A study on self publishing fine-art photography books March 14 2014, 0 Comments

A study on self-publishing fine-art photography books by Candida Stevens of TINT-ART GALLERY, UK.

While representing the work of 20 international artists I have noticed themes forming in their bodies of work; water, abstract close ups, architecture. This got some of us talking about books. A few of my artists are crying out to be published in this close intimate form so I decided to research publishing. TINT ART PRESS hopes to print its first three books this summer. Here I share some of the main points that I have taken away from reading a great book, "Publish your photography book" by Darius Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson. This book has been a great early guide and has been invaluable both for its enthusiasm and encouragement on the joys of book publishing alongside its warnings, instruction and considerations. It seems undeniable that the photography book market is booming, both as more artists turn to photography as a means of expression, and as the print-on-demand (POD) technology becomes more useable and omnipresent. So how to get published and how to stand out in the crowd?

Fine art book publishing is like a world of its own. Is 'book art' a new art form? Are the designers and publishers themselves helping to define small individual details in the books they publish that make the books unique art works? The secret ingredient in 'book art' seems to be in the art and craft of making the book an art object in itself.

First things first:

Define your audience and ask yourself why you want to publish a book and what you want it to say. Know who you are talking to and if you have an established audience. If so have they been catered for already? If so, was it a success?  Personalise the style of your book to suit the story and the individual. Ensure that it is not generic enough a design to fit any work. It must be unique and relevant and linked to the theme. Ideally have a thesis statement about what the book is about.

 Consider how to organise and categorize the project at the start. How do the multitude of parts function together? A good practical suggestion to help with the layout is to print out the images and live with them for a while.  Play around with the order and do it physically rather than in a software package. This way you free yourself to discover. If editing is taking time remind yourself of your audience and your goal and ask yourself if each picture qualifies.


Knowledge is power. Do your research. Know what type of binding you like, know what paper types you like and don't like, know what trim size (final page size) you want, how much text you do or don't want.  Some advice imparted in ‘Print your photography book’ is to spend time identifying art books that you do like and that you don’t like and work out the reasons why. They observe that it is often easier to identify why you don't like something, helping you to narrow down what you are after.


It is generally agreed that the maximum potential market for an art book is going to be around 3,000 with some fine art publishers printing as few as five hundred.

High-end limited edition books can be produced in very small runs and often include an original print. You could limit this to the first 30 copies sold to encourage early sales. The price will be determined by the artists reputation, the price their work achieves in a gallery setting and the number of copies in the edition.  Some can be pre-sold in order to cover the costs of production. For most artists and photographers a published book acts as a stimulus for their work to sell so is an investment worth making. To enhance the marketability of your book think about getting it endorsed. Endorse the book with a piece of contributed writing. Celebrities or industry experts are always powerful. Otherwise an expert in your subject area. Think of the book as a Collectors item and consider the endorsement accordingly.

The publisher:

Identifying the books you like might help you to identify which publisher you want to work with. When approaching a publisher make it as easy as possible for them to say yes. Provide them with a fully mocked up version of the book. Depending on the publisher be prepared for them to want an influence on layout and production.


When you enter an agreement with a publisher you retain copyright of your work but you are granting the publisher the exclusive right to publish the work in book form for the life of the copyright. They may well be acquiring a number of subsidiary rights so make sure you understand the contract.

We hope this is a helpful starting point and to keep you inspired here are some great quotes;

"Books are conveyors of ideas, mementos of civilisation and harbingers of change" (Himes and Swanson)

Paula McCartney talking about her book 'bird watching' says, "I think of books as a medium where all of the elements, including form, content, and materials are in dialogue with each other."

"The power of the photograph continues to amaze me. The power of the book is beyond my full comprehension" (Lisa M. Robinson).