Blurb Advice

Make the right publication.

It sounds simple, but Blurb has become a truly diverse offering, so the options are exponentially what they were a few short months ago. With new additions like offset printing, Blurb to Amazon and Blurb Global Retail Network the user has many choices to make.

But I don’t want to talk about these things just yet because LONG before these decisions are made you have to have a serious conversation with yourself in regard to who you are, what work you actually have and what your audience will truly consume. You have to make the right publication.

I say this after several years of working for the company, and after meeting with thousands of people across several continents. I’m going to narrow this advice to the photographer world for several reasons. First, most of those reading this blog are from that world, and also because I’ve met with more photographers than any other genre of the creative world. Today is another story, but historically this has been true.
Philip Vigil, artist, in his studio in the Jemez.
(I need new bio pic so bad I’m reduced to this. A selfie from a bathroom near the Jemez Reservation.)

I still see a fair number of photographers making publications that feel historical, expected or in other words publications that look like something they think they are supposed to make. Look, making any publication has the potential to teach you copious amounts in regard to your work, your design skills, your typography skills and your ability to move this book if moving it was part of the original plan, and remember, not all publications are made equal or even to be sold for that matter. I’m currently making a magazine for someone else, and they don’t even know I’m making it. (Yes, I’ve lost it.)

I ALWAYS start with a goal. Experimentation? Portfolio? Catalog? Sell it? Don’t sell it? Sell it to those I already know? Sell it to those I don’t know? What is the work? What book does the work demand? (Not the other way around!). What about a magazine? What about a series of magazines? Do I have audio for an Ebook? Do I need an Ebook? Do I even understand how an Ebook works? Folks, these are just a FEW of the things that go through my head upon making the decision to put more publications into the world.

I don’t know you personally, and I don’t know your work necessarily, but I can almost GUARANTEE that NOBODY you know wants to look at 400 photographs. Or 300. Or 200. Or even 100. Not unless you did a book of nude celebrities, and if this is the case then ignore this entire post. But for the rest of you, myself included, we need to realize the world is a very different place in 2014, and the one thing that is unequivocally in short supply is attention. I simply can’t take in that many images. I’d rather see ten great images in a clean and powerful pub than a 250 image opus on your trip to India.

The first question I get from a lot of photographers is “What is the biggest book I can make?”

Not a good place to start actually. Good for Blurb? Yes. Quite. But we want you to have success, to be happy, and certain books demand the largest size, the highest page count and the top-of-the-line materials, but many do not. Most deserve a very specific set of ingredients, all of which start with the work.

Ask yourself what the work feels like. What size compliments that feeling? What materials? Uncoated stock? Coated? Landscape format? Portrait? Or does a magazine better suite your story? What price point does the publication need to stay under for it to be viable to the audience you are searching for? Would the work be better as multiple books? A set perhaps? Chapters? Or maybe the EPub will open your work up to an entirely new, global audience who may or may not be able to purchase a print copy?

Resting on my handmade bookshelves at home are over 350 monograph style publications, most of which were published traditionally. The truth is I rarely spend much time with these publications. It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with them, I do, but life gets in the way. I spend more time with the odd balls, the one-offs the publishing orphans. They FEEL different. They feel wildly personal, almost as if the photographer or artist did ONLY what they wanted to do, and consequently these publications have a resonance.

So you have some choices ahead of you. Make the most of them, and enjoy the process. These questions, this exploration is what makes all of this so much fun. And don’t worry about hitting home runs. They will happen if you just focus on plot and swing easy.

I’d like to continue this Blurb advice theme over the coming months, but more specific to certain topics. Also, you people interested in podcasts? Hit me back and let me know. I’ll continue the other content as well, but these two things are interesting to me.

For your listening pleasure I’ve included a link to the interview I did in regard to magazines.

Near and Fargo: New Mexico Dawn Patrol 20140902

“I hope I run into the bear on a downhill,” I thought as I rounded the blind corner in a tuck and in the drops. The trash cans along the road had been turned over, sorted through and consumed. Bear country. At 30mph I might just glide by, but in the steep sections I was moving so slowly I could see the individual knobbies on my front tire.

IMG_3222
Maybe my flashing headlight would lull Mr. Bear into a trance and allow my passage without complaint. Or send he or she off into the brush at warp speed. As it turned out, no bear. Not today. Perhaps they too were hungover after the holiday weekend, food drunk on sloppy campsite dweller trash. Up early today, before the sun, an extra thermal layer to protect my fragile, shrinking body. Nobody on the road. The sun rimming the Sangres.
IMG_3224
Although I ride with others, for the most part, riding is a solitary pursuit. I like being alone, on my own, and at the mercy of the environment. I daydream, visualize and talk to myself. When I my legs burn and feel tired I pedal harder, just to see what happens and if I can recover. I’ve ridden this route many times. It’s somewhere between 23 and 27 miles but the GPS always cuts out and says “Sorry, not really sure how far you went.”
IMG_3227
That’s okay. It’s just an idea more than a challenge. It’s simply about being out. Long rolling downhills, steep uphills and the shadow cast as the sun peaks the mountains and lights up the path in a vibrant yellow swath. I watch my own form, and that of the bike, as they roams the rock, dirt and high desert scrub. Coasting and looking. Waiting for what lives around the bend.

Near and Fargo: New Mexico 20140831

“I haven’t ridden since May,” my friend said.

“Good.” “I want you fat and slow,” I replied.

The goal was just twenty-five miles of hilly, New Mexican gold. My house, north of town, east of town and then back into the guts of the city. But this was my first ride with someone else in roughly a year. I knew we would ride fast, too fast, because neither of us knew the correct pace. I on the Fargo and he on his road bike. The route begins straight up. Within ten minutes neither of us can speak as we gasp for anything we can. “I can’t talk anymore,” I said. “Give me ten minutes.”

Cold to hot and the sun begins to show it’s face. Strong enough to tan my arms through sun sleeves. Lips chapped. Legs on fire, but the conversation, when possible, is fantastic. That’s one of the great things about this pursuit. Time in the field. Time to think. Time to talk. Time to wonder if coincidence is really that or something far more.
IMG_3211
Heading west from a small bridge. “Now we have a nice, long downhill,” I say lowering into the drops and crouching just over the top bar. The road is rough, vintage New Mexico, with dirt, glass, broken road shards and other debris. The bike is so stable and rolls supremely over everything in my path. Rounding at corner at high speed I nail a medium sized rock lying in deep shadow. It fires off the tire like a gunshot into the brush but the bars never tremble or move.

By mile ten my legs are good. Solid. Ready. A short stop for a bite and then back to finish the ride. Done.
IMG_3215
“Will you ride with me now?” my wife asks as I roll to a stop in front of the casita. “Sure.” “Why not.”

Bikes on the back of The Duck and off south of town where the road ends and the dirt begins. She is tentative, still learning, but the trail is perfect. I air down the Conti’s but she doesn’t want me to TOUCH her bike. A short, steep drop and the trail begins. Twenty-five miles of rolling singletrack. It’s beautiful. Truly beautiful as the wind from the east assures us a tail wind on the return trip. A few steep, sandy dips but otherwise packed to perfection with the wet summer.

This is my first real trail work on the Fargo, and I’m amazed at how solid it is, how smooth. Even with the new tires, and the sand, the ride is fantastic. My seat post and saddle making strange popping noises, but I pretend they are bird sounds and enjoy the ride.

Near and Fargo: New Mexico 20140830

There are hills here. Oh ya, there’s that. First ride, out and back, 16 miles with a little over 1100 feet of climbing. Not much, but enough compared to Southern California. The air is clean here, so my lungs burn from lack of as opposed to quality. First light, alone and bordering on cold. Fall is winking at us from the shadows.

IMG_3201
Rivers of Earth, dried and washboarded cover the road. The silence or morning punctured by tire on powder, then back to silence as the wheels find tarmac once again. My seat post creaks. In fact, my seat appears to be broken, or sagging, forcing me to sit on the far back rim. Adapting is the key. I’m down to 157 pounds, and I’ve never broken a seat before.
IMG_3202
The community is still quiet. A ride quietly to keep the dogs at bay, a chance to bark missed as I slip by. The bike is so solid, so stable and geared for these places. Comfortable. Effortless. Me on the other hand, a temperamental creature. Unsure what I can do. Consequences around the bend if I go too hard. New meds are helping, but everyday is a maiden voyage.
IMG_3203
A tire change. Travel Contacts spin silently on the road, so smooth. And quiet. And when the road turns to dust they are just fine. Even in deepish sandy spots I roll across. Water bottles, x 3, go down rapidly as the environment sucks out all that I have to give. Mile after mile ticks by. I love it here.
IMG_3204
The return trip to Santa Fe is downhill and I mean downhill. No pedaling required for eight miles and all the speed your nerve can handle. The bike is stable, very stable and rolls almost as well as my road bike. At home others want to ride, so back on I go, legs somewhat in rebellion but luckily they are slow and I can follow and watch as the light turns to white-hot midday form.

For those of you wondering. This bike is far more capable than my cross bike, and more comfortable. This bike is also as stable as my old touring bike, but again, far more capable. I have it loaded down somewhat, but it doesn’t ride like a heavy bike. I can ride 40 miles on this and feel like I haven’t really ridden, not something I could say with my carbon cross bike or my old steel touring frame. There is something strange going on with the seat however, which is odd. The center part of the saddle collapsed to some degree, but shows no crack on the underside. Thudbuster seat post creaks like mad but I think this is common, and I still love having that small bit of give.I think there are nicer version of this post out there, and could be worth exploring. Rode Shimano my entire life, so still getting used to SRAM, but just as capable. However, if I was touring mostly I would go Rohloff. Tire change was huge. From 2.2 knobbies to Continental Travel Contact 2.0, which by the way they advertise as 700×50 but are actually 28×2.0.(Tire math is more confusing than high-school trig.)

An Outlet I’ve so Needed

You know me by now. I simmer.

As I write this my leg twitches and my mind races about the things I’ve been exposed to. Just in the past half day here at the Blurb office. I’m an interloper. “Why are you here,” people ask. “Ah, it’s hard to explain.” My journal sits near my left hand, slowly filling with what I need to get out, but filling FAR slower than ever before. At one point in my life what flowed on these pages was very much about volume. Violent quivers of things I just needed to rid myself of. But now things are different. Short, choppy blocks of notes more than prose. But they FEEL like they might be okay. Or good even. I really don’t know.
Recently a friend asked “Hey, do you know about Hi?” Minutes later I was signed up and “sketching.” This is free form, raw, literary expression and something I’ve never had before. Different from this blog. A community, described as “real-time” and I feel it.
Hi

You see writing for me, real writing, the thing I do alone in the dark, has always been intensely private, veiled under the suspicion it only made sense to me. Maybe not. A few years ago I wrote something in the middle of the night, a piece about a drive by shooting. I made it up. The shooting actually happened, but I fabricated what I felt was really going down. I sent it to a friend who sent it to an editor and BOOM it was printed. Everywhere. “Have you written anything like this before?” the editor asked. “I have bins in my garage filled with hundreds of books of this material.” Not saying it’s all good, but I’m saying it’s there.

I’m not sure how I use Hi is how it was originally intended. I think for many it’s about making a mobile image and then sharing a thought. But as all of you know, I’m a film photographer, so I don’t use shoot digital unless I have no other choice, and I don’t make images with my phone. I dream of visiting Tokyo with processing tanks and a scanner and spending my late nights in the dark, the room periodically flooded by the slow burn of a scanner moving across silver grain. So, for me this site is about reflections. I have twenty-five-years of images, themed, stand alone and random. With each comes memory and experience and this is what I’m attempting to share.

Also, Hi is very much about community. So is Smogranch, but historically Smogranch has been photo-centric. Hi is also about imagery, but it’s the wordy part that I find most intriguing. Both for personal and professional reasons I’m spending far less time with photographers and far more with authors, so finding these folks scattered around the world, or in my hometown, has been illuminating.

So now I’m thinking. A lot. What does this really mean? Nothing? Everything? This word thing is in my blood. Gramps was full-time, full-on for thirty years. I have a sinking and painful suspicion my life is going to change. Stay tuned for the fallout. And those of you so inclined you should check out this site.