As I work on my photo captions for my fourth photography book for Amherst Media, I started to think about a blog post on liveBooks.com’s blog, Resolve, by Miki Johnson with support from Andy Adams of Flak Photo concerning the future of photobooks by the year 2019. As a published author of three, traditionally printed photography “how-to” books, a fourth in editing and the recent release (http://www.freephotographybooks.com) of my revised fifth book, Photographic Therapy—The Power of Photography to Help Build or Rebuild Self-Esteem, I thought I’d chime on book publishing in a daring manner.
First, the publishing industry in general, from newspapers to bookstores, struggles in this tough economy. Technology has thrown many challenges at them, from Amazon’s Kindle to Sony’s Daily Edition and even Barnes and Nobles’ Nook, though Amazon has the iPhone edge when looking at smart phones as analogy. But then again, with the recent release of Apple’s iPad, the state of publishing is really going to take a new road.
Second, as an author, traditional publishers will tell you, it’s tough, book ideas are more scrutinized, marketing budgets are tighter and even royalties shrink in the percentage offered and the amounts paid out. The standard author receives 6 to 8-percent of net sales of their books, some more established or noted authors ride the sliding scale, up to ten or twelve percent, but the norm hovers around 8-percent of sales. So it’s not a get rich quick industry or the average author.
Authors or potential authors have to first write their book and a typical 128-page book, requires about a 25,000 word manuscript, normally not written overnight—the average writer writes, edits, rewrites and re-edits about 2,500 words per day. With life’s interruptions such as family and work, an author is lucky to write a book in a month.
The author normally has their manuscript “in the works” and woes a publisher with a book proposal consisting of a query letter, three sample chapters, an outline, expanded outline, marketing plan and in the case of photography books like mine, at least 50 initial images that will eventually expand to about 150 for the editor to choose from to illustrate their photography book. Normally a literary agent is not required to gain a publisher in this smaller genre of book publishing, but that also means no, or a very small, royalty advance.
Most authors are given about a year to complete their books upon acceptance, then after the manuscript is submitted, it goes through a few rounds of edits back and forth between the publisher’s editorial staff and the author. Eventually it will reach a laser-printed style “galley.” This galley gives the author and the publisher an idea of the layout, design and also another round of edits, captions and possibly even the ability to replace some images. Eventually the author receives a press proof, printed on the more traditional book paper itself, where both the publisher and author weigh in on any minor edits and color matching of the photos within the book—then it goes to press if no major changes are made. This entire process, after handing in the manuscript can take an easy three months.
Three months later the book is delivered to one of a few major distribution houses and is shipped from there, to brick and mortar bookstores, as well as the warehouses of some online retailers. Six months later, usually at least twice per year, the author receives their royalties based on the previous six months of sales and these royalties can be from a few hundred to over $20,000 or more, depending on the notoriety of the author, the quality of the work, the content, subject matter and marketing strategies. Photography books are not traditionally mainstream books, so authors won’t normally find themselves on the New York Times best-seller’s list and no one really gets rich. There are some residuals, like becoming a subject matter expert, paid speaking engagements and potential sponsorships., but the real reason for writing a book is more satisfying if it’s about passion for the craft than the return on investment.
Ultimately it can be a two-year process before an author receives royalties for their efforts and by that time, a good author, is already pushing their next book out the door—but for what? It’s certainly not the money at first, though it helps. Part of it should be their passion to spread the gospel of photography. Sometimes the photography message is for social awareness, change, or both. Sometimes it’s to teach others, like my how-to books. Sometimes it’s just to share a vision like my photographic therapy concept, and that’s what’s driving me to do something out of norm—I’m giving my Photographic Therapy—The Power of Photography to Help Build or Rebuild Self-Esteem away for free in a technology based, viral environment!
Now I’m sure there are a few authors as well as publishers saying, “It doesn’t make sense, free?” Well to put in an author’s perspective, the trade off is the immediate residual potential in exchange for passing up future royalties. While I’m not out to divulge all my marketing strategies yet, I’ll say, the keyword is potential, especially from an advertisers point of view. Think of free apps on the iPhone, aren’t many of those successful? Exposure to a larger audience certainly won’t hurt and obviously my sponsors an supporters would love a million downloads of my free photography book, but ultimately, it’s the message of my subject being delivered to anyone that’s interested. So could the future be free photography books with this line of thinking? Perhaps. I know of at least one photography book that is free right now and I’m working on a second.
While I originally soft-launched my free photography e-book to get feedback, I’m now re-releasing a better, revised, printable by anyone who downloads it. Not only is the website totally revamped, but this free photography book expanded from 77-pages to 105 pages and I’ve removed some images and added others. It’s professionally redesigned for easier reading and I’ve even added an additional chapter.
The new website, designed by the best photography website designers, liveBooks.com, also allows you to preview the free photography book before downloading. It’s free! No gimmicks, no adware, no spyware. Proof of that is the over 15,000 downloads of the original version with no complaints. Now if we could just convince Amazon, Sony, Barnes and Nobles, and Apple to give away their readers for free, then that would certainly doom the traditional publishing industry—or would it? If the publishers had developed the electronic reading devices, then perhaps they would give them away for free and charge for the book downloads–maybe that’s what Apple has in store for us with the new iBooks, but then again, iTunes isn’t exactly free.
While Amazon’s Kindle is not free, it’s certainly the equivalent of the iPhone in the smart phone world. However, I’m sure Amazon is aware of Apple’s upcoming release of the iPad and from what I’ve seen so far, it will rock and probably have the impact of the iPod and iPhone and soon Amazon will lose it’s first-mover advantage. Apple after all is the leader in new technology design—it’s about design and that’s why my free photography book is redesigned. Technology does change every Monday when the Board of Directors meet, but the publishing industry is changing by the book just like the telecommunications industry has changed with each phone. If you want the latest version of my free photography book, Photographic Therapy—The Power of Photography to Help Build or Rebuild Self-Esteem, make sure you register and download it at http://www.freephotographybooks.com.
Please let your friends, colleagues, and others know about this book, but all we ask is that you direct them to website so they will be on the list when I release my next free photography book—yes, I will release another on a different photography topic. Again, it’s free, no obligation, please talk about it on your blogs, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, photography forums and any social network—that’s all I ask, please do your par t if you like this book and get the word out—it only helps the world of photography.
Well that’s it for now and please don’t forget our servicemen and women around the world along with their families and friends, without them, we’d have nothing to read freely, God Bless! Rolando