Okay, one step closer to the prize. Not sure what that prize is but that is another matter. This is the second post in a series about my new publishing project. Need to say this again, right up front and center. This project is about creating a roadmap for fellow photographers, artists and creatives who want to make a book with Blurb. And not just a “standard” book, but a book that undergoes a bit of customization and travels through our Large Order Services division. A book that was created in collaboration between a photographer and a book designer. A book that will enter the world to be sold, if possible. Selling books is never easy, but a book is SO MUCH more than sales. In fact, I was asked AGAIN by a first-time bookmaker how they were going to live off their book sales. “You aren’t,” I stated. It’s just that simple. But being asked this again made me get out a pen and paper and create a list of all the photographers I know who are living off their book sales. Want to read the list? Okay.
It’s true. I don’t know a single photographer making a living from book sales. (Who cares?) I know plenty of photographers who are making a LITTLE money from their books. I knew a few who are on actual book tours. (Yeah!) I even know a few who got advances AND ended up selling through their edition and making a bit more money on the backend. And I know a TINY fraction of a percentage who have done this multiple times. But many are LOSING money. Yes, you read that correctly. LOSING MONEY. Most publishing deals I hear about today are the “artist funded” variety. Meaning, you the artist pay the publisher to do your book. Now, I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing, depending on the deal, and depending on whether the artist KNOWS they are going to lose money. Some do, many don’t. Something else to consider, when you equate the time and expense required to MARKET AND SELL your book, the odds of coming out ahead are further diminished, and these are things you MUST factor in. It might not feel pretty but it’s required. So why does anyone do this? BECAUSE IT’S A BOOK PEOPLE. If you are a photographer, a real photographer, then you know what the book can mean. Everything.
A book is far more important than your gear, your website(critical however), your social following, etc. It might not seem like it but just think about the day that Instagram goes away, and it will. Only to be replaced by something else, and something else, and something else. A book is a testimony. A book is tangible. A book is like a lump of coal. Just existing until someone puts a match to it. Kidding. A book required massive amounts of undivided attention, focus and critical thought. All the things that are entirely absent in much of the online world.
Yesterday I went to a party. When I left the party I was given two boxes of books. Holy S^%$, these are some of the best books on photography ever published. First editions. Classics. Legends. In the vast majority of these books, the artist is someone I’ve never looked at online. I’ve never been to their social or their website. I don’t care what they had for lunch. These are the artists that make you wait. And when you finally hear from them it’s in the form of an exhibition, an editorial spread, a museum show AND A BOOK. The book, even for these folks, is one piece of their creative life’s puzzle. And, many of THESE people end up losing money on their book because they know the book will earn them back far more once in the hands of the chosen few.
The book is a strategic device. A time capsule, proof of their skill and their understanding of their medium of choice. The book is the best calling card you could ever have. And the book has become confrontational. You can’t look at your phone and the book at the same time, and frankly, if you do then I fear for your survival. Books are a long-form game in a short-game world. “Deep Thoughts” from Stuart Smalley.
So where are we in the progression? Thanks for asking. We are moving along. Nicely. Chloe has provided me with a sneak peek of her notes. I can’t stand myself because I know Chloe will do something with this book that will turn my head inside out. On my side, the most recent contribution is a script. Yep, a script, like a movie script that plays along with the photography. This is a concept I’ve been thinking about for quite some time but had never put finger to key until now. This is how it works people. You just keep plugging away. Edit, sequence, design and imagine what the final object will be. This is only the first half of the story people. The second being what happens to the book after it’s printed. Stay tuned.
Great post. Nothing beats a book in my opinion. Saw this great presentation from a great photographer last month, it was all great but nothing beat the moment he said… “I brought copies of one of my first books and I’m giving you all a free copy.” First, I don’t think photo books get old. Good photography is good photography no matter how old, like you said they stick while everything else fades. And his is really inspiring. So I mailed him a copy of my magazine, it’s the least I could do. This exchange and sharing of work cannot be done online. I’d never get the same thrill getting someone’s Instagram account name or website address versus getting a book! Never.
Personally, I think IG is one of the worst places to show and view work. It’s a great place to build following. Books are permanent.