I’ve had quite a few requests for info on how I go about self producing a successful photo book, so I thought I would write down how I do things.
THE IDEA - Before a book can be produced you need to come up with a theme. It could be as broad as ‘landscape photography’ (although I wouldn’t recommend that) or as niche as Country Roads in the Adelaide Hills (hmmm.. theres an idea for my next book) My first book Southern Comfort was pretty easy - it was a selection of my favourite South Australian photos. I narrowed that down a bit for PURE and focussed just on Kangaroo Island. My decision was made easier by the recent fires that had occurred and me wanting to use the book as a way to donate to those in need and promote KI.
THE PRINTER - Your next step needs to be sussing out a printing firm who will print and bind the book. There’s two main options here - A) An offset printing company that will print a bulk amount (500-2000) at a cheap price per book, or B) An on demand printing service that is designed for smaller print runs and is more expensive per book. For my needs, I had to go for offset printing both times and as much as I would have loved to print within Australia, I just couldn’t justify the extra cost. It’s hard enough making any money from a book at the best of times and in the case of PURE, printing in Hong Kong allowed me to save a lot of $ that I was then able to donate to KI bushfire victims.
THE FUNDS - Once you have an idea and a printer sorted - you need to work out how you are going to pay for this book! I would love to have enough money floating around that I can just pay for a book upfront, but alas that isn’t currently the case, so I have had to be a bit creative. With both books, I have used fundraising platform Kickstarter along with marketing on social media to raise the money needed to produce the book. People who pledge towards the creation of the book get rewards for doing so - eg a signed copy of the book, a signed print etc. If your goal amount is not reached then the whole thing is cancelled and no one pays a cent. Thankfully I surpassed my goal with both Southern Comfort and PURE and was able to move forward to the next step!
THE DESIGN - I am lucky in this regard as my background is in Graphic Design, so I have the knowledge and skills to be able to design a book using InDesign myself. If this isn’t the case you will need to find a designer who can help you bring your ideas into life. When I am designing my books, I like to keep each spread looking harmonious through matching colour themes and subject matter. I also like to break the book up using chapters. I try and avoid over cluttering pages with too much text or too many photos. It’s important to make sure your design has ‘room to breathe’.
THE PROOFING - Ok, you’ve finished designing your book and now its on to the next sometimes painful stage - proofing. Ordering hard proofs for your book can seem like a costly exercise and you may be tempted to just go ahead with printing your book without them - but trust me, they are very important! The worst feeling in the world is having boxes full of hundreds of books that have mistakes, or colour/density issues. If you are using an offset printer there are two types of proofs you can get. A digital proof or a press proof. A digital proof will cost less but will not give you 100% accuracy compared to the final print. A press proof will give you a much higher accuracy, but can tend to be pretty expensive. I generally get a full set of digital proofs done and then after identifying any problematic images I get around 15-20 pages of press proofs done. After viewing the proofs, I will edit any images that need it. Sometimes the proofing process is over and done in one round, and sometimes it takes 2 or 3 rounds of proofs to get things just right, but either way - its much better to make sure things are spot on from the start, rather than having to deal with a book you’re not proud of later.
THE FULFILLMENT - Once you have sent off your final PDF file to the printer, you will need to start thinking about how you are going to fulfil your orders. I have used a number of different parcel bags and boxes for book delivery in the past, but for PURE I have opted for a custom made box that will fit the book perfectly and also have a nice PURE logo on the side. I will be putting that box inside a parcel satchel and sending off through Australia Post’s online pickup service. It’s important to make sure whatever packaging option you go for, that it will not get damaged during the delivery process.
THE MARKETING - When your books arrive, you will definitely get a bit of a rush looking through them and admiring your hard work. It won’t take long however till you start thinking you better come up with a good marketing plan, or you are going to be stuck with a lot of boxes sitting around home annoying your partner! Contact book stores to see if they will stock your book and think about selling your books at various markets around town - but for me, the best form of marketing comes through social media. I have a reasonable following of people who like to support my work and thankfully they put up with my annoying ads!