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Adventures In Making A Photography Book – Part 1 – Getting Started

The cover of my 2nd  volume of Everybody And Their Mother - Idyllwild, CA.

The cover of my 2nd volume of Everybody And Their Mother – Idyllwild, CA.

Hello Friends and Bloggers,

Tucked neatly in the San Jacinto Mountains of Southern California is a small village called Idyllwild. The place is quirky and so are the residents. The mayor is a golden retriever. The village mascot is the Idyll-Beast. I have been consumed with producing 2 volumes of photography books of the unique citizens of Idyllwild depicted in their most comfortable surroundings: work, home, or the forest. Free spirits, shop owners, professors, and those down on their luck grace the pages. The series is called Everybody And Their Mother – Idyllwild, CA. 

While the village clearly has a sense of humor, it takes the arts and community very seriously. For the past twenty years, award-winning musicians gather from all over the country for Jazz in the Pines, raising money for students of Idyllwild Arts Academy, the famous high school for international teenagers talented in music, visual arts, fashion design, film, and more. The proceeds of this book are donated to the Gina Genis Scholarship Fund for an Idyllwild Arts student. I am happy to report the books have been successful with brisk sales, and the scholarship fund has a healthy amount in it to aid a worthy student.

Volume 1 of Everybody And Their Mother – Idyllwild, CA (released July 5, 2013) began my journey to document the population of the entire village. Volume 2 (released September 5, 2014) continues the Idyllwild experience.

The front cover of Everybody And Their Mother - Idyllwild, CA Volume 1

The front cover of Everybody And Their Mother – Idyllwild, CA Volume 1

This has been a monumental undertaking of time and finances. Many of my readers are themselves photographers, so I thought you might like to know what publishing a photo book entails.

First, you must have a good idea. Something many people are interested in, to ensure many sales. If your subject matter is too narrow or too eccentric, you are limiting the amount of people who will be willing to buy your book. Save those images to exhibit in more appropriate venues such as museums or galleries. In addition, if your subject matter is something that people can take with their cell phones, such as landscapes or flowers, you need to make sure your images are far superior to what the general public can make, or there is no reason for them to drop hard-earned dollars on your book. Ask yourself this important question: why would anyone pay money for my book? You need a solid answer, and that answer has to be more than “because I want to make a book”. Offer your audience something they cannot do themselves, and are highly interested in.

Second, you need financing. You need money for producing the books, advertising, and shipping. I chose to use a professional printing company rather than a print-on-demand company because I find the quality of print-on-demand far inferior to a pro printer. Let’s break down the differences between the two types of companies.

Ted Gorzny in his apple orchard, from Everybody And Their Mother - Idyllwild, CA Volume 2

Ted Gorzny in his apple orchard, from Everybody And Their Mother – Idyllwild, CA Volume 2

Print-on-demand is convenient. You can order books as your customers place orders with you, saving you up front expenses, and preventing you from spending a lot of money if your books don’t sell. You can even have the print-on-demand company drop ship the book to your customer. This sounds great, but you are giving up two important things: profits and quality.

I printed Economy Portraits through a print-on-demand company. It was fine for this particular book, because it was a document of a project I did as Artist-In-Residence at the Huntington Beach Art Center. It was never intended to be a photography book. The paper from print-on-demand companies is not as good as from a pro printing company.  You do not have a personal contact to speak with because everything is done online. What frustrated me most is that color accuracy is not a priority with these companies. They want you to proof the book on your computer, but I do not recommend this because every computer’s monitor is calibrated differently, and you need to see the book in print to know what it truly looks like. In my case, there were shifts towards yellow or blue, and I had to pay full price for several copies to ask for changes before they got it right. The price of print-on-demand books is expensive. Let’s face it. Most of their customers are not professional photographers. They are people who want to make a book of their child’s birthday party and share it with their relatives and friends. The books are priced for retail, not wholesale, so you cannot mark them up to a price that the average person will be willing to spend on a photography book.

Using a professional printing company is the way to go if you want to produce a high quality fine art photography book for several reasons. Simply said, you have more control of your product. You have a real person to call and talk to when necessary. There are more choices of papers, sizes, and covers. Free proofs assure color accuracy. You have to pay for a specified number of books before you sell them, but the price of the books are far less than print-on-demand. All books are sent to you at once, so you have to ship to customers when they sell, but that costs you less than when the print-on-demand company does it for you. All in all, the results from a professional printing company are far superior to print-on-demand companies. Because the proceeds of my books go to the scholarship fund, price is extremely important. The book has to be affordable to the public, and my profits need to be such that I can recover my production, advertising, and shipping costs and have money left over to fund the scholarship.

Kenna Dahleen watering her vegetable garden in Everybody And Their Mother - Idyllwild, CA Volume 2

Kenna Dahleen watering her vegetable garden in Everybody And Their Mother – Idyllwild, CA Volume 2

My next post will contain information on how to choose a printing company, overseas vs. America printing, timelines, and more.


About Gina Genis

Hi Friends, I'm a photographer and artist who lives in Washington DC. I have two blogs. The Gina Genis Blog is about art and photography. My new blog, DC Discoveries is dedicated to showing you everything from fashion to art, food to entertainment in all sections of the District. I hope you will take the journey with me. I exhibit my work in museums and galleries across the U.S. I'm included in the permanent collections of the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, the Otto G. Richter Library Special Collections Division of the University of Miami, Hard Rock Casino, Orange County Transit District, IBM, and the Sarah and Adam Markman Collection among others. My series "Window Peeping" was included in OsCene 2010 at the Laguna Art Museum, Truman State University, Fellows of Contemporary Art, Biola University, and solo shows at Gallery 825 and Cypress College. The "June Gloom" series was exhibited in a solo show at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The "Kala" series has been exhibited at MPLS Photo Center, Cypress College, and Gallery 825. "Economy Portraits" was created as an Artist In Residence project at the Huntington Beach Art Center, and was awarded "Best Art Show of 2011" by the OC Weekly. I curated Wide Angle View, an exhibit of 16 international, award-winning photo and multi-media journalists at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art to much critical acclaim. Recent reviews of my work have appeared in the Huffington Post, Art Scene, OC Weekly, Orange County Register, New University, Riviera Magazine, Coast Magazine, Huntington Beach Independent, and appeared on CNN, NBC, ABC, and more. I lead the Gina Genis Photo Workshops where I show beginning and intermediate photographers how to jump to the next level with their work. I also teach online photography courses through The Compelling Image.

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