Blurb 6×9 Revolution

I’ve been a photographer for a long while now, but during the past twenty odd years I’ve also held other positions in the industry. I worked for Kodak and during that time I was “The Kodak Guy.” Many people didn’t know my actual name. People would just see me coming and their brains would register yellow boxes and odd colored golf shirts, something the company was very fond of handing out. You have never seen so many hideous colors. Now I work for Blurb, and there are those of you out there who know me as “The Blurb Guy.” I don’t mind this one bit. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. For me, the ability to make my own book is the single most important aspect of the entire digital revolution. I think there are those of you who feel the same, or at least you feel the significance of this idea, and there are those of you who are not as interested in the book idea. It’s all good.




Earlier today I was on the phone with someone and they asked me about Blurb. I gave them a rundown. They asked about my job and the word “evangelist” came up. During my Kodak days I hated this term because I always felt it came hand in hand with the idea that the “evangelist” was there to provide nothing but glowing reviews and information in regard to the product the “evangelist” was pimping. That wasn’t me. I was honest. You shoot front-lit surfing at high-noon, Fuji Velvia was the film for you. Hands down. Honesty in field reps was somewhat new in those days. It’s not that field reps weren’t honest, they were, but companies, especially those like Kodak, were pretty hardline. Heck, a lot of them still are. But for me, I knew that photographers would never trust me if I bullshitted them. Being truthful was easier and more fun.
These days, as I travel the world with the Blurb torch, I also run into the “evangelist” title, but this time around I actually embrace it. When people ask me what I do for Blurb my mind stops for a brief second. I do many thing at, with, for Blurb, so narrowing it down into one simple sentence can be tricky. I don’t ever say “evangelist” but if someone comes out with it, I’ll agree. In short I work with people like you, but what I do, in my humble opinion, goes well beyond evangelism. My job is not to tell you what to do. My job is to inform, educate and show. I was going to say, “I not only work at the company but I’m a customer,” but someone already took that line. Damnit.

As you would expect, I spend much of my time talking about books, both physical and eBook.
I also spend a great deal of time consuming books. For me, at this point in time, almost entirely physical books, both illustrated and wordy, but I can feel the looming presence of “E” around the corner. I just started Murakami’s “1984.” I feel that much of what I do for Blurb is educate people about the Blurb process and about what a book means. What is it? How do you edit? How do you sequence? Do you want to sell it? How do you promote it? These are the kind of things I deal with on a regular basis. As you all know, I come from the photography world, NOT the book world, so over the past five years I’ve tried to learn as much as humanly possible. I’m NOT a book designer, so I have to give my guidance as an opinion rather than fact, but I think most people seem to understand this. In short, I love this work and find helping you with your book as satisfying as doing my own. Crazy? Probably. What can I say, I’m a SAINT.

The book in the photographs above is my latest, “Chamba” which is a look at my black and white Leica work from Peru. I like this book a lot but I will tell you right now, I had no grand plans for this little publication. I simply wanted to create a book of the images, a book that would force me, or allow me, to sit with the photographs and apply some critical thought. I find this process absolutely critical when it comes to making a body of work.








This second set of photographs if from another recent “book” comprised of images from Uruguay. This isn’t a book. It might look like a book, smell like a book, taste like a book or call itself a book, but it’s not. It’s just a sketch, a mental exercise, an idea. It’s a failed relationship. It’s a winning lottery ticket. It’s a long lost friend. It’s a betrayal. It’s a hit and run. It’s jury duty. It answers a few things. But people here it is, in print, physical and capable of giving me a paper cut. It’s real. Tangible. It makes me think. It makes me relive. It makes me nervous because I know how grand it was to BE there and make these images. This “book” is about the book but it’s about so much more, and this is the point I want to get across to you. Quit stalling and do it. Make something. Make a Blurb book [EVANGELIST WARNING: DEFCON 1} or a book from you own hands, or alternative vendor of choice. Just do it.

As you can see here, and by the top image, these are all Blurb 6×9 books, my new favorite size and flavor. I posted the top image because I want you to see how many of these I have, and this photo only represents a few. I don’t just make these books I USE them, and I USE them all the time. It is rare that I don’t have at least two of these with me. Tomorrow I work with young school kids and these books will accompany me. Last week I was in New Mexico, Blurbing it and working on a long-term project and that black “Wildness” book in the center was in my bag and in my car the entire time. In fact, I loaned out TWO copies of this book, just on this last trip alone. It’s a calling card. It’s a permission slip. It’s evidence. It’s proof of desire. People get it and they respect it and it opens doors. Am I going to sell 5000 copies and make a name for myself? No. Not even close. That’s not the point of these little babies. These books are about coming full circle. KNOWING I can make these books is enough to push me even harder to go out and actually make images. These books force me to edit. These books force me to sequence. These books force me to write, to explain myself and they force me to WONDER. Have you even leaned way back and looked up at the clouds and sky. I’m guessing yes, so you know the feeling. That’s what it’s like when you get these in the mail. The clouds move faster than you think and the blue is bluer than you ever imagined.

I have another one of these books, the 6×9 softcover, in the works.
This next book is about New Mexico and it is a direct result of being in the field, showing my existing book, explaining myself and knowing there is a need for a new book. Already my heart is beating a little faster. My mind flickers to hard drives, scanners, negatives and all the options that live before me. What are you waiting for?

29 Responses to “Blurb 6×9 Revolution”

  1. Chris Fuller says:

    I have enjoyed your posts about Blurb and I have looked at the web site. I like the idea of publishing something for myself to enjoy. My problem is the bewildering number of choices on the web site. What do you recommend for someone like me who would like to dip his toe in, but does not know where to start? I am not a pro and I do not aspire to riches, only to find medium for creative expression and publishing in this manner looks promising.

    • Smogranch says:

      Chris,

      My advice, don’t be afraid and just know that you are, chances are, NOT going to make “War and Peace” your first time out. So, embrace that and start testing. You are gonna break some eggs. Have fun, relax, ping me and I’ll help you.

  2. Maarten says:

    Your work inspired to make a book too of my photos. And you’re right, it’s not really about selling, it’s a calling card. Gave my father the first copy. Second project: a book of drawings.
    Thanks for inspiring!

    • Smogranch says:

      Maarten,

      Congratulations. Do you want to share your book? How did your father like it?

    • Maarten says:

      Thanks, you can see the book here: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/3204826. I’ve made it public. My father liked it very much, especially the preface (added a picture of his old rangefinder).

    • Smogranch says:

      Maarten,

      Would you be willing to have me “review” this and offer suggestions as to the overall design. There are some REALLY nice spreads in there, but I also see some spreads that are more challenging. AND, you also have a wide range of work. I would love to highlight the good parts while offering a suggestion or two. email me if you are interested……or let me know and I’ll email you!

  3. Michael Erb says:

    Oh man I love these posts! Every time you share about books it reminds me how much fun it is to create something you can hold! I know you are extremely busy so I was hoping you could point me towards materials that would start on the journey of answering a few questions you threw out there. I quote, “What is it? How do you edit? How do you sequence? Do you want to sell it? How do you promote it?” I don’t expect personal coaching just a few tidbits to get me started if you can spare the time. Thanks.

  4. nina says:

    very tantalizing.. encouraging.. I’m timid when it comes to my work.even as i have been honored with some exhibitions and having some images in publications… but i still am slow to get out there.. took years to even state i was a photographer… but i know in time. or sooner id like to put together some of these 6×9’s .. if nothing else as a calling card.. friends. family.. i shoot bc i love it. its my heart .. my voice. nothing more or less. no visions of grandeur.. editing is my enemy.. lots still undone. but in time id like to venture with this..

    • Smogranch says:

      Nina,

      These books for me are not about announcements either. The simple fact they force you to edit, think critically about your work and commit is benefit enough….

  5. Sean says:

    I want to buy that Uruguay book. Are you going to make it available?

    • Smogranch says:

      Sean,

      I might, but not at the moment. That book is just a sketch, and there are three other photographers involved. So, when we are done there will be a book..

  6. Sarah Hardie says:

    Daniel, thank you for being so inspiring! What a brilliant article, I really want to make my own book now. It is so great to hear about a book “revolution” that is something you can actually hold in your hands. E-Books depress me. I actually have a Blurb account that I have not used, so maybe this is the kick up the bum I need to do something with it. Thanks! Sarah xo

    • Smogranch says:

      Sarah,

      Very nice to hear. Most importantly, have fun and explore. Don’t feel like you need to make a masterpiece the first time out. I’ve made many books that are less than perfect, but have taught me many things along the way.

  7. My first self-published book was back in 2008 I think, seeing my images in a book was something very special.
    Am really liking the 6×9 as well. Just received an email saying my Blurb order has been shipped. Love those emails. 30 copies of my Peru book on the way!
    (Btw the 6×9 would be perfect if they were not glued but bound so they could lie flat…now that would be extraordinarily awesome)

    • Smogranch says:

      FBJ,
      Lay flat would be nice. A very complex process, and expensive, and most of the lay flat books I see fall apart very quickly. If someone can fix that durability issue it would be even more interesting. But, speaking to this, two of my favorite books of all time, both from HUGE traditional publishers, famous ones, are completely and totally falling apart. One book started to fade six months after I bought it, and it was kept in semi-dark room. The other, a “lay flat” book, has all the pages falling out. It is now about 300 loose pages because that style of bind just doesn’t hold up. AND, I’m the ONLY person who has looked at the book. These books were about $75 each.

  8. Paul Joyce says:

    I love reading these kind of posts and seeing any new books you create and never tire of the previews you show.

    As I needed to use a voucher I’m currently awaiting delivery of 3 6×9 books that I’ve put together. They are more of a test to see the quality/design as I’m a first time Blurb user and I was convinced to use them after your posts.

    They are currently private but you are more than welcome to take a look at them if you want and any comments/tips would be appreciated. Just let me know which email id I can send the links to.

  9. Paul Joyce says:

    I meant to say, I still refer to your Tips for Making a Blurb Book blog post (http://www.smogranch.com/?p=6849) as there is lots of great advice for anyone thinking about creating their first book.

  10. Dan, it’s indeed inspiring to see what you make out of your shoots. Having spent time with you in the field in Uruguay, and seeing your ‘sketch’ makes me want to do more. After your visit I did a couple of books and have been playing it this notion. It’s fun. It does bring a certain discipline to look at my work differently. I like that. This is one from my three day visit to Havana. It’s as a much a photo book as it is a travelogue. http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/3117369

    • Smogranch says:

      Martin,
      Good to know I’m rubbing off on you. Man, I really miss it down there. Think about that trip, and you, Diego, Clara, the dog, etc. I have a sinking suspicion I will be back. Some new things coming as well, things that I think you are going to dig, both physical and electronic. Hint, hint,

  11. Dan, It would be great if Blurb found a way to display this 6×9 horizontally. It make for ammuch nicer previewing experience on the site. Are there any plans to have this size on a landscape layout? I would really enjoy a format like this. Not sure how other feel.

    • Smogranch says:

      Martin,
      Not sure yet. I have requested, or suggested, the 6×9 in landscape form, not sure yet about the preview but I think there is much work being done on it now. As with most other things. Seems like we are perpetually upgrading……I with I could say the same about my images!

  12. Daniel, I have been browsing your blog this afternoon and have been reading many of these articles. Very inspiring and encouraging! Reminds me of the fact I should create little photo books more often. I’m considering to attend evening classes for graphic design as my knowledge in this domain is very basic.

    • Smogranch says:

      Hey Serge,

      My knowledge is fairly basic as well. I’m learning, studying InDesign as well. Take your time, have fun. Make experiments.

  13. Sid Pai says:

    Hi Dan – I never thought I would ever self publish but as of last week, I published my first work- http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/3408542 and have 2 more in the pipeline. You probably don’t have much time to review but this book is direct result of how much your work has inspired me and I would like to thank you for that. And like you said its fun, challenging and a great way to approach photography.

    • Smogranch says:

      Sid,
      Good to know I’ve corrupted yet another photographer! I’m telling you, there is nothing negative that can come from this exercise. I think it will teach you a lot about yourself, your photography and your storytelling. Thanks for sharing. If I get time I will review. I’m swamped at the moment, but will do so.

  14. Josie says:

    The Blurb Guy (hehe),

    I really like the size of the binding you’ve got in these 6x9s. About how many pages did you aim to make the ones shown here?

    Beautiful work!

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