The Fine Art Of Self-Publishing

Uploading images to Facebook, Flickr and other popular online sharing sites is fun, mainly because of the instant gratification it provides. Family, friends and coworkers can see the cool restaurant you discovered while exploring a new city even as you’re there devouring dinner. But sometimes, the length of time it takes to post those images is about as long as they last in our memories. Put those pictures in a good, old-fashioned hardcover, however, and a sense of permanency is created, suggesting your images will last forever. And there’s nothing like seeing your photos beautifully printed in a book.

Beyond the sense of fulfillment and accomplishment, there are practical reasons to publish your own book. If you’d like to turn your hobby into a moneymaking venture, this is a great way to promote yourself as a photographer. Plus, customized picture books make for good gifts on almost any occasion. Thanks to today’s online book-publishing sites and services, there’s no shortage of options for creating a photo book exactly the way you want.

AdoramaPix. Using a unique binding system that allows pages to lay flat for seamless photo spreads, AdoramaPix offers a range of size and style options. The PixBuilder tool lets you get as creative as desired, allowing you to work with prebuilt templates or custom design the layout from beginning to end. PixBuilder is designed using Adobe Flash so it works from any web browser on any computer. You can add photos wherever you want, along with captions, shadows and borders. The pages are made from Fujicolor Crystal Archive Album photo paper, a professional-quality archival paper resistant to fading. Sizes range from 6×4 inches to 12×12 inches with up to 76 pages. Estimated Street Price: $43 (8×10-inch book with 26 pages).

Apple. Creating a printed hardcover, softcover or wire-bound photo book from within Apple’s iPhoto ’09 application is as simple as opening the photos you want to showcase, choosing a theme, and dragging and dropping the images into the template. Themes include Old World, contemporary, crayon, snapshots, travel, watercolor and more. For hardcovers, there’s a new extra-large, 13×10-inch size, along with the standard large, 11×8.5-inch offering. Both come with photo-wrapped covers and matching dust jackets. Each hardcover book uses traditional bookbinding style. Softcover books are available in small (3.5×2.6 inches), medium (8×6 inches) and large sizes, while wire-bound books, which lie completely flat and let you rotate pages under the book, come in medium and large sizes. Estimated Street Price: $49 (13×10-inch with 20 pages).

Bay Photo. For Bay Photo, variety is key, with the lab offering a wide selection of sizes, formats and styles to choose from when using its BayBooks services. Hard-covers are available in lustre, metallic or canvas surfaces, with satin or glossy laminate and with optional full-wrap, laminated dust jackets. Leatherette and linen hardcovers are also available. There are hundreds of customizable page layout templates to select from using Bay ROES, the company’s software that includes assistance with design layout, or you can create your own using any image-editing app. They also provide blank Photoshop templates for ensuring proper sizing when creating your own designs. Paper types include smooth, linen, pebble or canvas textures. Gloss or luster UV coating is optional. Estimated Street Price: $46 (8×10-inch linen hardcover with 10 pages).

Blurb. Blurb is a one-stop solution for creating, printing and selling books of your photos. Using BookSmart software, importing pictures and adding text to professionally designed book templates and page layouts is quick and easy. You also can drag and drop content into pages that are fully customizable. For enhanced precision, images and text can be auto-aligned to page grids and viewed in the Layout Editor. You can spread the word about your book using Blurb’s BookShow, which can be added to your website, blog or Facebook page and allows friends, family and other visitors to flip through all or some of your book. Pages are produced with four-color printing on standard or premium paper, which is about 35 percent heavier. Estimated Street Price: $22 (hardcover with dust jacket and 20 to 40 pages).

Kodak. With dozens of new professional styles and designs to choose from, you can tell a lot of different stories when creating a picture book with Kodak. This is a solid option if you don’t want to do a lot of customizing because you simply select a style, size and color, and drop your photos into place. Kodak does the rest. Pages are made using glossy, acid-free paper stock and non-toxic, fade-resistant ink. The binding is randomly tested for durability so that it stays strong. Small, medium and large sizes are available, with cover materials ranging from leather to linen to paperback. Books generally are processed within three to five business days. Estimated Street Price: $34 (medium hardcover with 20 pages).

So You Want To Publish A Book?
By Dick Pratt

Well, you can. But unless you’re well known, you’ll probably have to do it yourself. That’s what I did, and I’m glad to have taken on the challenge. It cost me a few bucks (approximately $3,500), but I had control over almost everything. I did it all, from cover to cover, except the foreword. Here are some tidbits that may help you decide whether this is the right option for you.

You’ll need a rough draft. The publisher usually allows you a fair amount of time to get your book finalized. However, there’s a situation where you’ll need a completed manuscript ahead of schedule (more on this later).

Choose a publisher. Do a search on the Internet for “self-publishing a book.” You’ll find plenty of them. If you can find one that’s close to home, it’s a big plus.

Research the publisher. On the Internet again, enter the publisher’s name followed by “complaints.” This is a crucial step and may really open your eyes as to which ones to stay away from.

How much? Be thorough. Once you have a few publishers in mind, start getting prices. What’s the publishing cost? What will you have to pay before you even sell a book? How much will it sell for? How much will you make on a sale? What will the book cost you? What about your discount? Beware of “add-on” costs: premium paper, color versus black-and-white printing, copyright fees, ISBN number fees and so on. Figure out what options you want, the services you need, and estimate the total cost.

Sponsors. I made a list of companies I deal with regularly and called them for f
inancial assistance. Don’t expect anyone to jump at the opportunity. If you’re unknown, they won’t want to waste their advertising dollars. Out of 15 companies on my list, I got help from two. Although the amounts were small, I devoted a page to acknowledge them—they believed in me. Also, this is where you may need that completed manuscript. I came across two sponsors that wanted to see the book up front.

Proof your work. This is extremely important. Read it 50 times if you have to. Have someone else read it, someone who’s willing to offer criticism. Listen to their comments objectively. Try your best to publish a perfect work. Also, proof everything your publisher does—they make mistakes, too.

Marketing. Here’s an area where you can run up the national debt—publishers charge big bucks for marketing. I chose to do my own marketing by doing book signings, web sales, camera club talks and a few other venues. This will be the toughest part of the journey.

All in all, self-publishing was a fairly good experience. I made a few mistakes, but I got things mostly correct. I learned a lot and plan on trying it again (with a different publisher next time). I must say that it gives me a very good feeling to see my book available at Barnes & Noble, and the local library.

Dick Pratt’s book is called My Digital Photo Book (Xlibris Corporation, 2009; ISBN: 978-1-4415-1222-2). To see more of his photography, go to

Mpix. Mpix is a division of Miller’s Professional Imaging, the largest professional photography lab in the U.S., and offers many options and styles of photo books. You can select from softcover, hardcover or suede hardcover books, along with three different premium papers that consist of heavyweight cover stock, pearl and linen. For enhanced image adhesion, Mpix uses Kodak Nexpress, which employs a polymer toner that, when fused, is melted or liquefied and pressed into the paper fibers with heat and pressure. Once you’ve downloaded and installed the MpixPRESS software, just drop images and text into one of the many available templates or create your own. Once you’re done, submit the book for printing. The software uploads the book to Mpix and automatically directs you to the website for order completion. Turnaround time is 24 hours. Estimated Street Price: $30 (8×8-inch suede hardcover with 20 pages).

PhotoBook Press. For truly special occasions, the high level of quality and craftsmanship offered by PhotoBook Press makes for a book fit for prominent display on a coffee table. This is another option that may be more suitable for pros looking to promote their own work or create books for clients. For designing, the PhotoBook Design Tool is free and has a Fast Track automatic design option or a custom do-it-yourself option. Books can be started, saved and resumed whenever you want. You can also use Photoshop, InDesign or other software as long as you follow the submission guidelines. A third option is to have a PhotoBook Press designer lay out the book. Just upload your images to their FTP or send them on a disk. For film shooters, they will scan prints or negatives. Fine details like archival papers, supple leather and fine fabric covers, and sewn bindings all come together with high-quality printing to create very beautiful books. Estimated Street Price: Available upon request.

Pete Saloutos creates a one-off to shop with publishers

Professional photographer Pete Saloutos is in full control of his next publishing project. Rather than pitching an idea for his next book to potential publishers, he’s doing the book the way he wants to first and then will shop it to those in the publishing community. The project is his tribute to Paris, a city that he credits as the inspiration for him going into the visual arts. He’ll spend six months designing it and editing more than 10,000 images. Once completed, the volume will contain about 130 pages of black-and-white pictures shot with a 1930s’ look. If Saloutos finds no takers after shopping the book around, he’ll look to Blurb and for sales.

“If you have an idea, get it out there,” says Saloutos. “Publishers are no longer necessary. They’re nice to have, but not the only route for book sales. The web has changed everything.”

Saloutos has published two versions of this book so far with images taken in October 2009. When DP caught up with Saloutos, he was back in Paris taking more photographs for a third version. He says the reviews have been favorable.

“This is a work of love,” he says. “I have limited expectations. I only want to break even paying for my expenses, and if that doesn’t happen, I’ve still done something very important to me. In the end, that’s what photography is about—what you feel right about shooting. If I can’t make money from it, I still accomplished what I needed to.”

You can see Pete Saloutos’ work at

(888) 216-6400

(800) MY-APPLE

(800) 435-6686


(800) 347-9913


(888) 333-6950

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