Trading Up

I love the Blurb Trade Books. I’ve always loved them. Made my first one in 2007, and that book has gone on to be the most successful book I’ve done, and I made almost no effort to sell it. Strange. Many of the photographers who come to me for advice come with the learned behavior of the photo-industry on their shoulders. Do a monograph. “What is the biggest book I can get?” “What is the page limit?” I give them what they want, “11×13 with 440 pages,” but I also try to get them to understand the realities of making books, and more specifically selling books. Occasionally I see a gargantuan book that works. Lord knows I have plenty of them in my collection, not that I flip through them much, but most of the time if a photography book comes in at that size it misses its mark. Too many photographs, not enough editing, and a lack of knowledge as to what people actually want and how much they are willing to consume. Not to say you don’t make books like this. If done correctly, edited right, designed right and built for the right audience they can, and do, work, but you gotta get your plan wired tight.
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The trade books, for me, are like sketches. I detest stodgy, and much of what I see coming from traditional channels, whether that be books or photography, is stodgy. The club of being chosen by a select few who are supposed to know all the secrets. Well, in short, I don’t buy it. Not at all. I like freedom. I want to make what I feel like making, and I certainly don’t need someone else’s permission.

I just dream things up. I look at what materials and processes exist and I build to compliment those things. Very simple. I don’t rule out. I don’t complain. I don’t find reasons NOT to do something. I just go. I just do. I wasn’t always this way, but I realized I was walking a thin line of being one of those people who was impossible to satisfy. Spoiled. Arrogant perhaps. Stupid without a doubt. Not anymore. I found perspective.

Two thirds of the world doesn’t own a computer and is searching for food, water and shelter. They don’t care about what I’m doing, and rightly so. Photography and photo books have found their place in my life, and it’s not the same place it once was. Still important to me, for sure, but still just one of the puzzle pieces of life. Maybe a piece with an edge. A corner piece probably.
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Not that you were asking, but my advice is to play. Experiment. Test. Make books, give them to someone you think would be interested and watch. Pay attention, take notes. Then build again, fine tune, sand down your strategy to fine sheen. And then do it again. It’s so much fun. All the images you see here are from a new series of trade books, 5×8, 24-page, softcover, $2.49 books that will end up in a box set edition of either one or five depending on how much money I have. By the way, if you make a trade book, and you like it, for S$#@’s sake, send me a photo of it.
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