An artist needs a stage, and so does a photographer.
The most common stages for photographers are exhibitions, the internet, magazines and books. With an unlimited expiration date, individualistic design according to personal insights and infi nite space for composition, the photo book is considered to be both the least fl eeting and most attractive medium among photographers. However, producing a book seems easier than it actually is. From scratch For convenience’s sake we assume that you are a start-up photographer, well on your way to building a successful career and ready to publish your fi rst book. It is important that you start well in advance.It is advisable to draw up a rough time frame about a year before the intended publication of the book to outline what has to happen and when and with whom. Naturally, you first have to ask yourself why you want to produce a photo book and what you want to achieve with it. Do you want to make a tangible document for yourself, family, friends and acquaintances or are you so convinced of your photography skills that the whole world should have an opportunity to buy your book.
Make an appointment with a designer or check out other people’s photo books to see what appeals to you. This will help you to create your very own ideal picture of your own photo book. After that, give a great deal of thought to the book’s title, the type of paper to use (discuss this subject thoroughly with your litho grapher), the cover, format, colours, a possible dust-jacket, the number of pages and any texts, if desired. Be realistic and realize that every little extra costs additional money.
Since the introduction of digital printing and the resulting price reductions in the printing process, the production of a photo book has become an affordable option for just about every photographer. In fact, printing can nowadays be done at rock-bottom prices in some of the former East Bloc countries. Don’t do it! Even though you may be cutting costs the fi nal result will not be worth it. The quality is not good and you have no guarantees. The last thing you want as a (start-up) photographer is to produce a photo book where you cut corners. Any knowledgeable person will see the difference immediately. Quality is more than important. It’s your calling card, so to speak. Make sure that you find a publisher, lithographer and printer who understand your book idea and are committed to your project. Sit around the table with them and clearly convey your idea. The lithographer is a very important – and costly – factor in this process. He selects the type of paper best suited for your photos and ensures that the print quality is perfect. Another important point is the print run. Depending on your ambitions, it is essential that you have suffi cient copies printed because doing a second print run later on is extremely expensive. Take into account that you’ll easily need about 500 copies for acquaintances, friends, family, archiving and, of course, marketing and promotion.
Once the book has been printed, that’s when the real work starts. You now have boxes full of books, which can’t just be sitting there, so the books must get out of the boxes and onto the shelves. Ensure that you take a publisher/ distributor that has both excellent contacts in the domestic market and good agents abroad. It goes without saying that books don’t just fl y out of the shop by themselves. You, together with your publisher, have to do effective pre-promotion. Send your book to the right press and so you can try to create free publicity. Start with these activities well in advance. Inform the press and booksellers about your upcoming book a few months prior to its publication. Your subsidy application should include an expense item to cover promotion, for instance flyers or advertisements. The publisher will support and advise you during this process – from the idea to the choice of designers, writers, image editing, etc. In addition, the publisher also supervises the technical printing process.
Money, money, money
Nice, all those plans, but what about money? Everything costs money, and even though printing costs are lower nowadays you’ll still need a considerable amount to get your book off the ground. Always apply for a subsidy, whether you have sufficient financial resources or not. Subsidies have to be requested well in advance and completing the application is quite bothersome and takes a lot of time and energy. Always apply to several funds and consult someone who has applied for a subsidy previously. Getting advice from an expert in this field is a must. Even though applying for a subsidy is quite a job, it also offers a big advantage. Because you are more or less forced to go through the entire process, from lithography to distribution. The related cost outline and time schedule have to be correct. If you are granted a subsidy and the book finally makes it to the shops, there’s still no time to sit still. Particularly in the first months it is vitally important that you seek publicity for your book. And if you succeed beyond your wildest expectations and your book finds favour with the experts and is sold out, then there is a big chance that you have brought a collector’s item on the market! You do have to realize that you are unlikely to make any profit from publishing a book and you definitely won’t get rich from it.