Self Publishing Success/Fail Stories?

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by watchtowr, Aug 14, 2018.

  1. watchtowr

    watchtowr Member

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    Not too many new posts on this.
    Has anyone recently self published a book (or books) of their works?
    Seems like selling 100 to 500 copies of an edition is a reasonable goal.
    Anyone here achieve this? (& how?).
     
  2. tezzasmall

    tezzasmall Member

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    Like many on forums, I too have 'published' a few books of my work, but the amount has only been small = to give to friends and family.

    My only other attempt at publishing a book, was a book of stories and poetry for a group I belonged to. We got 200 printed thinking that was a good starting number. I think we managed between us to sell / give about 50 books in total. We have sold just a few more at readings etc.

    The only advice I can give you, is to do a LOT of research up front to determine EXACTLY how many you think that you WILL be able to sell as a minimum.

    Good luck.

    Terry S
    UK
     
  3. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    I self-published a book in 2015 with Blurb. Blurb is a print on demand service, and I recommend this, unless you have market research and some assurance that you will sell X copies. Any small print run will be expensive, and blurb is not cheap once you move up in quality to get a good book with nice reproductions of your work. My books have crept up in price just in the 3 years it's been offered for sale.

    The book http://silverdarkroom.net/?page_id=496 was a special documentary project for an organization. We never intended to make any money, and expectations were that we would be lucky to sell 100 copies. It hasn't sold that many yet (close!), but each year at the attendant festival, I sell a few more. I also keep 6-8 copies "on hand". There's an old joke about self publishing: One has 500 copies printed and dies with 400 of them under their bed. At least I will only have 6-8. :cool:

    Cheers!
     
  4. OP
    OP
    watchtowr

    watchtowr Member

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    Under the bed ^_^.

    I used to keep old film flats for magazines under the bed. Quark suddenly being able to do color seps on the desktop was the real beginning of the DP revolution. Maybe 1995?

    A year or so ago I assembled a really cool art/essay anthology and my colleague dummy comped the first 30 pages or so...it looked great...and then I realized. There's no "hook" or "must have" aspect.
     
  5. slackercrurster

    slackercrurster Member

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    Yes, have done many artist's books. I don't sell them to people. I place them with museums and special collection libraries. I'd say it is very tough going, at least for me. 85% to 95% rejection rate for free donations. But that is how it goes. Don't like it, do something else.

    Books cost a hundred or two to hand-print and it take lots of time to bind and print. Although I have multiple inkjet printers and can pop out a number of books a week if I am doing them assembly line style. But to do books like that you need lots of room for layouts to collate as you print.

    You can make zines cheap enuf or the Blurb print on demand sort of thing. Or make PDF's and sell for $3 or $5 or give away for free on Blurb or put on the Internet Archive. Lots of options.

    If you do great photography I'd rec you try placing hand-printed books with institutions. They generally wont accept print on demand unless it is something very special and unique. (They wont accept any from me anyway.) Hand-printed books are works of art in their own right and can be taken into permanent collections of said institutions.

    When you deal with museums, etc., this is the gen rule. If you solicit them...they are thinking donation. If they solicit you...they are thinking donation. But if they solicit you, you may be able to get some $ out of them if they like your work enuf.

    If you want to make something old school, make a book of silver prints with the pages dry mounted back to back and spiral bind. That was how I made my first book back in '71.

    In any case, just do something, don't sit and suck your thumb...get your work out there!
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2018
  6. jim10219

    jim10219 Member

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    Ask around at your local print shops. In the last few years, print shops have started investing in digital presses which make small runs like what you're looking for a lot more economical. I actually work at a print shop, and we do this all the time now, where as we used to have to turn people away (or more accurately, quote them a number we knew they couldn't afford). But these days, we can make a single copy of a book for a reasonable price. You'll be somewhat limited with a digital press, like you probably won't be able to do a hard back (not without significant increases in cost), or perfect bound (where they glue the pages in). But it can still look like a nice book without breaking the bank.

    For instance, as I type this, I am making some art books on a digital press. We're using a 130lb cover stock (stuff they make business cards out of) for the book's cover. Then we're binding them with a saddle stitcher (stapler), but putting a square back with a spine on them (so they look more like a perfect bound, paperback book than a magazine). There are all kinds of crazy stuff we can do that we couldn't do two years ago. So I'd shop around (cause paper is heavy so it will likely be a lot cheaper to find a place you can pick up the finished books from yourself). Ask to see some samples. You might be surprised. The industry has changed a bunch in the last few years.
     
  7. slackercrurster

    slackercrurster Member

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    When done, post the book covers here and some samples to see what the members produce.
     
  8. Luckless

    Luckless Member

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    There are several questions that are worth seriously asking yourself before getting into a venture like publishing your own book.

    1. Are you doing this for profit, to break even, or as just a record of you work to give away?

    2. What kind of printing quality does the project Actually need?

    3. How much are you willing to invest?

    4. How many copies are you willing to put up with kicking around your place, possibly for years at a time?

    It is typically easy enough to break even if you're running straight print on demand, but the price gets high enough to limit interest in them if you're insisting on 'the highest quality' 'photo books' - If you're thinking of doing more than a few copies for yourself/close friends, then it may pay to order a single copy of various print styles containing your key images - ie, order 10 page sample books with careful selection of images in a few formats/print styles rather than your full 50+ page masterpiece, and have other people review the quality for you. Blurb will happily sell you a 100 page 8x10 hard cover on 'proline pearl photo' paper for CAD $92.99 a piece, which might be a great deal. However if your test readers can't spot the difference between that and the CAD $35.91 standard colour trade print, then you might not want to go down the road of ordering 500 in the fancier paper...

    Also shop around for dust jackets, and don't assume you have to have the book printer provide them for you if you're not shipping direct to customer. I helped a friend put dust jackets on an order of 1000 books a year ago because she got a better deal on them from a poster shop than from the book printer.

    It is very hard to turn a profit with single copy print-on-demand service, so it can pay to invest in a solid first print run if you have the capital, storage space, belief in your project, and the drive to market and move all your copies.


    As a side note that some might find useful: One of my friends has custom end and coffee tables in their living room that they designed specifically to store extra copies of their book. - You can fit 1000 good sized books in a surprisingly small space if you get creative. He is considering a large dining room table as his next project before he finishes his latest title.
     
  9. rorye

    rorye Subscriber

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    I just printed a book to go with a show at SFMoma Artist Gallery. I printed 50 and I think there are 3 left. I know it's a short run but I didn't want to be left with too many.
    I put a 5"x5" silver print in the back which allowed me to charge enough to make it worthwhile. It's at Dead Link Removed
     
  10. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I wrote a book for the NRC which was published and is still available from them.
     
  11. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    How many here do tip in books where the photograph is tipped into place using a existing book as the base?? and if so could you elaborate where you get the source books or how do you put them together yourself.
     
  12. jim10219

    jim10219 Member

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    I can't. I don't own the copyright to them. I could show you a sample if you stepped into my shop, but I can't repost them online without the original copyright owner's permission.

    However, here's a link to the booklet maker we use. If you scroll down the website, you can see what the book folds look like. https://plockmaticgroup.com/plockmatic/product/ricoh-pbm500-pbm350/
    They won't let you go super thick, so no novels. But you can get a few hundred pages out of a machine like that.

    I'll admit these digital presses don't look near as good as a good inkjet printer, at least not for photos. Our inkjet uses 10 different shades of ink to form it's gamut. Our digital press can't do more than 5 (CMYK plus a limited selection of special colors). It's basically a giant laser printer. But years ago laser printers had horrible quality. That's changed. These days, they're not too far off the old offset lithography presses, and generally better than a web press. And that means they'll stand up with similar quality to what you'll see in most books. At least the newer ones will. One trick that I would advice: don't use uncoated paper. Uncoated paper doesn't work well with this technology. So always go with a gloss or matte coated paper. The pictures will come out a lot better.
     
  13. jim10219

    jim10219 Member

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    You can buy blank books online. There are a bunch of places that sell them for stuff like scientific journals, art books, and other things. The selection is somewhat limited. You can't choose just any size or page count. But it's certainly another way to go.

    Also, you can make your own. It's not that hard if you're only making a few. There are three different binding methods (not including stuff like coil bound which would look ridiculous for a photo book): saddle stitch, perfect bound, and smyth sewn.

    Saddle stitch is what most smaller magazines are. It's basically staple bound. To do it at home, you'd need a powerful stapler.

    Perfect bound is how most paperback books are made. You Basically make the books in sections. Probably do 4-6 sheets (16-24 pages, front and back) to a section. Fold them all together, and then grind the spine down with a course grit grinder. Just grind it about 1/16"-1/8". You basically just want to rough them up to give the glue some place to hold. Then stack all of your sections together, and use white glue to glue the spines of your sections to the spine of the cover. It helps if you can get access to a paper cutter to trim everything afterwards. You might also want to put some weight on the book while it dries, or better yet, clamp it down.

    The third method, and how most hardback books are made, is smyth sewn. That's similar to perfect bound, but instead of roughing up the spines of the sections, you sew them together and then sew the sections together. It's quite a bit more complicated, and would probably make more sense if you looked up a video of how to do it than me try to explain it here. Needless to say, it is something you could DIY, if you were so inclined, but it would be time consuming. You'd also have to make a hardback, which is usually just some kind of board wrapped in some kind of cloth and spray glued together. It might be a good idea to buy a cheap book to disassemble to see how it was made.

    There are also about a million other non-traditional methods to bind books if you just want to do them by hand and don't need a large quantity. One popular method is to print the individual sheets (just 2 pages to a sheet instead of 4 like in most traditional methods) leave a bunch of extra space in the spine. Then drill something through the spine to keep them together. It's common to put something like wood along front and back of the spine to keep the binding from pulling through. You can use nuts and bolts, wire, string, ribbon, or any number of materials. The downside is the spine creeps a long ways into your pages. But this can be a "look" and if you're creative enough, you can make it give the book character. It's also a lot easier to figure out than the methods I posted above.

    Before you print any pages from the traditional methods I mentioned, it would be wise to first make what we call a "folding dummy". Basically, you just take some scrap paper, and fold a miniature sample of your book. You don't have to actually bind it, but do place them in the same order as you would when you do bind it. Then, you go through it and write the page number on each book. Then, you can unfold the pages and see what final page numbers will go on which sheets of paper (what we call "signatures"). That just makes it easier to get all of your pages in order because you'll be printing 4 pages on each sheet and you won't be printing the pages in the same order as what they'll eventually be laid out in. It sounds confusing, but if you take apart a magazine or a book, you'll see what I mean. Doing a careful disassemble of the type of book you want will explain a lot of questions.

    Basically, book binding is something that predates the industrial revolution, so it's all within the scope of the average DIYer. That's, of course, assuming you have the patience and time.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2018
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  15. Ron789

    Ron789 Subscriber

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    I will introduce my first book in a few months. Home printed, binded myself with Japanese stitch. The edition will be limited to 83 copies, signed and numbered, in a gift box including a signed and numbered 20x30cm FB print. Since I do everything myself, I will print on demand, starting with some 20 copies of which I will give some 15 to friends who helped me make this book, relatives and the 3 poets of whom I included poetry. You can take a look at: Dead Link Removed
    Making this book was a great thing to do! I worked on the photos over the past 6 years and decided 2 years ago to make a book out of it. I learned a lot - not in the least about myself - and got to meet and work with many great people who help me free of charge, just because they like what I'm doing. Will I make money out of it....? Very unlikely. But it's by far my biggest learning experience and most rewarding result in all my photograpy activities ever!
     
  16. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    My old friend Frank Petronio, who has ditched me as a friend because we don't share the same political views, has self published a couple of books. Before he went off the deep alt right end he wrote a nice piece for me on self publishing for my blog. You can read it here. It's a bit dated but the bones are still valid. I have self published a few books with Blurb and found it quite easy. The quality has gotten substantially better in the last several years.

    Rather than the old photo albums of our youth, Blurb books are a better alternative. You can so some really nice layout and the image quality is great. There are several companies who do this so check it out for yourself.

    Eric

    ps: Frank use to be a member here but got banned as he has been from just about every forum he has joined. To bad really as he really knows his stuff.
     
  17. adelorenzo

    adelorenzo Subscriber

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    I've done a few blurb books but I'm really not a fan of the quality.

    Now I make handmade books by binding my original silver gelatin prints. I've done some with Japanese stab binding which are more like personal art projects. For family and friends-type stuff I have a unibind machine which is inexpensive, easy and quick to use.

    I've not tried selling any books at this point. I'm just at the point now where I am making a few print sales. Maybe next time I have a show I'll try to knock together a few books to peddle.
     
  18. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi OP
    i haven't had anything professionally printed just made hand made books myself
    for clients and archivesl it was a 1 - off edition so it didn't need to be mass produced
    blurb is pretty good these days, i would look into what they offer. i have a few books they have produced
    and for the $$ they are OK ... i can't talk about small presses like rory mentioned but i imagine they do
    a fantastic job ... and jim's comment about images on cardstock bound at a print shop take seriously
    i've had collateral ( leave behinds and mailers ) made at copyshops that have looked every bit as good as a darkroom print...
    it is an option worth looking into ... its funny about the 400 coppies under the bed
    my cousin self published literature back in the day and it was like 1000 copies in a garage ... and if its posters
    and you are famous like aaron siskind it might be 12000 posters in SOME ONE ELSES GARAGE ... LOL

    hi bob
    i have done this but with books i have bound myself
    one of the problems with tipping in photographs into books with pages
    is unless the spine has been spaced between pages ( adding in paper in the spine
    when it is stitched to accommodate the width of the photographic paper ) the book
    will fan and not lay flat ... i have tipped-in photographs a couple of ways
    1 - i die cut diagonal cuts to slide corners of photographs on each page // worked OK but not very elegant
    2 - i used wheat paste and pasted the top edge on the page before the pages were sewn in ...
    takes effort youneed to weight everything &c but they look " nice-nice " ( don't use black pages )
     
  19. slackercrurster

    slackercrurster Member

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    There is a benefit to spiral bound artist's books. The original prints can be unbound in a few minutes and used for a show. The prints can be rebound in a few minutes after the show. The drawback to spiral binding is you can only bind so many prints, about an inch, before the book is too hard to handle and puts undue pressure on the binding.

    Another issue is that of perception. Some people think of 'cheap' when they see spiral binding. A lady curator had poo-pooed one of my books I offered as a donation saying they were not worth much. She downgraded my books specifically because they were spiral bound. Whatever the books were worth, they were being donated to that institution's collection. But she would not acquire in any case.

    Some institutions ask you set a price on the donation for their deed of gift / records. I value my books at $1000 to $3800 each. She seemed to think with the cheap spiral binding my books were only worth $75 to $100 each. The paper and ink involved to make the book cost $150 to $200, then there is the binding expense and the fact that the book contained over a hundred original archival pigment prints. Although I somewhat mass produce my books, if I produced the books singly it would take a week to print and bind one book.

    [​IMG]

    One other thing...

    My books I am discussing here were all landmark books containing the highest level photography of its genre. Take this photo. It is a candid photo taken where photography was outlawed in shooting conditions where some of the light is akin to shooting by a couple of safelights in a darkroom. In short, it takes a highly skilled photog to get it done. When you add all this up, my books are only worth $75 - $100 to that lady curator...and only as a donation.

    [​IMG]

    ..and still we keep pressing the button!
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2018
  20. slackercrurster

    slackercrurster Member

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    This binding requires artistry.
     
  21. cramej

    cramej Subscriber

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    Because it is. It can be done in seconds and costs pennies.

    Here's my opinion - and it's only an opinion. Hopefully it can come across on the screen as criticism and not insult.

    I would have a really hard time seeing the $1000-3800 value in a spiral bound book regardless of it being original prints. I would not want a book worth that much to look like a workbook from a conference. Because it is spiral bound, there are now a bunch of holes in the original prints.

    If you truly value your work as it sounds like you do, why not use a binding that upholds that value to the fullest?
     
  22. jim10219

    jim10219 Member

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    Japanese binding... I was unfamiliar with that. Thanks for the new information! I've mainly dealt with mass production, so I haven't come across that before.

    As Slackercrurster pointed out, spiral binding gets a bad rap. That's the main reason I'd avoid it. It does have its advantages, but it just doesn't scream high quality to potential clients. However, I've bound books by hand using techniques that are kind of a hybrid of Japanese binding where instead of thread, you use bolts. Usually brass bolts with flush heads that look nicer than your typical machine bolt. It's a good compromise in that it's easy to do, looks nice, and can be easily undone to remove the pages. I usually make them with wooden covers and use some decorative hinges for the front cover.

    I recommend avoiding the online places to get your books printed. Places like Blurb and Vistaprint don't specialize, or really even care much for quality. We are constantly redoing jobs for clients who went to places like that first, thinking they were getting a good deal. With a local print shop, even with a digital press, you can do a press check. That's where you go in when they set up the job and look at the samples coming off the machine, and have the ability to change the print as necessary before they make the run. I frequently do that for art books. The artist will come in, sit down with me, and we'll print off a sample and they'll look at it. Then they'll often suggest I make the images more vivid, or less red, or switch out paper type or whatever. We basically play with it until we get it right. Then, when they're happy, we make a bunch of them! Even with our very expensive and highly calibrated machines, prints can look vastly different than they do in the computer, and can also look vastly different on different types of stock. If image quality is important to you, this is a necessary step that you just can't get from an online retailer.

    Often times we'll have an artist come in with a painting or photography printed just the way they like, and they'll leave it with us along with a digital copy of the image. It's then my job to match the original to the print, as closely as possible. This way the client doesn't have to waste their time sitting in a print shop, and they still get the highest quality print. Just the other day I did this for a painter, and he only wanted 10 copies. Due to the invention of digital presses, 10 copies is now econically feasible. But getting a good quality print out of one takes some skill and attention to detail, and that's something that those online printers just don't have.

    Also, don't be afraid to shop around locally. Not every print shop has a digital press these days, and not all of them have a new model, high quality digital press, nor one cabpable of binding, nor highly skilled operators. Unfortunately they're easy to run, and very difficult to run well. So many places don't like to pay the big bucks to hire highly skilled operators who can do more than just barely make a print. They'll just hire anyone off the street willing to work for minimum wage and show them where the paper goes and where the print button is. And they might be running 10 year old equipment which was a lifetime ago in digital press technology.
     
  23. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    It the old story of you get what you pay for. I have looked at using a local press and the costs were VERY high compared with online book publishing. For my needs it wasn't worth the extra money. We are living in an MP3 / Instagram world. Unfortunately people are quite satisfied with Walmart quality and don't want to pay for quality. Those that do appreciate it will spend the money but I have only run into a very few of them.
     
  24. OP
    OP
    watchtowr

    watchtowr Member

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    Thanks for the comments so far. Pretty clear that several hundred books can be sold profitably.
     
  25. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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  26. Mike Crawford

    Mike Crawford Member

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    Have just spent a long day on press yesterday for a self published photobook I'm producing of a collaborative project involving 56 photographers from 14 countries. And a large collection of outdated and discarded photographic paper!
    https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/obsolete-discontinued#/

    it was a fascinating day learning what can be done on press with offset litho and a good print operator.
    Currently crowdfunding before publication and an exhibition in London next month. Anyone know if it's OK to make a general post on Photrio to promote it or is that too much like self publicity?

    It makes my Epson printer look a bit small!
    IMG_6452.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2018
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