:
WRONG!

It’s possible that people who think print is dead think that way because they published a book themselves and it didn’t sell.

Rather than think they had a crappy product or something that there was simply no market for, they will declare that print is now dead.

It’s not dead it’s just different to what it was.

It’s true that once upon a time there were a lot of traditional book publishers.  They often had a huge staff, employed big print companies and worked out of large impressive buildings.

Things are not like that now.

Often publishers are just one or two people and they can even work out of a bedroom using a DTP program. 

They can source their printing from anywhere in the world and send the files over the ether.

Literally anyone can produce their own book and, if they want to choose the digital route, can have something in their hand in a fortnight.

Back before print was “dead” this was just not feasible.

Mar 18 17 03:34 am Link

Photographer

Derek Ridgers

Posts: 1522

London, England, United Kingdom

Twisted Images wrote:
Enhance fame/status

Good luck with this.  If you have the right product, that people really want to buy, then a book can be utterly transformative.

The key to a successful book IMHO is offering something people want but can't get elsewhere.

(I've said this so often on these forums that I am starting to bore myself).

And there's more.

A very successful publisher once said to me that the "greatest impediment to a book's success was it's availability". Those were his exact words (I didn't write it down, I didn't have to).

That's somewhat counter-intuitive isn't it? 

But it certainly works for him.  You can't get his books on Amazon and he doesn't use ISBN numbers.  He sells at high prices through a small number of very high end book stores like Bookmarc in Greenwich Village.

This approach might work well for you. You're not far away from a few good NYC independent bookstores that seem to support photography, so you could always go and chat to them and see if they'll stock your book on an exclusive basis?

Mar 18 17 03:48 am Link

Photographer

AndysSurfShop

Posts: 501

Falls Church, Virginia, US

Twisted Images wrote:
Hi,
I was wondering if any photographers here have self published their own coffee table book and if so what site did you use? I see some using Blurb, but have found others and wanted to know peoples feelings about them before deciding on one. Thanks!

Everyone wants to make a coffee table book as some sort of status symbol. If you really want to get creative with self publishing, the future is in ebooks. These are more affordable to make and to sell. I've been publishing a photo zine since 1995. In 2010, I went digital and haven't looked back. The typical issue is 40 pages of images, art and prose. People have no problem spending $10-$15 for a digital download but these same people would never think of buying a $75+ hard back coffee table book. The future is mobile and people want something to view on their ipads and phones.

Best of luck with your publishing. It's a lot of fun once you take out the hassle and expense of dealing with hard copy books.

Mar 20 17 03:57 pm Link

Photographer

4 R D

Posts: 1141

Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico

Twisted Images wrote:
Enhance fame/status

Pitch your book idea to as many publishers as you can find. If your book is any good somebody will pick it up and you'll have your fame/status even if it doesn't sell. And even if you get rejected you might receive some productive feedback that translates into a better book and eventually get you published.

If no one is interested then that means your book is not good enough and self-publishing might actually do you more harm than good. You might be perceived as a hack and you'll lose a lot of money.

Either way, it's all about putting out a quality product, not just something with your name on it. Only fools fall for BS publications.

Mar 20 17 10:01 pm Link

Photographer

Derek Ridgers

Posts: 1522

London, England, United Kingdom

4 R D wrote:
Pitch your book idea to as many publishers as you can find. If your book is any good somebody will pick it up and you'll have your fame/status even if it doesn't sell.

I don’t think that will work and besides, sales are not the only factor. 

Even if a publisher picks up your book, if it's not much good it won’t get reviewed and you probably won’t even be able to find it in the stores - since book stores may only stock one or two copies and they will certainly not have it on display tables.

If it is good and it gets a few decent reviews, it still may not sell because there might not be a market for it.  In the UK a successful photo book might sell 10,000 copies over the course of a year or 18 months.  But if it’s reviewed or publicised on popular blogs, many millions of people might read about it in a week.

4 R D wrote:
If no one is interested then that means your book is not good enough and self-publishing might actually do you more harm than good. You might be perceived as a hack and you'll lose a lot of money.

If no one is interested it might mean that it’s not the right time or you didn’t speak to the right people.  Or even that they didn’t concentrate when you brought it to them.

When I got one of my projects published I had another publisher say to me “why didn’t you bring that project to us?”  But I had done, three years previously.  They just weren’t interested then.

4 R D wrote:
Either way, it's all about putting out a quality product, not just something with your name on it. Only fools fall for BS publications.

You reckon?

Did you ever see the Kanye, Juergen & Kim book? 

Proof if anyone needed it of that famous H.L. Mencken quote that “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

Mar 21 17 01:49 am Link

Photographer

hbutz New York

Posts: 3664

New York, New York, US

Derek Ridgers wrote:

It’s possible that people who think print is dead think that way because they published a book themselves and it didn’t sell.

some refer to that as "experience."

Mar 21 17 03:04 am Link

Photographer

Derek Ridgers

Posts: 1522

London, England, United Kingdom

I suppose if you just went from the number of bookstores and libraries closing and the rise of Amazon, Kindle and Playstation etc., the idea that "print is dead" might seem like a reasonable conclusion.

But I think print is evolving into a much smaller but still significant and very interesting format.

Mar 21 17 04:34 am Link

Photographer

Leonard Gee Photography

Posts: 17505

Sacramento, California, US

hbutz New York wrote:
some refer to that as "experience."

some refer to taking a single "experience" and extrapolating it to the universal set as an "incorrect conclusion".

there is movement, the value and use of print has changed. as cell phone ownership and home internet increases, there may be more changes. currently, the number of homes without internet in the usa runs around the 40%-50% range. there is a reason "self publication" is also called vanity publication.

Mar 21 17 10:12 am Link

Photographer

Derek Ridgers

Posts: 1522

London, England, United Kingdom

Leonard Gee Photography wrote:
there is a reason "self publication" is also called vanity publication.

May I ask what that reason is?

Mar 21 17 01:43 pm Link

Photographer

Abbitt Photography

Posts: 12877

Des Moines, Iowa, US

A vanity press charges the author to be published.   Not all self publishing is via a vanity press.    Both Lulu and Createspace charged me nothing.  Their printing costs are covered by the buyer, not me.   Lulu's POD printing costs eventually got too high to sell at retail and make any profit.   Createspace has a better price point and being owned by Amazon, less markup.   I'm not as happy with their color print quality however.

The Bridges of Madison County, Ulysses, The Joy of Cooking, What Color is Your Parachute, and The Celestine Prophecy were all first released as self published books.

Mar 21 17 07:55 pm Link

Photographer

WisconsinArt

Posts: 607

Nashotah, Wisconsin, US

One option is to produce your work in a PDF format and sell it on Amazon.

$0 cost and investment though I'd recommend getting an ISBN and copyright.

I didn't say it was a good option but all the other options above, none are ideal.

And no, you don't have to get ISBNs in blocks. At least not 5 years ago.

Mar 21 17 08:39 pm Link

Photographer

Darren Brade

Posts: 3309

London, England, United Kingdom

Derek Ridgers wrote:
But I think print is evolving into a much smaller but still significant and very interesting format.

Agreed.

They said that vinyl was dead, but now that's making a comeback in recent years.

Mar 22 17 12:33 am Link

Photographer

Derek Ridgers

Posts: 1522

London, England, United Kingdom

I admit I have a bee in my bonnet about print in general and self-publishing in particular.

I’ve loved photography books all my life - since long before I started trying to take photographs myself - and nowadays photozines and self-publishing allows one to get one’s work into bookstores at, often, such a low cost that anyone can do it.

One can be dismissive and snooty and talk about "vanity publishing.”

I prefer to talk about the transformative power of a great photographic book.

Books like The Americans, Ray’s a Laugh or Love on the Left Bank.

All of which IMHO changed the way people see photography.

There are probably photographers out there now with work as powerful as the above but which none of us have heard about yet.

Some may even be self-publishing.

And whyever not?

Mar 22 17 02:43 am Link

Photographer

hbutz New York

Posts: 3664

New York, New York, US

Leonard Gee Photography wrote:

some refer to taking a single "experience" and extrapolating it to the universal set as an "incorrect conclusion".

"Personal" experience

Mar 22 17 03:22 am Link

Photographer

goofus

Posts: 410

Santa Barbara, California, US

I print 'books' occasionally of my stuff

http://www.blurb.com/user/DrTang

mostly because I like it's something physical instead of just pixels on a screen

they are only for me though.. I haven't, nor do I expect any to sell to anyone other

Mar 27 17 10:30 am Link

Photographer

Zack Zoll

Posts: 6305

Glens Falls, New York, US

OP, let's take a step back before we fall any deeper into this rabbit hole. Let's start with a really simple question:

What do you mean by self-publishing? Are you looking to get books in stores? Sell at fairs and openings? Give out for promotional use? Or do you just want a few for friends and family?

Some good things have been said, but without knowing exactly what your goal is, it's all worthless information. Intelligent, knowledgeable, worthless information.

Mar 27 17 05:55 pm Link

Photographer

C.C. Holdings

Posts: 743

San Francisco, California, US

Derek Ridgers wrote:
I admit I have a bee in my bonnet about print in general and self-publishing in particular.

I’ve loved photography books all my life - since long before I started trying to take photographs myself - and nowadays photozines and self-publishing allows one to get one’s work into bookstores at, often, such a low cost that anyone can do it.

One can be dismissive and snooty and talk about "vanity publishing.”

I prefer to talk about the transformative power of a great photographic book.

Books like The Americans, Ray’s a Laugh or Love on the Left Bank.

All of which IMHO changed the way people see photography.

There are probably photographers out there now with work as powerful as the above but which none of us have heard about yet.

Some may even be self-publishing.

And whyever not?

I offered my books to a niche audience, and partnerships formed from there.

Yes, $6-10k capital outlay is necessary.

My partnerships have been unexpected and spawned some very cool products from the same photos in the book, leading people to buy the book. Pretty cool

The part about giving the books out as Christmas presents is so true though! hahaha. But it is a tricky business and I totally don't like the accounting and tax treatment of actual physical goods, wow this sucks just as much as I already imagined but worse in the thick of it.

Can't wait to do another one, and my next projects smile

Mar 27 17 07:27 pm Link

Photographer

Risen Phoenix Photo

Posts: 3622

Minneapolis, Minnesota, US

I have created Blurb books and their quality is quite good. I agree that their printing cost is so high you can't sell them at retail. I have had one of my books picked up by a popular vintage book store in St Paul and Minneapolis but I could not get the price point down enough to make it possible for me or the book store to make any money.

Instead I use the books I create for myself and for the models that work for me. I usually create a 160 page book after shooting with a model 10 or 15 times.  The books cost me about 80 dollars but I wait to get a 40% coupon. The models I work with love having a beautiful book of their work.

It just part of the perks working as part of the Risen Phoenix Model Team. 😉

I do think the future is in E-books

Mar 27 17 07:37 pm Link

Photographer

Derek Ridgers

Posts: 1522

London, England, United Kingdom

Risen Phoenix Photo wrote:
I have created Blurb books and their quality is quite good. I agree that their printing cost is so high you can't sell them at retail. I have had one of my books picked up by a popular vintage book store in St Paul and Minneapolis but I could not get the price point down enough to make it possible for me or the book store to make any money.

I don’t think the Blurb book concept was ever construed so that the product would be sold in bookstores (although I have heard of partnerships between Blurb and terrestrial publishers and also web offset books that they’ve done).

You can certainly get people to pay big bucks for Blurb books but there’s a trick to it.  You simply withdraw them from the Blurb website and go to something like Amazon or Ebay and sell them one at a time.

Then the market will make it’s own price.

If people think there is only one or two of a certain book available they’ll pay a much higher price - if they want one - than if they think there are 100s.

Mar 28 17 03:01 am Link