There was a time when photographers wishing to see their work in print, were at the mercy of the publishers’ critical eye. A publisher’s verdict could mark the end of the road for a book project, or be the spark to ignite a new career.
Online publishing has eliminated this scrutinizing selection process, removing any middle men in its path. The likes of Blurb, Lulu, AsukaBook and Apple among many others, have put an end to slaving over a book proposal, adhering to publisher’s list of demands, and enduring a nail biting wait for a decision.
In the new, democratized world of publishing, any photographer can publish any book, and bask in the joy of holding a professionally printed creation bearing his/her name.
With such independence however, comes greater responsibility. Where a traditional publisher would edit, design and promote your book, these tasks now lay solely on your shoulders.
Different providers’ tools and services vary. Research is key to selecting the best online publisher for your book project.
Most online publishers feature a simple book design process using available templates. They also guide you through every step of the way, from choosing book size, to color matching and font size.
Blurb’s Bookify is a fine example of this simplicity, offering a selection of popular layouts, fonts and themes. Using a clear preview, you progress flawlessly through the book’s pages, inserting your images and any relevant text.
As my last book title called for a higher level of control, I went for BookSmart, Blurb’s option for more complex projects. The free, downloadable software let me use templates with the added advantage of designing my own.
Photographers wishing to design their book from scratch, template free, would find Blurb’s PDF to Book ideal. With this ultimate control bookmaking tool, you create your book in main applications like Photoshop and inDesign, then import the book, in its entirety, into Blurb.
Once you are happy with your design, (and hopefully ran a full color test print), you are ready to set book price and publish. Within days, a professionally printed book, bearing your name, will land on your doorstep to spread immense professional pride.
If your book is created as a personal promotional tool, your job is now complete. If however, you wish to publish a book for profit, you have hit one of online publishing’s sorest points.
Where traditional publishers have a world of established contacts and guaranteed exposure, your only route of spreading the word is your personal community network, and various online promotional tools.
Selling your book online is tough but not impossible. Quite a few photographers according to Blurb, supplement their income with proceeds from their book sales. The relatively low production cost makes it feasible to sell the book privately at exhibitions for example, to fans who cannot afford an original print.
Blurb’s $45 million in revenue last year is a testimony to self publishing’s commercial success, where about half of books printed by the company, are by creatives, including photographers.
The chaotic internet is capable of incredible surprises. Last year’s Grammy award winner Imogen Heap for example, only came to major labels’ attention thanks to her huge online following. Lulu.com confirms stories of the literary equivalent so in theory, your online photographic title can end up attracting traditional publishers’ attention.
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