WORKING WITH A PUBLISHER
The advantages of working with a publisher are many. The most important benefit you gain by working with a publisher is credibility. Additional advantages of working with a publisher are less or no financial risk, distribution and warehousing services ( you don’t want a garage full of 5000 books and be running to the Post Office for every order ), guidance in editing, quality book design, production expertise and solid marketing. I can’t stress this enough. Publishers want your book to succeed. Remember it’s all about the bottom line for them and sales of your books make a better bottom line. In addition more sales of your book means more credibility for you.
Be prepared for non appropriate deals to come your way from some publishers and have the strength to say no to them. You have no negotiating power if you are not prepared to walk away from a deal. I encourage the first time author to be patient and wait for the right deal, to persevere. It took 7 years to get the right publisher for my first book. It was frustrating at times but I am very pleased I waited for the right publisher to work with. I consider producing a book a partnership with the publisher, a joint effort with mutual benefit.
If you decide to approach publishers here are several key items you need to know to assure your book receives the best possible opportunity to get published.
- Define your goal with the book.
What is it you want from the book? Write down your goals think about them and be specific.
- Select a topic that has a purpose.
Research is very helpful here. Look at where there are gaps in the medium. Does there need to be more coverage of a certain genre.
- Select a topic you are passionate about.
People can feel if you are passionate about your pictures. Passion is conveyed by your demeanor but even more so from your pictures. If you are not passionate about what you are working on stop working and find something you are passionate about to do.
- Be sure the book engages the audience.
Tell the story in your voice. Lead don’t follow, but never loose sight of who your audience is or you will loose them.
- Estimate production costs of photography.
Be sure you can complete the book before you start. Find funding if needed through grants or corporate sponsorship.
Remember you are only as good as your weakest link. A great picture diminishes when in the company of mediocrity.
- Edit again.
You never get it perfect the first time.
- Go ahead and edit a third time.
And rarely on the second.
- Create a maquette or book dummy (these are the same thing but “maquette” sounds smarter).
“Maquette” is French defined as a sculptor’s rough test sculpture done before hitting the marble or casting the bronze. The maquette is very important in bookmaking. It is a rough of the book made prior to publishing. It’s also a very tricky item to get right as you want it to be rough but also enticing. Too finished and the publisher may feel pigeonholed and limited in input. Too loose and they may not be enticed to investigate further. I recommend you share a few pages from the book as a maquette, a “this is what I was thinking” sample and follow up with a color corrected and detailed PDF of just pictures. You may find other avenues better suited to specific publishers. Read the publisher’s submission criteria and adhere to it.
- Research publishers that are appropriate for your work.
Like photographers publishers specialize. Fashion, documentary, landscape, reportage, narrative are all genres that some publishers limit themselves to. Be sure the publishers you contact are appropriate for your book. They like knowing you do your research as well.
- Respectfully approach publishers with the maquette.
Publishers are dedicated hard working people trying to survive in a dwindling and ever more competitive marketplace. It’s a tough job, be nice to them.
- Negotiate a favorable contract for all.
Be sure you are happy with the deal you make. You will live with it. I assure you the publisher will be comfortable with any deal they make. You want a pleasant and honest partnership surrounding your book.
- Be realistic in negotiations and prepared to walk away.
What are you getting from the publisher in exchange for all your hard work, original photography financial investment and passion? Be sure they have a finely tuned operation capable of supporting you and your book. Design, production quality, warehousing, distribution, marketing, PR, and payment are the areas you should be concerned with. Ask other authors about the publisher. Bring up these areas when negotiating with the publisher. If you are a first time author it’s a tougher go negotiating.
I doubt the first publisher who sees your book maquette will publish it. Probably not the second, third, fourth, fifth….. You can not let rejection be a reflection upon the merit of your book or more importantly you. There are many publishers and most won’t be right for your book. When your book is rejected politely ask what it that the publisher is looking for. If you see a common denominator from publishers possibly adjust your book to eliminate the problem.
I hope this brief and somewhat opinionated synopsis proves beneficial to those of you wishing to publish a picture book. While extremely difficult, authoring a picture book is a rewarding, satisfying undertaking. Your book can serve as the instrument to inform, elicit response, effect positive social change and open doors for you to continue to do even more with your pictures. Just remember these three words and you’ll be off to a good start: Passion, Purpose and Perseverance.