Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Create Your Own Book

I think its safe to say that every photographer dreams of having a book containing their creations. Its kind of the ultimate portfolio expressing a personalized vision. And, let's face it, the true rewards for a shooter don't come from money (although it helps). A shooters real passion comes from discovering the world around them with a lens. Whether a photog's outlet is a gallery exhibition, a blog, or a book, the realized joy is sharing the work.

I've been fortunate to have five published book titles under my belt on subject matter I feel passionate about. And certainly, that sense of worth is amplified when a publisher agrees to publish your work. But, the publishing industry is a state of flux these days. It scares me to think it might go away. I honestly don't believe the public is ready to give up on books. The iPad and Kindle have their place, but holding a book, looking at exquisitely reproduced photographs in a book, will always find a home on my bookshelves. And I know I'm not alone.

However, as the publishing industry finds it foothold in today's horrible economic climate and the volume of published titles dropping, there are alternatives for publishing a book. Technology has gifted writers, artists, poets, and photographers the opportunity to publish their work with minimal investment. You can publish a 80-page color hardcover book of photographs for example, for under fifty dollars. I'm not fooling. I can see you are shocked. But, it's true.

I've done several of these self-published books now. I initially set out to test the waters and more succinctly, the quality. Always a major consideration in such an endeavor. It wasn't until I had seen fellow shooter Dave Black's Book "THE WAY I SEE IT" (http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/765883). It was so beautifully done and printed so well. Instantly, I was hooked.

So, for my first book test, (http://www.blurb.com/books/1335316) 47º NORTH-Grand Marais & Beyond, I pulled together a collection of images from my favorite Minnesota town, Grand Marais. Grand Marais is a gem all in itself. It benefits from its mother figure, Lake Superior, and its population of around 1,500 fine folks. Its the foothills entrance to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and its summer population swells in numbers just like the mosquitos. Its the kind of town you fall in love with instantly. But, from a book publishing perspective, its too tiny to tickle the fancy of a publisher's investment. Can enough books be sold to warrant the expenditure? Its a tough sell to any sized publisher.

The availability of self-publishing, now a reality and easy to do, can become the vehicle to create a book on areas like Grand Marais that probably will never attract a big publishing effort. I combed through my files, located a collection of images that I felt reflected the area surrounding 47º North, limited the text, used wonderful quotes about photography, and splashed images together to form a collective mood of the Grand Marais area. Its been very popular and I'm thrilled with the quality of the book. And, customers can purchase the book directly online and preview the entire book with Blurb's slick website even before buying the book.

Ok, your asking, and I can hear you .....what is the downside? I said it was cheap, under $50. Yes, that is cheap to publish your own book. But, when you go to the bookstore and buy any book for $50 you are expecting it to be big and thick and full of surprises. You just published your own book for under $50. Cool. But, if you want to sell it, what price do you put on it? Hmm, that $50 at the bookstore gave me pretty good buying power. But, if I want to make any money on this book and it cost me $50 to publish it, will anyone buy it for say, $75? Good question. This is the downside to self publishing. Its basically, Books On Demand.

Books on demand is not a fatalistic approach to self-publishing. Its just a different way. In the case of 47º NORTH, there is never going to be a book like this unless someone self-publishes it. It will be more expensive, yes. I think I make about $5/book. But, my reasons for doing this (remember the first paragraph) was to share the images of an area so close to my heart. I'm not alone. I know many others cherish this area and its a treat to have such a collection of images tell the story of 47º NORTH. If lots of 47º NORTH sell, I make a few bucks.

The benefits of self-publishing are far reaching too. Let's not dwell on the downside. Creating your own title, and I have been using Blurb.com, and there are many others like My Publishing.com, MPix, ect,, the idea that only a few books are ordered at a time, save on paper being used, warehouse space taken up, shipping and transportation costs, and so on. You want a book-you order it and two weeks later its on your door step. How cool is that?

I bring this concept of self-publishing up for a reason. Over the course of the next month or so, I am going to create a Children's book on this blog. I'll show pages, images, and the reasoning behind the theme. And, I'll publish it. But, my end goal may surprise you with the publishing of this book called; CROIX AND THE MAGIC BURL.

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