Not Your Everyday Banana

by Bart Arondson

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I took thousands of photos for a book I want to publish. I am a graphic designer, so creating the layout of the book, pages, covers, etc is not a problem. I know how to process my images for print.

What I don't know is how to get a book printed and bound with a dust cover for a reasonable price. Is it possible to self-publish a photography book? I define possible as:

  • get a print run of 1,000 to 5,000 books at first (maybe more later if demand is there)
  • keep the cost of printing a book to less than $25 (half of the retail price of $49.99)
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I'm going to post this as a comment, as well in my answer. I think you might be better off simply trying to go through traditional publishers. Self publishing for the most part is a pipe dream, don't count on making a profit anytime soon. –  PearsonArtPhoto Mar 8 '11 at 14:32
    
@personartphoto Yeah, I hear you. I don't know who the traditional publishers are or how to find them. Any ideas? –  bperdue Mar 8 '11 at 15:55
    
I have contacted several self-publishers to determine pricing. I will update this question when I hear back. Hopefully I can soon provide a list of publishers that meet my criteria. –  bperdue Mar 8 '11 at 16:29
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I suggest you take a look at similar books, perhaps through Amazon or similar book store, and find the publishers. Find their websites, find their acceptance criteria, and summit your work. –  PearsonArtPhoto Mar 8 '11 at 16:37
    
the writers stackexchange may have some advice on publishing: writers.stackexchange.com –  Tom Mar 8 '11 at 16:46
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8 Answers 8

There are several methods for publishing such a book, which I'll mention below. Note that there is an excellent Wikipedia article that explains more. I should add, be very cautious with these services. You can make a real profit, but they can also just be a drain on resources, and keep you out of traditional publishing. You might try contacting some of them, with a print out of your proposed book that comes from a local print shop.

Print on Demand services

The general idea of these companies is that you submit the book to them, with their layout, and they will print a copy of the book to anyone who orders it. You can set your selling point, and they will split the profits with you (I forget the ratio, but...) Some of the services that fall under this category are:

"Vanity Press"

This seems like what you directly wanted from your question. These companies operate more like a traditional publisher, but they will require you to pay for their services and for an upfront number of copies to be printed. I haven't looked extensively at this category, but here's a few sites that seem to fit this mold. Take a look at the Wikipedia article for some more help.

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This is helpful thanks. I'm going to see if I can actually find some traditional publishers who are willing to do small runs for individuals like myself. I think the most beneficial answer to this question would be a short list of publishers that can meet my criteria of 1-5k books at a price of $25 or less per book. –  bperdue Mar 8 '11 at 16:12
    
A traditional publisher isn't going to print for you necessarily, but will print for larger retail publication. If you already have a built in buyer, then feel free to use a vanity publisher, otherwise, go with a traditional publisher, and let them decide how many to print. –  PearsonArtPhoto Mar 8 '11 at 16:29
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http://lulu.com are popular for this sort of thing as they also handle selling and distribution of your books (though you have to pay for the print run upfront).

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They offer custom quotes, which for a run of 5,000 might get their pricing close, but I'm betting it will still be well over my requirement of less than $25/per book, with each book being 100 pages. –  bperdue Mar 8 '11 at 15:54
    
You can print as few as 1 copy of a book. There is no need to do a 'run'. –  Alex Feinman Sep 21 '11 at 17:02
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Check out Pikto. The have very high quality products and a variety of sizes and binding styles. All the samples I've seen where quite impressive.

EDIT:

Current pricing is based on the size of the book and number of pages. They charge from $25 for a 40-page 6x8" book to over $150 (Up to 12x18"). There is a volume discount of 20% for 10 copies or more. You can probably get a bigger discount as your volume is much higher.

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Very interesting. I looked at their site but couldn't find pricing information on their book:it product. Any idea what they charge? –  bperdue Mar 8 '11 at 15:50
    
@bperdue - See edit. –  Itai Mar 8 '11 at 17:27
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I did Blurb for a book I wanted to accompany an exhibition. It was not cheap but the quality was high. Because it was PoD I didn't have to print a lot. My initial plan was to do 100 but I printed 50 and sold them; the other 50 I am selling online. The benefit is that unlike my colleague who had his book printed not PoD but from a printer, I did not have to pay £2K+ upfront (which I didnt have) and in any case he has now got hundreds lying in his house as he tries to sell them at each exhibition. So it worked for me.

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I have used http://blurb.com/ for several books and they are very good. I find that more sharpening is required than would be used for an ink jet print.

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Blurb is good but their pricing is outrageous. I will lose money based on what they would charge for a 100 page photo book. Blurb works when you're selling one photobook to a client for $500. But when I'm selling 5,000 books for $50 it doesn't help. –  bperdue Mar 8 '11 at 15:52
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Have you looked into Amazon's self publishing service?

https://www.createspace.com/

I haven't spent a lot of time studying it yet, but it sounds promising. There is a cost per book calculator here: https://www.createspace.com/Products/Book/

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up vote 0 down vote accepted

The costs to print in the USA using self-publishing or vanity-publishing services is too cost-prohibitive for me. I have conducted a lot of research and found this to be the best option for photographers to self-publish their own hardback, full-color photo book.

Find overseas printing services on Alibaba.com. Make sure to check out the reputation of the seller, and use an escrow service if possible. Quality can widely vary from vendor to vendor or event from order to order, so there is some risk. But, the cost is significantly less than US-based printers. Just go to Alibaba and search for "full color hardback book printing".

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You can start at blurb, where you can test your layout and maybe a tryout for friends and family.

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Blurb is good but their pricing is outrageous. I will lose money based on what they would charge for a 100 page photo book. –  bperdue Mar 8 '11 at 15:51
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