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….