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Nowhereman

Photobook Publishing and its Discontents

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Got my book dummy back from the print shop this week. Must say that I’m charmed to see this in the 11x18cm (4.3x7.0 inch) pocket-book format. You can see below how the book looks and how the the images look spread across the book’s gutter.  I like photo books that can be read in bed. And for the pictures in my Paris au rythme de Basquiat and Other Poems book project, this type of format (being “less exquisite” and “less precious”) works well — as Jörg Colberg says in this review/flip-through of a Moriyama Daido book. The nine-minute video is worth watching if you are interested in Moriyama. I bought this book when it was published in 2010, but only started thinking of the pocket-book format when I saw Colberg’s video.

 
This dummy was printed on a Fujixerox Versant 2100 Press, a digital printer for “on demand” printing. It’s probably better than the HP Indigo printers that Blurb uses. My previous dummies were printed on the HP Indigo and don’t look as good. Reportedly the Indigo printers often go out of calibration in 15 minutes. The Fujixerox Versant is a later generation press and, apparently, self-calibrates as it prints.
 
More than charmed, I’m taken with this dummy and would like to see the book published. The cost of printing the dummy in Chiang Mai on an on-demand basis, meaning you can print one copy, was $54. That’s too expensive for selling. The print shop gave me quotes for printing on an offset press. Offset printing gives better quality and allows proofing for each sheet — the book would be printed with 8 pages per sheet, which are then cut and sewn together in the binding by a machine. For the dummy we decided on a glue binding. The print shop, after printing the book, found that the it could not be opened flat enough for the central part of the images that were in the book’s gutter to be seen adequately. Therefore, they printed another copy, without charge, whose binding was hand-sewn — not something that a print shop in Europe or Japan would do. Incidentally, the Moriyama pocket-book does not open flat.
 
Here are the offset quotes:
 
100 books: $2,143 – $21.43/book
200 books: $3,417 – $17.08/book
500 books: $3,746 –   $7.50/book
 
For 100-200 books, the cost per book is too high to be able to sell the book at a reasonable price. There’s also the distribution and shipping costs. All  these costs could be adequately covered in the case of 500 books, at $7.50 printing cost per book. But, for 500 copies, I would need a publisher for distribution, unless I was prepared to keep 450 in my garage forever! 
 
I suspect that the printing cost for 500 books would be substantially higher in developed markets — and I doubt that a publisher would be attracted by the total profit to be made on 500 books sold at, say, $15-20/book. So, I see no solution at this stage…
 
Nevertheless, it’s good to have the dummy. You may want to consider making a dummy for yourself and a few friends or family members, particularly if you don’t regularly print your pictures.

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Have you looked elsewhere for quotes?

 

Here are a couple of Print On Demand printers that large publishers use for small print runs or backlist content.

 

I don't know how well their prices would compare for photo heavy content but it's worth a look.

 

Ernst

 

https://www.gardners.com/Supplier-Services

 

https://www.ingramcontent.com/publishers/print

 

 

 

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Thanks for the suggestion, but in my experience any on-demand-print service is going to be too expensive for getting a book out to a reasonably sized viewership — and, for that, distribution is the key issue: either the photographer has to build an audience on Instagram or another way, or get a publisher who has an established market. I find that it's difficult to build up a following on Instagram, and doing so indiscriminately will not produce a market for 500 books; nor will the 900+ followers I have on flickr.

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Got my book dummy back from the print shop this week. Must say that I’m charmed to see this in the 11x18cm (4.3x7.0 inch) pocket-book format. You can see below how the book looks and how the the images look spread across the book’s gutter. I like photo books that can be read in bed. And for the pictures in my Paris au rythme de Basquiat and Other Poems book project, this type of format (being “less exquisite” and “less precious”) works well — as Jörg Colberg says in this review/flip-through of a Moriyama Daido book. The nine-minute video is worth watching if you are interested in Moriyama. I bought this book when it was published in 2010, but only started thinking of the pocket-book format when I saw Colberg’s video.

 

This dummy was printed on a Fujixerox Versant 2100 Press, a digital printer for “on demand” printing. It’s probably better than the HP Indigo printers that Blurb uses. My previous dummies were printed on the HP Indigo and don’t look as good. Reportedly the Indigo printers often go out of calibration in 15 minutes. The Fujixerox Versant is a later generation press and, apparently, self-calibrates as it prints.

 

More than charmed, I’m taken with this dummy and would like to see the book published. The cost of printing the dummy in Chiang Mai on an on-demand basis, meaning you can print one copy, was $54. That’s too expensive for selling. The print shop gave me quotes for printing on an offset press. Offset printing gives better quality and allows proofing for each sheet — the book would be printed with 8 pages per sheet, which are then cut and sewn together in the binding by a machine. For the dummy we decided on a glue binding. The print shop, after printing the book, found that the it could not be opened flat enough for the central part of the images that were in the book’s gutter to be seen adequately. Therefore, they printed another copy, without charge, whose binding was hand-sewn — not something that a print shop in Europe or Japan would do. Incidentally, the Moriyama pocket-book does not open flat.

 

Here are the offset quotes:

 

100 books: $2,143 – $21.43/book

200 books: $3,417 – $17.08/book

500 books: $3,746 – $7.50/book

 

For 100-200 books, the cost per book is too high to be able to sell the book at a reasonable price. There’s also the distribution and shipping costs. All these costs could be adequately covered in the case of 500 books, at $7.50 printing cost per book. But, for 500 copies, I would need a publisher for distribution, unless I was prepared to keep 450 in my garage forever!

 

I suspect that the printing cost for 500 books would be substantially higher in developed markets — and I doubt that a publisher would be attracted by the total profit to be made on 500 books sold at, say, $15-20/book. So, I see no solution at this stage…

 

Nevertheless, it’s good to have the dummy. You may want to consider making a dummy for yourself and a few friends or family members, particularly if you don’t regularly print your pictures.

Looks like a very polished effort. I don’t mind over the gutter printing, but it comes down to the performance of the book’s spine: if the book lays flat, I’m not too distracted by the gutter.

 

Wouldn’t the pic of the frieze (what is it?) and your mates in the restaurant have worked well next to each other as a sort of dyptych?

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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@Nowhereman,

 

A couple of my photographic peers have used Blurb to self publish their books and have had very good results  - I would recommend taking a look:  http://www.blurb.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Google_US_Brand_DesktopTablet_Alpha_G&utm_term=blurb&gclid=CjwKCAiA-9rTBRBNEiwAt0Znw6SNhZvSFI_E_ymRkQQVLqzbFAhp97hlIoGd2_-OjY4AH-7D86JJAhoCbEUQAvD_BwE

Edited by Herr Barnack

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stephen.w - On the proposed "diptych": those are people (strangers) on a Paris bus — this picture is in the first chapter (Paris/Basquiat); the "frieze" was a type of lintel, lying on the ground at an ancient Khmer temple that was under restoration in the Northeast of Thailand, years ago when I took the picture: I could have just picked it up and walked off with it, but of course didn't. It's probably in some museum in Thailand now, but in storage because of official prudishness. It's in one of the nine chapters of the book, called "What's in a Haiku?" When I was choosing which two spreads to show here, I selected them at random — according to which pages I opened when I photographed them with an iPhone.

 

I feel that the nine disparate chapters have several continuing leitmotifs that create a whole, as suggested by the postscript, which reads as follows: 

 

Photographs can document, they can depict and they can tell a story. But individual photographs can also speak the way a poem does. In putting together this book, I was also thinking about how a series of photographs can work as a longer poem.

 
A viewer of an early version of this book referred to the series as visual poems. He wrote that, "as with many compilations of poetry, if most of the individual poems make a strong impression on mind and soul, then mind and soul will ascribe its own sense of unity to the whole. I see an itinerant, fast moving contrast between two modern megacities and between modern urban life and life in the wild, plus life on the edges in between, all of this climaxing on those edges in two glimpses of two attractive lone young women in perhaps silent, somehow related desperation. It is often said that ambiguity is at the heart of all great artistic creation."
Edited by Nowhereman

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...A couple of my photographic peers have used Blurb to self publish their books and have had very good results  - I would recommend taking a look...

 

Thanks, I had a look. I'm familiar with Blurb and not fond of it. For one thing, they usually use the HP Indigo printer, on which I've had two other book dummies printed with results in terms of image quality nowhere near as good as this dummy, printed on a Fujiverox Versant printer, for the reasons stated in the original post. Another thing, is that a book printed and sold on Blurb doesn't get to the type of market that I want to reach.

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I’ve used Blurb but I prefer Whitewall for colour accuracy.

 

Neither solves the problem of providing economical publishing for public consumption though, and are really only suited to small runs where interested parties are less price-sensitive.

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Thanks, I had a look. I'm familiar with Blurb and not fond of it. For one thing, they usually use the HP Indigo printer, on which I've had two other book dummies printed with results in terms of image quality nowhere near as good as this dummy, printed on a Fujiverox Versant printer, for the reasons stated in the original post. Another thing, is that a book printed and sold on Blurb doesn't get to the type of market that I want to reach.

 

 

Interesting, the Fuji Xerox Versant is an entry level production printer, the HP Indigo is capable of much better image quality. Unfortunately that is all dependent on correct maintenance and operator skill, those can be hard to find in the commercial world.

Edited by mikemgb

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This was a Fuji Xerox Versant 2100: I was going by a write-up on this website, which included the following:

 

...it raises the bar for a mid-entry-level production machine and starts to compete against machines that are considered to be in a higher strata. Coming out of the FujiXerox development group in Japan, Versant has its roots in the new engine design used by the successful Color 800/1000 line, although Xerox describes it as a clean-sheet design. For a mid-entry production machine, Xerox hasn’t held back on the quality and ease-of-use features., starting with the use of the same VCEL ROS imaging technology used in the Color 800/1000 platform. It has a native 1200x1200 dpi renderer but it images at 2400x2400 dpi using a new low-gloss EA dry ink, providing an outstanding level of detail and smoothness, not just for fleshtones, but throughout the entire scale. It also features automated color management and control to ensure consistent and accurate color across the sheet and throughout the run, providing a great platform for production of photo products, targeting one of HP Indigo’s sweet spots...

 

In any case, the result were substantially better than what I got from the HP Indigo. I thought that it may have been from bad maintenance on the Indigo, but someone familiar with the printing business told me that the Indigo had a big problem of not keeping in calibration during print runs.

 

On another subject, concerning sequencing when putting together a photo book, there are a host of other issues in the editing and designing of a photo book, some of which don't necessarily come to mind when one embarks on such a project. A useful guide to all this is Jörg Colberg's book, Understanding Photobooks: The Form and Content of the Photographic Book.

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Printing is also my business, all I will say is if you've found a company that gives you what you want then stick with them, consistent quality is hard to find these days. Not many companies are willing to spend what it costs to keep these machines in top condition or pay what an operator skilled at getting the best out of them is worth.

 

And that blurb was written by Xerox marketing people, most brands have the same colour management, Canon have had it for several years.

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We've been talking about printing. Some time ago I had a discussion with David Alan Harvey, who's incredibly generous with his mentoring, to the point that he'll mentor people whom he's not even mentoring. He says that 95% of people think that the cost of printing means publishing; but printing is just printing: it's not the biggest cost. Who's going to pay the team to distribute, to ship, promote, etc.? So this brings us to the question, how the book is actually going to be sold? Who will buy it and why will they buy it? How can you create a market for the book?

 

These are the fundamental issues any publisher will think about, and what you have to think about as the book's author, even if your an auteur.

 

This is really the reason I started this thread and showed that the cost of 500 copies is manageable, at least in Chinag Mai. What isn't so easily manageable is how to get a market for the 500 books, or to find a publisher who will do that. Hence, the title of this thread.

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We've been talking about printing. Some time ago I had a discussion with David Alan Harvey, who's incredibly generous with his mentoring, to the point that he'll mentor people whom he's not even mentoring. He says that 95% of people think that the cost of printing means publishing; but printing is just printing: it's not the biggest cost. Who's going to pay the team to distribute, to ship, promote, etc.? So this brings us to the question, how the book is actually going to be sold? Who will buy it and why will they buy it? How can you create a market for the book?

 

These are the fundamental issues any publisher will think about, and what you have to think about as the book's author, even if your an auteur.

 

This is really the reason I started this thread and showed that the cost of 500 copies is manageable, at least in Chinag Mai. What isn't so easily manageable is how to get a market for the 500 books, or to find a publisher who will do that. Hence, the title of this thread.

 

 

 

I don't know whether people think the cost of printing includes publishing but if they do, I agree they're mistaken.

 

It seems to me that the big question with publishing is, who takes the risk? People need to be clear about this before diving in unless they can afford to take the gamble and lose. If you have the distribution, the reputation, the sales agreements and so on, the printing costs are going to be a smaller risk relative to expected sales than if you're an individual or even simply a printer with no publishing background.

 

I think you're quite right to highlight the difference.

Edited by Peter H

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Peter - As soon as you start speaking with a publisher you'll know how much of the costs they want you to cover. Probably not much scope for ambiguity.

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Peter - As soon as you start speaking with a publisher you'll know how much of the costs they want you to cover. Probably not much scope for ambiguity.

 

 

Yes, but I didn't mean that.

 

I meant that if you're trying to assess whether a publisher is good value compared with self-publishing, you need to think about how much risk you're transferring from yourself to the publisher. In other words, if the extra cost reduces the risk of your being stuck with 450 copies of an expensive book you don't need, paying a publisher even quite a substantial fee may still be very good value, depending on how successful you feel they're likely to be on your behalf after talking to them about your project.

 

By the way, my autocorrect suggested replacing "self-publishing" with "self-punishing".  It may well be right.

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Peter - Yes, good point.

 

"Self-punishing", indeed. There's a lot to consider to making a photo book, including some basic questions that persist when working on a book. At one point I corresponded with a Brazilian photographer who teaches Fotografia autoral (authorship photography) in São Paulo. While struggling with an earlier project, I wrote him that I always had a question in my mind whether the world needed another photo book. He responded, “With regard to your question whether to do or not do this book, a better question is if you need this book, rather than whether the world needs it.

Edited by Nowhereman

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Mitch, in recent years a number of small independent publishers have adopted the crowdfunding model. A commitment to print a book isn't made until sufficient customers have been identified in advance. You might consider the same approach. 

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Mitch, in recent years a number of small independent publishers have adopted the crowdfunding model. A commitment to print a book isn't made until sufficient customers have been identified in advance. You might consider the same approach. 

 

 

Ian - Yes, I've considered crowdfunding and watched some of the online appeals for prospective photo books. And I just looked at the Unbound website that Andy mentioned. My feeling is that crowdfunding would work for "standard categories" of books or ones that have a striking "back story". For example, Anton Kusters self-published a photo book, Yakuza, a few years ago. He had virtually unlimited access to a yakuza crime family in Tokyo over a ten-month period, something no Japanese photographer ever had — a story that he successfully publicized online, and now has published a third edition of the book. It's a great story and it created a market for the book. Kusters put up th money himself and did not need crowdfunding.

 

For my PRB book, it's not the funds that are the issue. I would need only $3-5,000. It's the market that I would need to develop. I realize that you're suggesting the crowdfunding process would create that market. That would be true, but if you look at the concept of my book, you can see that the back-story is not one that crowdfunders would go for. In other words, to get crowdfunding, I would need a back-story that could raise funds — and if that back-story (or concept, if you will) would be good enough to raise the funds, it would be good enough to sell a self-financed, self published book. Circular situation. 

 

I watched a video for a successful crowdfunding by a photographer who had a standard, attractive book of landscapes that many people would like: as I recall he pushed the idea of how good he was for this type of work. That's what I mean by a standard category of book.

 

If I felt crowdfunding would work to create the market, I would try it. But I have to say that, philosophically, I don't like the idea of crowdfunding for any type of art. Robert Frank couldn't get The Americans published in the States until after a French publisher, who acted like a patron, had published it and the book won critical acclaim. No way he could have crowdfunded. One could think of many examples in this vein. For the development of art, patronship can be much more useful than crowdfunding — but I'm not speaking in this vein about my book.

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