Blurb Custom Books

The last few months at Blurb have been as entertaining as any since I’ve been around the company, and my history dates back to the 2006 era when things were just getting started. In a ONE MONTH period we announced offset printing, custom books, Blurb to Amazon, pick-and-pack and the Magcloud event. ONE MONTH.
With each of these announcements comes the nuance of incorporating these into your workflow. The way I like to describe what these mean is that you can truly do whatever it is you want to do. Want to print offset and POD together? Perhaps using the offset for your trade edition and POD for your limited edition? Go head. What to do an offset run, a magazine and Ebook from the same project? Go for it. I’ve said this since 2006, the only thing holding us back today is us. I’ve spoken a lot about learned behavior, and in my world nothing showcases learned behavior more than traditional book publishing. Personally, I think there is A LOT of room to grow when it comes to this model. Contrary to what you might think, I love traditional publishing. I don’t see life as either/or but rather as a multitude of options. Yesterday someone sent me a link to these two beauties. Telex Iran and Magnum Contact Sheets. And I know…..I KNOW, even with a book buying gag order in place by my wife…at least ONE of these will end up on my shelf in the coming weeks. I have 350+ monographs and illustrated books on my shelf currently, and if I can predict the future, this will only continue to grow.
Let me shine some light on the Blurb angle from MY perspective. Our new custom, offset offering is not a magic pill, but what it does allow for is you being the one in the drivers seat, which is how it should be in my humble opinion. The Blurb option is about freedom, time and flexibility. The publishing world is a bit slow and stodgy for me. I want to do what I want, when I want and how I want. Selfish? ABSOLUTELY. It is, after all, MY WORK. Also, my life can’t ever be entirely about a book. I can’t put my work on hold, my life on hold, my free time on hold and donate everything to doing a book, marketing a book and attempting to sell a book. Books are important for me, but as a photographer I feel my primary job is to make new work. I’ve seen plenty of folks put their entire life, and bank account, on hold and donate a year plus of their life to the cause. On one hand I admire the tenacity, but on the other I know, in many cases, what they have really given up. I also realize that a monograph style book (The Holy Grail) typically reaches a very small number of people. Remember, they are often times printed in runs of 3000 copies or less and many don’t sell. I need multiple streams, especially because I’m far more interested in what the public thinks, and those people IN my images, than editors, gallery owners, publishers or museum people. Again, I frequent galleries, publishers, museums, etc., but I find less and less relevance when it comes to my requirements as a photographer.(This was not always the case, and I know that my goals are different than a lot of other people and in many cases they are aiming their books at PRECISELY these people.) The good news is that all of us now have these options.
I am a HUGE believer that WE are the media today, in whatever shape we want. WE are no longer beholden to middle men. Want to be a magazine publisher? Do it. Want to publisher your own monograph in WHATEVER form you want, with WHATEVER edit you want aimed at WHATEVER audience you want…then DO IT.
We no longer need to be chosen. We no longer need permission, although many of us are still waiting around for it.(I truly do understand this. If feels good to be given a pat on the back.) This is where Blurb comes in. Hire the designer you want, make the edit you want, dream up a size you want and get the damn thing done, out and into the world at whatever pace you want. You are STILL going to have to pay for it, but why not pay for the book you actually want at the pace you want and for the audience you want? And speaking of audience….anyone see that post I sent out on Twitter a few weeks ago? About the 1000 true friends? THIS is what I’m talking about. A few years ago when I did my short run magazine all I did was ONE blog post. Boom, gone. Sold out. I remember thinking at the time, “You know, if I really made an effort to bond with those of you read this blog I could have probably sold 500 copies pretty easy.” I like you people, and I feel that there is a core group here that has a bond of photo-likeness. Imagine how dangerous you would be as a self-publisher with 1000 true friends and a minimum book run of 750 books.(Fewer in some cases.) But let me restate something….YOU are still going to have to pay for your book, and this is where the paradigm has also shifted. YOU are now in direct communication with you audience, and for the first time don’t need “middle-people” to accomplish you publishing goal. Presale is something I think many people need to explore MUCH further than they already have. I’ve always said your database is your most important tool. Imagine having an email list of 500 people who are your supporters. Maybe once you twice a year you send an email saying “Hey, I’m making an offset run on a book about X are you interested?” This is doable NOW. People have actually been doing this for quite a while now and so can you! Now..imagine getting the money upfront to pay for the offset run……you see where I’m going with this? El futuro nuevo!!!
The images you see in this post are from a custom book that went through Blurb a few months ago. I know a little about this book because I shot some of the images including the one you see at the bottom. I have ONE copy of this left, one that has been difficult to keep a hold of due to the number of people who have asked to have it, buy it, etc. EVERYONE who has seen this wanted one. I gave one to a friend who has deep wine/food interests and within days someone had stolen it, always a good indicator of a book’s success in my humble opinion. I can’t imagine the process of having to do this via traditional channels. I would have simply never agreed to it. I’ve got too many others things on my plate. What you had was a soulful project, a few driven individuals and the belief the world would be a better place with this book circulating the pathways of life. The creator of this project wanted a simple, farm-to-table book that was small, crafty and intimate. He partners up chefs and winemakers, providing each pairing with their own mini-book which then combine to form the set. You can purchase them here if you are so inclined. I’ve had these books with me over the past few weeks, and can say without hesitation they have provided THE most dialogue, interest and conversation than ANY of the other books I’m currently schlepping around including all my new traditional monographs.

Finally, some advice. If you are viewing the Blurb offset approach like another traditional publisher then don’t bother. I really think you have to look at the PLATFORM. Not one piece….but ALL of the pieces. POD, offset, magazine, E, pick and pack, presale, etc, etc. Now, I can help, offer suggestions, explain what I’ve seen others do, so ping me if you want to hear my state of affairs.

We live in a time of choice, luckily, and my dream is to see talented people make the best decision. I would love to see people publish the project they have always wanted to publish, not necessarily the commercial choice, or the book they THINK they are supposed to publish. Be smart, work hard and the options are there…

Yesterday, while at the Blurb office, I began to understand that I MIGHT have an offset/custom book in my semi-near future. But people it’s gonna be WEIRD. I will be unlike any photography book I’ve seen, and I really don’t know if ANYONE outside of my mother would actually read this book. But what I realized I can do is write it, shoot it, build it, create a digital version and show it around, see if people run away or hug me and offer large wads of cash for my future publishing endeavors. It could happen….

FYI: Don’t look for custom book sizes and materials on the Blurb site, or in our software…..these are CUSTOM books. They are what you want them to be. Figure out what you want and then go here. Get a quote then go make history.

Stay tuned for more custom book stories….

New Nicaragua “EMag”

Best ten bucks I ever spent. Okay,I have probably spent ten bucks on something even better say…a twelve-pack (Milwaukee’s Best) while I was in college or a dinner of for a girlfriend I was hoping to dazzle with my smoothness. (Sorry honey, we are talking YEARS ago.) But I have to say this electronic, digital, Nica thingy is a pretty good use of my time and money.


Am digging this new toy. Yes, the answer is yes. OF COURSE there is the print version, which I just paid my hard earned Cordobas for, and it’s on the way. It’s a small, 20-pager, less than six bucks. I used to think I would make extravagant Ebooks and mags, but then I remembered I don’t know how to design anything like that. Also, something else happened. I showed one of these babies to a friend, on my third iPad before it broke, and something funny happened. A FRIEND mind you. Let me say this again…A FRIEND. Someone who I THOUGHT would have spent copious time pouring over my BRILLIANT work, only to have them spend about 45 seconds, flip, flip, flipping through, listening to HALF of ONE audio file and then hand the iPad back to me AND THEN BEGAN TALKING TO ME ABOUT THEIR OWN WORK.

So I did this Nicaragua Emagazine. The difficult part here is that I didn’t have much imagery to work with. I didn’t want to use anything that was workshop related. You see I have no real goal with this thing. Not trying to sell it or promote it etc., just doing it to enjoy it for myself, and to play with the stills/audio situation. I am still a novice here folks. What I design today are VERY simple Emags or Ebooks. The reality is most people have very little attention span. Sad but true. So, I design for the modern brain, not my ideal brain or the brain of 1985….a brain which had little more to do than wait for the next episode of Miami Vice! Now, this isn’t to say I don’t design more complicated or sophisticated work. I do, but I don’t necessarily put that work up front and center and ask people to consume it. The second version of this, and the print piece, are already in version two in terms of design, and I’m certain there will be at least a version three.
This particular Emag is just single image per spread and single audio file, most which are thirty-seconds or less. Remember when a three-minute YouTube video was considered the “sweet spot?” Ya, try that now. Even Yoda can’t hang for three minutes….just TOO BUSY apparently because every single item of every single day now is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT. Me, I spend hours watching gun videos and people 4x4ing across swamps in the southern part of America. What else do I have to do?
Even in 2014 I’m still running into vast amounts of confusion when it comes to something as simple as a digital version of a print piece. Still. No joke. I run into the “Oh, I can’t do one of those because it will kill my print sales,” people. In short, I’ve NEVER ONCE seen this happen. Also, I’ve never heard this expression from someone who actually made anything “E.” Never. Not once. I also run into the “What am I going to do with that?” crowd. I can only do so much. Make one, think for 15 seconds. You can and will figure it out. And finally the “I would never use that,” crowd. Lots and lots of art schools students in this crowd who cling to their “I’m an artist and I’m a print person” call to arms. I know this because of my job, but also because I was one of those people. I even dropped the “I would never show my work on a phone,” lines. (My chest is puffed out even now.) Until I started showing work on my phone. Granted, not to anyone I was really trying to impress, but handy situations like being on a plane and my prints are in my checked bag kind of thing.
Emags/Ebooks are fun, and they make me think about my work in a very different way. They also make me think about audience. For $10 I can acquire the first copy then distribute for free, globally, or sell if I so choose.(Read up on Ebooks in general and you will know what a hot topic this is at the moment.) I’m in a house right now, right this second, with three other people who are all on laptops with Mavericks. I can email them this little baby and boom it’s in their iBooks. However….they also have a stack of unread magazines on their kitchen counter…so Uncle Dan isn’t going to ignore that little reality either. But let me restate….UNREAD magazines. Undivided attention and time is what most of us are after, and it is at a premium people. I don’t have enough work to make a book from this trip, so it will live in magazine and Emag form only. Again, just for me. When I finish the mag, get it where I want, I’ll print a few, leave them around till my wife throws them out. Because that is what I do. This Emag, Estory, Ebook world is SO NEW and SO YOUNG that I feel it brims with excited. I don’t understand it all, don’t yet know what will work and what won’t, at least with any degree of certainty, but the game is very intriguing to me. I am purchasing a new book, “augmented.” A novel. Massive undertaking available in both print and “augmented” version. I’m diving in, and JUST reading the intro I’ve already figured out a new direction to take on my NEW Emag I’ll be starting in the new week. The world is a hybrid place now, where the straight and traditional still have a solid home but the “anything” is possible is always within reach. I say we go for it.

If you make one of these email it to me and I’ll load it on my phone/laptop and will show it to folks when I’m traveling the world. I get tired of looking at my own stuff.

Photography note: The cover image, the all black first image with streaks of white, is an image of embers from a fire drifting up into the night sky. The title page image is a reflection of me in a stainless steel outhouse door. The rest are self explanatory. PS: you can click on these files to make them slightly larger…

Five Minutes in Miami

This is the kind of shit I take when I don’t have enough time. Random. It’s fun. What else is there to do anyway when all you are doing is driving around thinking about Miami Vice. Legba was on these streets man until Crockett put a slug in his ass. Crockett killed almost everyone in the city, but new people, bad people, kept showing up and now we have this. Abandoned arts complexes and lost dreams. Shattered like glass during the World Trade party that happens once a year. All I could think about was the black Daytona and the chrome plated .45. Two extra clips in the shoulder holster. F%$# backup.
Sick as a dog. Barely able to keep my eyes open, my lungs working yet there is a pull to make sense of it all. Where did they film here? Who died on this corner? Was it Tubbs with the sawed off shotgun under his silk jacket? You never saw Tubb’s crib because the guy was slaying a different woman each night. Ricardo.
These things don’t add up to anything concrete, but over time, if you do enough of them they oddly do have value. Like Castillo. A man of few words but when he spoke you better polish your buckle or he will go Golden Triangle on you. The scene in the Speedo is like a scar on my optic nerve. Wander, wander, keep wandering. Thank God it’s cloudy or we would all be dead. Fizzle and smoke outlines on the sidewalk. Overlapping all the chalk outlines of the past. We almost lost this place once. For realzy. That’s why it’s interesting.
You could come here and disappear. As they say “If Miami doesn’t have it, they haven’t invented it yet.” True. Maybe. Or not. You come here to be somebody else, or to make that ONE score that will set you up. Smugglers Blues. Miami-Bogota-Miami. Dade County lockup or Scarab and honeys. It happens all the time. I look for it but only a little. I keep my eyes just above the horizon line. Palm Trees through dark tint. Ceviche. Spanish feels like a chore. Just keep the blood flowing.
Looking up, always up. The lazy way. Or maybe down too. It’s the middle part where we find the gray and the difficulties. Complicado. Back pain. Head pain. Sunglasses inside and it’s still too light. Voices, I hear voices. Man, if Calderon was here I’d totally go out on his yacht. He seemed like a good guy. Till, ya, you got it, Crockett smoked him in his own house. What happened to the boat? Is it still tied up in some harbor growing mold and waiting for someone to inflate the dingy? We never looked for it. Even after Cuban coffee. Throat like needles. Glass. Did I eat a lightbulb? I’ve threatened to.
Do these parts connect? Probably. But it really doesn’t matter. That little rectangle. So silly. Is it time for a show? Just kidding. Talk about head pain. And besides, you are SUPPOSED to shoot color here right? I mean that’s what the tour guide says. I never saw a sign for scenic view. “Hey, you can’t take pictures here.” “What?” “Says who?” Where do these people get it? Is there a memo circulating around? Am I under surveillance? The bug van? Man, I’d kill to have Switek’s white pants. Is it too late?

Nicaragua Notes: Free Shoot


Toward the end of the workshop week we had an afternoon staring back at us as wide open. Well, let me rephrase that. Those of us who were not responsible for the technical and production side of the workshop, meaning editing, sequencing, rating and producing films were staring at a few hours to kill. It felt odd due to the frenetic pace of the prior days. The kids were buzzing around like mosquitos, shooting around the lodge and trying to make pictures of each other. We decided to just walk, down the camino tierra leading from the lodge, downhill through farm properties and out into the jungle. Not really knowing what we would see, we just went.
Remember, photography was still new. Still unexpected, unsuspecting and illuminating. I was amazed at how positive, how forward thinking and how excited they were to shoot anything and everything. There was a purity to their action that reminded me I need to keep things in perspective with my own work. After you do this photography thing long enough you suddenly have an agenda. Some people call it career, but either way it changes you. The kids reminded me about purity of thought and purity of action.

No matter what we do the world moves along at the pace it chooses to move. Things happen and our job is to be there and witness. A small farm, the foreman with his radio and machete. Moving his cows down the road and suddenly there are a dozen kids in a full-court-press of photography, working the scene from every angle. Helping each other, pointing things out, making suggestion. “Make a color photograph in black and white,” I said. Suddenly they are shooting and rushing up to show the preview screen. Easy.
Cows on a road might not be your cup of tea, might not be inspiring to you, but I am saying it should be. This little scene reminded me that I’ve taken far, far too much for granted. Star players don’t just play the final match and hold aloft the trophy. Star players grind it out through round after round. They might be the star but they are also part of the foundation. Just as everyday images are to us photographers. Being with these kids and watching them work made me realize the cows, and this road, were the most beautiful thing, and most beautiful place, in the world. What was I waiting for? A Yeti to appear? A dance troupe? Something exotic? No silly, the cows are exotic. The road, the landscape, the foreman, the kids and the MOMENT it all came together. Forget agenda, forget career, forget all that which means NOTHING in the long run, or even the now for that matter.
Just shoot. Shoot what’s there. Enjoy. Record and reflect. Study. Admire and respect. It’s very, very simple if you get out of the way and just let it be.

For those of you reading this post who are thinking I’m posting about photography you might be missing the point. This post isn’t about photography, certainly not good photography, so slow down and think about what I’m saying. Life is a seesaw battle, back and forth. Learn and unlearn. Learn and unlearn. I’ll admit, most of the good things that have happened to me in the last five years with a camera in my hand have all been from unlearning. Baggage. Leave it behind and just look. It sounds easy but it surely isn’t. I know this might sound like a sermon, but I keep seeing so many folks go down the road of being liked, being trendy, etc, and what it gets you is simply, at best, a short term gain. All you have to do is channel the feeling you had when you FIRST picked up a camera, like these kids, and use that to your advantage. It had nothing to do with success, a career, books, magazines, galleries, museums or anything else. It was about the hunt and the moment. Crediting what is in front of you and how fantastic that is, long before the idea of filtering it became a reality. Don’t filter, just enjoy. And realize you might not ever walk those same steps again.
Since returning from this trip I’ve continued to unlearn the things that Nicaragua, and the kids, proved to me I no longer needed to know, or at least respond to. It’s liberating actually. I hope these posts have meaning to someone outside of the guy striking the keys. There is much to do in the photographic world. No time to waste. All we need to do is connect and forget.