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Best publisher to approach for photo-book

Howdo all,

I'm currently looking to approach publishers for a potential photo-book of black-and-white images.

As we all know, some publishers are good at finding the right printer to faithfully produce the image, others not so much.

Can anyone, from experience and/or first-hand knowledge, recommend any publisher that can do this properly? I'm based in the UK so ideally, a publisher which has offices in the country or the EU.

Please note that I am not referring to the short-run 'printer' options such as Blurb, Lulu and what-have-you. Only bona fide publishers.

Many thanks!

Duff.
 
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Shashin

Well-known member
Do you want a publisher or printer? Those are two different things.

A publisher, a legitimate one, will want a project they are interested in. You may have to pay, but you are paying for more than printing. They may not be interested in your project--they will chose you just as mush as you chose them. Steidl and Mack are interested in very specific photographers and photography as publishers. Steidl is also a printer, but then you are not on their imprint or distribution channels.

A printer will do the printing for you. You are only paying for the printing and you get to do the distribution. If you don't know how to design books, you will need a book designer. Not just any designer, but one that knows how to design books. If you see a nice book in a book store, sometimes the printer is listed. You can also contact a publisher and ask what printer they use.

Blurb and Lulu are best to stay away from. They are vanity presses. And what they charge is a crime.

Can you let us know a little more about your project?
 
Do you want a publisher or printer? Those are two different things.

A publisher, a legitimate one, ....

Can you let us know a little more about your project?
Hi Will. Thanks for your reply.

Yes, I'll be looking for a publisher, preferably, but now that you've mentioned it, it would be good to know of a printer in case I'm able to undertake the marketing/distribution myself for a book that would largely be of local interest. Any book of wider interest would require marketing/distribution beyond my capabilities.

I have self-published in the distant past (not a photo-book) and while I knew the small niche market back then and knew who to contact it was still a real pain dealing with all the peculiarities involved, and I only just got my money back (well, a small loss to be honest).

If a publisher thinks what I have is viable then all to the good, and much easier for me. Otherwise, it's finding a decent printer (maybe Steidl or another trusted to print photo-books properly) and setting up a page on one of those 'GiveMeMoneyForMyEpicProject' websites, which will require some significant forethought and work in itself.

The project itself is essentially a landscape/historical documentation of my local (rural) area in the UK with a certain angle to it highlighting the decay of the old and once valued in an age where only monetary value seems to matter. It's likely to be mainly of local interest, but it has aspects that could appeal to a wider audience. Black-and-white, very likely square format. The photo's of course will be astounding and nothing like anything that has gone before ;)

The second project is a portrait book which may not happen due to the scarcity of the subject matter. That will definitely need a publisher. I have other ideas but not enough material to push them forward (yet).

So I guess the short answer is I would be looking for both a publisher and a proper photo-book printer, the latter in case self-publishing is feasible.

..and, oh yes, I shall avoid Blurb and their kind like the plague.

Cheers,
Duff.
 

Shashin

Well-known member
Duff, I would go to a local book store and see which publishers put out similar projects as yours. But photo books have very narrow margins in traditional trade publishing. That might be a difficult route. Chose your publisher carefully. If you send them something they don't publish, they will probably reject the project.

Another thought would be looking at either a local historical society or government to see if they would be willing to purchase and distribute the books you print. There are other creative ways to get a local partner, you just need to find the hook.

Personally, I use POD (Ingram Spark). That gives me a short run where I don't need huge up front costs or a warehouse to keep the books. Ingram has limited options for photo books--uncoated paper only. They are consistent. The prices are such you don't have to charge an arm and a leg for the book (price is a really important consideration). But you do need to send them print ready pdfs. But POD is more popular in Europe and you may find some other companies that give more options. If you want a long run, 500 to 1,000 copies, then the more traditional printers are going to be better.
 

Frankly

New member
Ditto above, I'd look for a publisher doing books as close to what you envision and approach them.

Blurb is useful for doing tests and mockups... creating a nicely made Blurb book can teach you a lot and save headaches later.
 
Thanks Will. Yes, I'll do that. Best to explore all avenues.

Frankly - yep, and it wouldn't do any harm to show a Blurb copy around to people for their personal thoughts on layout and content before committing to a decent printer, if it goes that way.

Thanks Kirk. My bad. I assumed wrongly that, while they print, it's only that which they publish.
 
You're getting some good advice here. I'd also suggest picking up a copy of Mary Virginia Swanson's book on photobook publishing.

It's not a bad idea to attend the big portfolio review events, like Fotofest, Review Santa Fe, Photolucida, etc.. I haven't been to one of these in years, but it's still the way a lot of people I know hook up with their publishers.

It's helpful to reach out to photographers who have done books you admire. You can learn a lot from their victories and missteps (everyone who's done a book will have plenty of both). Joining the Flak Photo Network on Facebook is an easy way to connect with a community that has gobs of book experience.

Beware of unethical publishers and pay-to-play portfolio review schemes (Powerhouse books comes to mind). I won't go near these people.

Don't waste your time by approaching publishers who don't publish work like yours by people like you. For example, Steidl: if you're not already at least halfway famous, they're not going to be interested.

Be prepared to be asked to raise funds. Photo book publishing has generally been a money-losing enterprise. The difference today is that publishers expect the artist to share the burden. This is because crowdfunding has emerged as an efficient way to launch books. Very few photo books by non-famous people get published these days without a crowdfunding campaign. This is a whole nuther can of worms you'll have to crack when the time comes.

The good news is that printing technology is outstanding these days, and cheap. $45 books are being printed in China with picture quality that looks like $75 books from 20 years ago. (But beware of the temptation to save money by dealing directly with a printer in China. A middleman, whether it's a commercial publisher or a hired-gun printing broker will save your ***. They know the business, they know the vendor, they know the laws, they know the culture, they know how to negotiate and communicate).
 
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