Your Book, Your Way

Imaging: Santosh D Kamble

Imaging: Santosh D Kamble

Dreaming of publishing your own coffee-table book? Turn dreams into a reality as Chandni Gajria shows you the road to self-publishing.

Glancing through a renowned photographer’s well designed, well printed coffee-table book, you might have wondered: “How do I get my work published?” It is not easy for every aspiring photographer to have a book of their own published by a reputed publishing houses. Publishing a book on your own can be difficult because it needs specific skills and can be expensive. Additionally, the world of photography books is competitive. Even if you get a deal with a publishing house, you may receive only a small percentage of the total financial returns.

But there is a simple solution—self publishing. Apart from having control over how your book turns out—from look and feel, to fonts and designing—you will also have the freedom to plan out the budget, pricing and profit margins.

Do remember though, that publishing a book by yourself is not easy. It may take you months or even years to get it just right. Yet, never rush the process. Research and plan well in advance.

Never rush the process. Research and plan well in advance.

Two Printing Options
You can use conventional offset printing at a press. This will involve quantities of at least 1500 copies. On the whole this may prove to be very expensive as each copy can cost anywhere from Rs. 100 to Rs. 1500 to print, depending on the size, number of pages, and quality of paper.

The other option is to custom print it digitally on a digital press. This way, you can make just one single copy or multiples. On a per unit basis, digital printing is about three to five times the price of offset. However, it lets you make a small number of copies. If they sell, you can always print more on demand. Do a background check on the printing houses to ensure that the books they produce are of the quality that will last a long time.

Planning for Success
Your options depends on the budget you have. A low budget does not necessarily mean a low-quality book. So plan the size, number of pages, binding, and initial quantities accordingly.

Clarity on the type of book and who the target audience is, is essential. It could be a pure fine-art book with black and white photos, or a travelogue of a place you visited, or simply a compilation of your best work till date. The point is to have a concept that is clear and crisp, and that is appreciable by an audience. Prepare an outline that will serve as a guide for chalking out the content for the book.

Shortlisting and Prepping Images
Shortlisting must be done carefully. Images need to communicate with the viewer and they need to work as a sequence too. If you use a digital camera, then process the RAW files, or use the best quality JPEG that your camera offers. If you are using a film camera, you will need to scan the negatives as high resolution digital files.

Coordinate with the print house and their pre-press department to understand the resolution and colour requirements. Once you gather that information, organise all digital files and scans into one folder, process them with the required parameters, and make final changes like adjustments, retouching and cleaning up.

Image-Text Relationship and Design
By now, you should have a clear idea of how you want to showcase the photographs. Will they be full page bleeds and no text, large images with just a caption, or do you wish to give equal importance to photographs and text?

Whatever you choose, maintaining strict sylesheets, typography, colours and design grids throughout the book will make it more impactful. For the designing of the book, if you feel you cannot handle everything, you can hire someone to do the job for you. Alternatively, you can look for templates online and work your way around them.

Proof Copies
Most print houses will prefer to have a high-resolution PDF format of the book for printing. Once your PDF is ready, ask the print house to give you a proof copy. Get the copy printed exactly the way the final copies will appear. It may be wise to negotiate two proof copies with the print house so that you have scope to fine tune the book the way you want. Analyse the proof copy for how the colour and text looks, how the overall impact is, how it feels in your hand, etc. Once you are satisfied with the results, you can go ahead making multiple copies of your book.

Distribution Systems
If you have a strong presence online— your own website, Facebook or Flickr page, LinkedIn connections then you can sell your book through these channels. In this case, you can choose to use the digital offset print-on-demand option. You can account the cost of the book itself and also the shipping charges in the final price. Tie up with courier companies, and set up online payment systems to facilitate the process. The income will be entirely yours.

Your options depends on the budget you have. A low budget does not necessarily mean a low-quality book.

Spreading the Word
Getting the word out and in a right way is toughest. Market your book in any manner you can. Use social networking sites and blogs to make some noise about your book. Enlist the help of friends to popularise it even more. Find out about TV shows, magazines and newspapers that deal with books, especially photography books and approach them to review your book.

The sense of accomplishment and satisfaction you get when you get your first copy and when you see people buying your book is worth all the effort you put into it. Will it make you famous? If you use the right tools, you can make it to best selling lists. Will it make you rich? Maybe. Maybe not. Treat this as an adventure, have fun, and revel in the fact that you have a book to your name.

Out of the Box Ideas to Promote Your Book

  • Pre Sell: Pre-selling is a great marketing strategy to build anticipation for your book and get paid while you are working on the book rather than after it is completed. If you are successful at it, your costs will be covered. It will also give you an idea of the response and how many copies you will need to print. You will also be able to alter your marketing strategies accordingly. Offer a special presale price to ensure you attract enough attention.
  • Make a Grand Entry: If you have the budget, you can also plan a photo exhibition or workshop to launch and promote your book. You could even try hiring the services of a Public Relations specialist to do the job for you. Prepare for a grand book launch. Look for photography and literary festivals and fairs as a ready platform. Engaging members of the press is an important factor. For added publicity, try inviting a celebrity to the launch. Ensure that you have press kits ready and remember to include a few of your photographs with information about yourself.

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Better Photography.

Tags: Chandni Gajria, april 2011, photography, books, market sense, self-publishing, pre sell, printing