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Self Publishing For Photographers

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Self publishing is a major growth industry but it seems photographers just aren’t interested? I’m guessing a lot are concerned about image security if they start publishing digital photo books, but I’m sure most just haven’t really appreciated the potential here. Here’s a few stats that might make you think about it a little differently…

  • Ebook sales grew 177% last year.
  • 53% of people who buy eBook readers state that they now read more books than they did before.
  • 51% of eReader owners increased their purchases of eBooks in the past year.
  • 176% Increase in US electronic-book sales in 2009.
  • 86% of eReader owners read on their device more than once a week.
  • 51% of eReader owners read on their device on a daily basis. (Wow!)
  • eReaders are now owned by 1 in 10 Americans. 12% of Americans plan to buy one within 6 months.
  • The average Amazon customer buys 3.3x as many books after buying a Kindle than before they had one.
  • One out of five people who buy digital books from the Kindle store don’t own a Kindle device. (i.e., 20% of sales are on iPads, etc.)
  • iPad controls 16% of the eReader market and rising.
  • iPad sales are expected to be 15.6 million this year and 46 million next year.

The short version is, Amazon, Apple Store and others are selling thousands and thousands of digital books every single day of the week, but so far they are almost all text-based books, with very few pictorial options.

And all these distributors will tell you, ANY type of book that sells well in print is going to sell well as a digital download.

So the big question for me is, why aren’t more photographers cashing in on this?

Well image security is a concern for some, but realistically, is it any different to a print reproduction?

I know I’ve seen instances where someone has clearly scanned a print repo to use in their own layout, but there wouldn’t be many photographers who’d turn down an offer to have their coffee table book published for them?

So while there’s always a chance that an unscrupulous reader might do screen capture from an ebook and re-use that without permission, is it really a reason not to publish in the first place?

When you consider how big this market is, and how much bigger it’s set to get, I certainly don’t think so.

Textbooks are already a huge market … sooner or later they’ve got to go digital. Even more so when you look at the university/college market where students are already racking up massive loans and many of the required texts are priced in the small-car range.

Obviously a lot of the appeal of a Coffee Table book is it’s physical presence on the coffee table, but surely a lot of people do by them to read and look at the pictures? Yet looking through Amazon or the Apple store, you see very little cross over to digital publishing for this genre.

The DIY market has always been a hot niche for hard copy publishing, but again, most of the digital editions you find are very text-heavy with few images. Again, that’s got to be another area where there’s big potential for self-publishing photographers.

And finally, my hot-tip would have to be travel guides. It’s a major print market and ideally suited to digital, and as far as image rich-content goes, largely untouched in the digital market place. For photographers it’s also a passive revenue stream waiting to happen …

How long would it take you to write a short illustrated travel guide for your region? I’d wager most photographers have the local images already, so it’s just a matter of doing a little research of the major attractions and writing a page or so on each, then getting it onto the right format. Do that through a site like Smashwords and they only need a fairly simple Word Doc format and they’ll reformat it for you, for every other ebook format you can imagine!

I did this earlier this year with an aviation novel my father had written and it’s now been ‘published’ and distriubted to multiple other platforms including some major online book retailers. Pretty impressive really and I’m currently working on repeating the process with a few of my own titles and a couple of more pictorial items.

Print On Demand Technology

Another option I set up for my fathers book, Change In Direction, was using Print On Demand technology provided by a  company called Createspace [ You can check it out here … a great aviation themed thriller if that’s your thing! ]

Once the book was formatted to their specs it got added to the catalog and people could order it online as they would at any other bookstore. The fulfillment process is a little different though… within minutes of your order it hits the presses: pages first, then the full colour cover, then it’s bound, glued and trimmed, dropped out the end in to a post pack, an address label printed and into the mail.

All within 10 minutes of the customer placing an order.

The best part?… with POD books, the writer can actually make more per copy than they would through a traditional print publishing contract. The costs are no doubt going to be higher for photo-heavy content, but prices are traditional higher for this kind of material as well, so I’m sure there are plenty of options out there waiting that could work extremely well.

Near as I can tell though, very few photographers are doing anything in this area?

So what’s your big book idea? I’m yet to meet a serious photographer who hasn’t got at least one, and turning the idea into a reality has never been so achievable …. so maybe it’s time to act on it!


The first step is to decide on your format … Print or digital, or Both, and then find a publishing platform.

For my money I’d have to suggest digital for starters … and you can’t go past Smashwords.

You can checkout Smashwords here. The link goes to my Dad’s book … consider grabbing a copy if you found this article useful, you’ll make an old pilot’s day! (And it’s a pretty good yarn as long as you’re not afraid of flying!)

Then once your done. have a look at the Print On Demand options on CreateSpace. [Yep, that’s a link to my Dad’s book again!]

That’s not going to be a such a good return for photo-heavy books, but it could be a great way to test the market, and if you find you’re selling a good number of POD copies, it might be time to look at more traditional publishing options. (And a heap of POD sales is a pretty good foot-in-the-door at your local publisher! )

So if you’re one of those photographers with a hundred book ideas, stop day-dreaming and start doing something about it. It’s never been easier and the demand has never been higher!

… and don’t forget to grab a copy of Change of Direction!

PS. If you do decide to self-publish, keep in mind the publishing is the easy part … you also have to be prepared to do some shameless self-promotion!




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