Self-publishing 101 (long)

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by doug herr, Nov 14, 2007.

  1. Self-publishing used to be the last resort of those whose work was rejected by the mainstream publishers, and it's still often used this way, but with the print-on-demand services now available, self- publishing is an excellent way to produce short-run books at reasonable cost.
    I've recently completed work on my first self-published book so I thought I'd pass along a few of the things I've learned to encourage those who've wanted to put a book of photos together but have been reluctant to try. I did it, it can't be too difficult.
    There are a number of print-on-demand book printing services; I chose because of the good variety of layout templates they have and because I'd seen the quality of the finished product. Those of you who have used other similar printing services, please add your comments about your experience.
    To use blurb's software and templates you must first register with (it's free) and download the software. The software itself is still considered a beta as of mid-November 2007, and I've run into a few glitches, but overall the process is very straightforward. The software is WYSIWYG and includes templates for a title page, a copyright notice, and for numerous text or photo pages (and combinations). Page numbering, page headers and footers are automatic, and pages may be added, deleted or moved at any time. Photos are dragged and dropped into the layout. The software (at least, the Mac version) saves your changes as you work, which is very handy for when it crashes. Notice I didn't write 'if it crashes'.
    Once you think you're done with the book, run the software's spell check, the switch from 'edit' mode to 'preview' mode and watch carefully for odd line breaks and page breaks. This is one are where blurb's software still needs some work. It's possible to work around the odd line breaks and page breaks but you won't see them on your screen if you're not looking for them. Once you're satisfied with the book upload it to blurb and order a proof copy. I guarantee there will be little boo-boos you didn't see on the screen so don't order a bunch of copies until you've checked the proof copy.
    My suggestions: if you want to show off your pictures, keep the layout simple. Let the photos shine, not a fancy layout; don't try to use as many fonts and type sizes as possible, keep it simple. The photos should be related to each other somehow as though you are hanging an exhibition. And at least one photo should be made with a Leica ;-)
  2. Douglas,

    I have been working on my web site to exhibit our collection which otherwise would just sit in storage since I don't have the space or inclination to open a private museum. I found your suggestion very interesting. How do I find your publication? Please excuse me but I'm writing this before actually running a search on-line.

    I'm looking forward to seeing it. I believe that vintage and classic cameras are a very special part of our worldwide culture that many of us who are older generally took for granted. Now it is even more important to preserve not only the images taken with these cameras, but also the treasured instruments that made those images possible.

    My compliments on your contribution.

  3. I've had considerable experience with small presses, as writer and editor, and have
    published one book (Rossiya: Voices from the Brezhnev Era) with iUniverse. I cannot stress
    what a grind proofreading is and how important it is. it's endless, or feels that way. Few
    writers can go at it alone. At some point you need a good editor.

    I have had a changing idea for a photo book. I'm putting it more or less on the back
    burner until my exhibition in March 2008 is over.

    One thing about print on demand photo books. I do not believe that the technology is up
    to producing the professional quality of regular print photo books.

    Paper quality is extremely important. If you are doing a POD photo book ask about the
    publisher's paper. Also ask about their inks.
  4. One thing about print on demand photo books. I do not believe that the technology is up to producing the professional quality of regular print photo books.
    I agree, having done a bunch of Blurb and Apple iPhoto books.
    They're great for informal use; showing people what you do, gifts, gallery pitches, etc. But still not up to the standard of fine art photography books. Mostly because the technology of large volume on-demand inexpensive printing using liquid toner employing the HP Indigo digital press is at odds with the quality level associated with true inked offset lithography printing that commercial fine art photo books use. This is also magnified with the paper used by Blurb, Apple, and MyPublisher offerings - it isn't a quality feel paper.
    I ended up making my own books to get the quality and unique design I was looking for. There's some recent discussion here on that.
    An advantage of going this route is it really forces you to edit towards a smaller set of photos. One thing I've noticed with on-demand printing is due to the low cost, many people are lax in editing - because the price is so cheap, feeling that more pix is better. It's not - repetition is not good.
    Blurb offers a decent service for the price and the software is easy to use and available for both Mac and PC. You can do a 40 page softcover 7x7" book for $12.95. Hardcover with a dustjacket is $10 more. But expectations need to be kept in check
    There's a new company in Berkeley called Edition One that looks like they're trying to bridge the gap between inexpensive on-demand books and costly traditional offset lithography produced art books. Significatnly more money for a single copy, but much higher quality (according to a friend who has used them) you don't need to do a traditional run of 1K books you would normally need to do to engage a real book printer. The price starts getting reasonable with 20+ copies. This Spring, Stanford will be offering a fine art photography book design class using Edition One as their printer/publisher.
  5. Doug, thanks for a very interesting post. Please keep us informed of your progress as well as your trials and tribulations with the proofreading. I'll be looking forward to getting a copy when you're done. The comments by Alex were also well received. This may be the encouragement some of us need to get our own projects moving. Good luck.
  6. Thanks, Douglas, for posting this to the Leica forum. Most informative and appreciated. The
    other comments and additions are very helpful, too. Thanks to all.
  7. Doug and Brad -- very helpful material.

  8. Doug.,

    You're the best -- as usual.
  9. This year I too did my first self published book, titled 'It's A Wonderful Life'. I did it a bit different the Doug...did all the page layout in WordPerfect than printed everything myself on a large format Epson printer. I felt that this then gave me the best control over how the finished images looked as I could do test prints, fine tune them before printing out the two hundred copies of each (5 book pages to a sheet of paper). As well in this way I was able to control the paper I wanted to use. I settled on Hahnemuhle Albrect Drurer paper, a heavyweight paper with a lot of texture which was a perfect match for the images in the book.

    After that I chose a cover stock and took all the final sheets of paper to a book binder who cut the sheets into the individual pages and bound the 200 copies I was having made.

    I ended up with 200 copies of a book that is 7x8", 40 sheets (80 pages) with 30 photos and quite a bit of text. Individual finished cost worked out to about $30/book including the binding charge. I arranged a show of the photographs at a local gallery where I sold most of the books for $70...a cost I now realize was too low as I was told by quite a few people that they would have paid more because it was in essence a handprinted monograph rather than a 'book'.

    Still, when all was said and done, I covered my 'hard costs' have about $2000 that helped defray the cost of the days I spent (in the evenings as I have a day job) in front of the computer/printer.

    In all it was definitely worth it. I have about 150 copies of MY book out there on people shelves. I sent about 1/2 the remainder off to various publishers and such to use as a promo would be nice to do another book at some time that I was actually 'paid' for.

    One hint that I found useful as it allows you to put at least a few of your book into bookstores or in your local library. You can easily go online and get an ISBN number. They have a category for small self published doesn't cost anything and can be done online and it definitely makes it more attractive for a bookseller to want to carry your book.
  10. Thanks for the pointer to Edition One, Brad. I've been looking for a while for a service that could give better quality than blurb (and much better than, which is a well-designed service but produces a relatively low quality product).
  11. I just published a wedding using Blurb and the finished product was excellent. I hark back to the days of sending 35mm Kodacolor to 'Monkey color' and getting back prints and photo albums to insert the prints into. Blurb certainly blows that away.-Dick
  12. Brad, Bob - thanks for the helpful suggestions. For those who are interested in seeing how my book looks it's available now on
  13. Doug...forgot to say...CONGRATULATIONS!!!
  14. Doug:

    I agree that Blurb may not have museum-quality papers and inks.

    But the quality of your work precedes itself and, based on what I saw in our first-ever LUG
    vanity publication, will translate well to those who buy and page through your new book.

    Perhaps after this effort you will have the will and the time to publish a more costly book
    whose size, construction, paper and ink will garner a Place Of Honor on hundreds
    (thousands?) of coffee tables - and rightly so.

    Best wishes,

  15. Doug, Congrats!

    I have a question regarding the book's referencing-
    does it have an ISBN number?

    One of the self published book I have is from Fumio Yokozawa ( UV photography. It does not have any ISBN and such referencing.

    The link, again.
  17. Interesting post and replies - thanks Doug, Brad and Bob.
  18. Great thread -- nobody even brought up the phrases "4th generation Summicron" or "bokeh"!
  19. Okay binder said he could definitely tell my images were taken with a 35 Asph Summicron ;-)
  20. ....'cause of the bokeh!!
  21. Doug, Your book looks like a winner, congratulations for all your efforts. Now, after you've caught your breath, how about your next book, "The Owls Of Hogwarts" or "Hedwig's Friends". From what I've seen of your owl image postings, I'd buy it and so would the Harry P. fans.
  22. Interesting post Doug, thanks for sharing.

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