My photographer friend Sara Frances shared her trials and tribulations of self-publishing a photo book. This is part two of a five part series. Read on for some great ideas. (Editor) Start with Part One
Publishing Path Part Two
In this issue we’re tackling the conception of your book to the birth; the first three steps. Concept, audience and content. Most artists and photographers would incorrectly argue that their art is the first thing to be considered. At least not when a book is the concept.
Gary McLaughlin and longtime friend Glory Ann Penington teamed up in a self-published Blurb printing, now to be reissued with a commercial printer to get serious about selling.
What is your concept?
Ask what you have to say as an art photographer. Your theme, favorite subject, particular style, longtime project—what you believe in as an artist, what moves your soul. This is not a portfolio; nothing like what we do every day for our clients and to attract new ones. To be viable, a photo book cannot be a loose collection, but must tell a cohesive story—the story you are simply itching to tell!
Yes these artists know each other well; fitting images to the words and vice versa is a powerful combination.
Define your audience
Then the next question is to define the audience for that specific story. The scope of potential audience determines quantity print run as well as whether a specific topic will gain traction. Call it market research, or just plain search, for salability. This means going to book stores, photo book stores, and internet. But that’s not all: gift stores, museums, art galleries that offer photography are the next rung of outlets where you book might find a welcoming audience. How about new age or inspirational stores, even hospital gift shops! How about non-profit schools or nature institutions (that’s called special sales)?
Control your sales
Do you want to capitalize on a current trend or do you want to strike out to fill a topic niche that you feel is under-represented? Here are three approaches for controlling costs and expanding audience.
• Since the documented sales of most limited edition art photo books is 80 copies or less, you may choose a very limited run that you are sure you can see to family and friends—say 50 copies. Many art and poetry book printers require a commitment of this quantity as a pre-condition. Not a wrong answer.
Master Photographer Lisa Hill teamed up with three non-profits she is passionate about to offer calendars of her art work, entirely for their benefit—and no up-front cost to her
• If you want to scale your potential sale numbers, the collaborative route will open doors. Team up with an author, and your mail list more than doubles: yours, the author’s, and people interested in hybrid works. Added value.
• Teaming with a special interest non-profit that is involved in the subject of your images has potential, assuming the product is something the charity’s public will get behind. Be prepared to provide significant percent of monetary return as well as doing a significant part of the marketing and all of the fulfillment.
Lisa is a demon social media self promoter. Her line of art prints, calendars, cards and commercial work all feed off each other. Note her lovely logo and signature.
Sara is a many-decades Master Photographic Craftsman out of Denver whose artistic focus has always been book making with images. Her albums won PPA merits starting well before digital capture, as well as for what is believed to be the first ever awarded portrait album. She has evolved from daily, shorter-term studio photography into exclusively special projects of long commitment. Her second hybrid photo/memoir art book, Fragments of Spirit, now published under her own mark, Photo Mirage Books, is available mid-December 2020.
Renewing her lifelong interest in creative writing, she was recently was accepted for Lighthouse Writers Workshop’s Poetry Collective, graduating a year later with a forthcoming hybrid work marrying over 275 manipulated iPhone images with 120 poems: What to Wear to Paradise.
Her three-year quest to learn all facets of the art book industry has influenced her to give back with hands-on publishing classes. She is a judge for the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) and for Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA.) She teaches for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at the University of Denver, for PPA Super One Day seminars, and also mentors hybrid image/text projects.
To find Sara on social media search SaraFrancesPhotographer or email – firstname.lastname@example.org
This is my seventh year working with an entertainment restaurant. The original relationship was due to a personal project I created and shared with them. A quick recap for those pressed for time will find I photographed a restaurant to learn and practice new photography techniques. I gave the restaurant a framed print. For the full story check out part one on photofocus
The story continued and involves another personal project involving a musician, which was also shared with the owners. When the owners saw my artwork they decided to feature the bands and other entertainers in more of an artistic style. While making the artistic images I also supply the restaurant with additional photos for publicity, posters, marketing and social media.
The trade deal
It would be very difficult for a restaurant to pay cash for this service as the amounts can add up very quickly, especially in the beginning, when many new performers were being documented. I’m a big fan of win-win situations so we worked out a trade agreement.
Hall of Fame
The Hall of Fame has grown to 130 or so images. I create an artistic rendition of the musicians from their live performance. It would be very difficult to track down people after the fact for autographs. I have them provide their signature and ‘message to the house’ with a black sharpie pen on white paper. I invert the printing from black on white to white on black. Change the Blend mode in Adobe Photoshop to Screen and text will appear white. Viola, I have their ‘autograph’ for the art.
Bobcat Jack: Blues-man with signature and logo art
As part of the deal, art images are printed and framed to 8×10 and hung in the Hall. Additional images are uploaded for the publicity, poster and marketing purposes.
One corner of the SBG Hall of Fame
In addition to the trade, each of the images is branded with the Bob Coates Photography logo. A metal print in a niche promotes my story and the Hall of Fame information (look in the back of the Hall photo above). I make this deal out to be not only a win-win opportunity but a win-win-win all the way around!
Yours in Creative Photography, Bob
Monetizing personal projects is important to me. I’ve found it to be a profitable way to build my business. You can too!
I made a twilight photo of my favorite local restaurant while experimenting with showing the lighted interior at sunset. I learned the easiest way to make an interesting architectural photo of real estate was to set the camera on a tripod. Then capture images over a time period of 20-45 minutes and blend them together in post.
After this image was made I entered it in the Arizona Professional Photographers Association annual image competition. After receiving feedback from the judges I realized there was more to learn with this technique. While the image did not merit it earned an above-average red ribbon. If that was all I got from assigning and completing this personal project it would have been a winner. But I didn’t stop there.
Original personal project image from 2009 that eventually led to lots of work
I framed the print, adding the award winning ribbon and my business card and offered it as a gift to the restaurant. Even though the image had room for improvement the owners loved it. On display in the restaurant in a high traffic area was solid exposure in and of itself. Even more, it helped cement my relationship with them.
Fast-forward about a year and the owners sold this restaurant. I was hired, because of working with the owners in the past, to help promote the renovations of a new space and create interest and excitement for the opening.
We came up with the concept of combining the photos with text. The voice of the owner was used, explaining the thought process of the demolition and decor choices. These were in the form of a set of ‘Polaroid’ photos released over time before the opening party. One example is below you can see more in the extended story on Photofocus.
I added additional revenue to the project by offering to design customized music inspired metal prints to decorate the niches in the main dining room.
Music niche art images, created specifically for this restaurant
Then it was time to create all the marketing images, which included food, interiors and exteriors with the surrounding red rock views.
To be continued
There were many other images made as you can imagine. It started with making an image on spec and sharing it with a potential client. This story continues in part two where there is cross-pollination with a previous personal project involving the musician. More details on my Photofocus blog post.
Yours in Creative Photography, Bob
PS – See part two of this post here
My buddy, Kevin Ames an editor of Photofocus, mentioned that many photographers have trouble monetizing their photography, especially when working on personal projects and asked that I share a few success stories. I did some research and found that this was the way I have built my business over the years. Here’s one of the stories on how I accomplished this. My personal projects are centered around learning a skill I was am trying to acquire. I then leveraging the image I’d created by selling, promoting the new skill — entering in image competition or garnering press. I hope you find these ideas helpful.
Once upon a time in a town near Atlanta …
Was on a visit to Atlanta to visit with my friends Ashley and Liz. In their neighborhood was a favorite restaurant of theirs called Manchester Arms. It was an overcast drizzly, dreary day. As I was entering the restaurant I noticed it had a kind of European pub flavor and I thought it would make a good subject for a new art technique I wanted to master. Despite the drizzle, I ran outside to grab a few frames from a couple different angles. For this particular use, the soft, overcast lighting worked well.
Here are the before and after images to show the results of my post-processing.
Manchester Arms restaurant in the rain – Before image
Finished art processed in Adobe Photoshop with textures, Blend Modes and masks.
Rest of the Story
You can check out this story more in-depth on my Photofocus blog post.
Dinner was just dandy, by the way!
Yours in Creative Photography, Bob
Elite Photographer Designation
I have been fortunate to receive the Professional Photographers Association Elite Photographer again for 2019. I also received a 25 – Plus bar signifying an additional 25 Merits earned.
So what are these ‘merits’?
They’re essentially a way for a photographer to learn and grow professionally while becoming more active in the industry. You can earn different kinds of merits, all of which are guaranteed to make you a more well-rounded professional photographer! merits are earned through image competition, teaching and service to the industry
Elite Certificate and 25 – Plus Merit bar
There’s a reason this is such a prestigious level of PPA membership. It requires a lot of hard work and professional accomplishments. It cannot be requested or bought. One automatically qualifies for Elite status when all of the requirements are met by December 31st of each year:
- Certified Professional Photographer
- Master of Photography or Master Artist degree
- Scored four for four on images from a single case from the most recent IPC (bronze, silver, gold, platinum, or diamond)
- Earned two non-photographic merits that year
- And be a PPA member in good standing
Proud to be a PPA member. If you have any questions about the benefits and reasons to be a member get in touch.
Yours in Creative Photography, Bob