9.05.2011

Marketing Mondays: Making Book

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My recent request for questions (What's on Your Mind) has yielded a gold mine of queries. Some of you felt uncomfortable enough not to ask them in the Comments section of the post but emailed me instead. Turns out there were a lot of questions about publishing—so many that I've picked a few for this post.

Let me state the obvious: I’m not the authority on publishing, but I do have some experience as an author and an editor, and that’s what I’m drawing on for this post.


Q: I’ve been thinking of self-publishing a catalog to accompany an upcoming show in an academic gallery. The gallery is contributing a small amount but I will do the work. Is a self-published book considered too desperate or careerist?

A: I think artists are smart to take advantage of the many new ways available to get information about ourselves and our work out into the world. Some examples I know of, both for academic and commercial galleries:

. When I did an academic gallery solo a few years ago, I asked each of my commercial dealers to pre-purchase 100 copies of the catalog at cost. They did, and pooling that money with what the academic gallery kicked in, I was able to print 1000 copies of a 16-page catalog. Each dealer was acknowledged, along with the academic gallery, and everyone had plenty of catalogs to give away or sell, including me.
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. For a commercial-gallery solo, one artist friend used Blurb but paid the company an extra three dollars per book to have the logo removed. (Do I think it’s a travesty that Blurb insists of plastering its name on a book that the writer pays for? Yes. And for that reason I am unlikely to ever use them for a project of mine.) But the catalog, with a glossy, thick-stock paper cover, is gorgeous. Other artists have had good results with Lulu and Shutterfly.

. Another did a fabulous hard-cover monograph, didn’t worry about the logo, and has been having terrific success with it, as it accompanies a current body of work that is being shown and represented by a commercial gallery

. A gallery on 25th street routinely uses Blurb for its catalog and retains the logo

. A gallery in Boston works with a different publish-on-demand printer for many of its catalogs; there is no logo and both the gallery and its artists are pleased with the result

Q: You wrote a book. Do you have any suggestions for how I can get my book published?

A: I’m assuming we’re talking art topics. If you have a book whose topic is timely, with potential for broad readership, you have a better chance of finding a commercial publisher than if it’s a niche topic with 2500 potential purchasers worldwide. As with galleries, do your homework to identify the publishers who might be interested in your book, find out online who the acquisitions editor is (or call the publishing house to ask for the name) and then submit a short query:
. Cover letter with three short paragraphs each identifying one of these: the what and why of the project, the potential audience, what qualifies you to write it. Be clear but don’t give away too much.
. If you have written on the topic for a magazine include clips so they know how you approach the topic and how well you write. If you have written on line, print out a few pages and provide the URL. If you’ve written the book already, your introduction would be a good sample to include. If you haven’t written the book, write the introduction anyway. Don’t sent an entire manuscript.
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If the editor is interested, she may ask you for an outline and a sample chapter. A good acquisitions editor has her ear to the ground and is aware of trends in topics, ideas, materials and techniques. Who knows? Your timing may be just right. It was for me when I proposed my book on encaustic painting.

Q: I’ve had no luck  finding a publisher  for my book, which occupies a niche within a niche in terms of subject matter. I believe in the project and I want it to be published.

A: Have you exhausted the possible publishers? Don’t look just at the big names. There are many small companies that might respond to a niche idea. What about academic publishers? Alternatively, we’re back to self publishing. In addition to the options noted at the top of this post, here are some others:
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. An artist I know published a book under the name of an imprint she created—I love that idea—and got her ISBN number, so it’s bona fide book from a bona fide publishing company. She’s the publishing company, which means she fronted the printing bill for the entire thing and she’s the one responsible for storing the copies (in her basement), promoting and selling it (on line and at events), as well as shipping the orders. If you’re going to go this route, it helps to be plugged into a community of like-minded people who will want to buy your book. If you teach, speak, or exhibit widely, you increase the potential for sales—especially if you or a hosting institution are willing do do book signings.

. Another artist got funding from a non-profit called United States Artists and is now working an a monograph of her work to be accompanied by a series of essays by experts in the field. There are several other such funders. Kickstarter is one. Its mission is to fund creative projects. And don’t overlook conventional grant givers such a Pollock-Krasner, Guggenheim, Gottlieb and other, smaller regional institutions.

. Still another has decided against a hard-copy book and is exploring the possibilities of e-books which, as she noted in a recent email to me, can include video interviews and studio visits, along with hyperlinks to all the featured artists; be available globally via electronic readers and the Internet; and be easily updated with new information. “Fluid” is the word she used in describing the scope and reach of the publication. This kind of project couldn't have been done a few years ago, but it may be in the vanguard of how 21st century books get made.

Q: Someone approached me about including my work in a book they are putting together about color theory. They requested 14 images. They are  not paying for use of the images  and would like me to sign an agreement that stipulates their right to use my images in conjunction with the textbook, online courses and any related promotional materials for a period of 20 years. Is this a standard practice?

A: Talk about taking advantage of artists! This is a lopsided agreement in favor of the publisher. An inexperienced author, desperate to be published, may not feel comfortable standing up to the publisher, but you are not so desperate as to have to capitulate. In my opinion, a more reasonable way of letting your image be included is for a one-time use of the image for the book in the current edition (an edition might go through several printings). With the exception of promotion (get in writing that your work be identified with title and artist)--and most publishers aren't spending money for ads--your image will not be used in any other format, such as video or online courses. If they want more than the standard, they need to pay you, even if it's a small honorarium. In all instances you retain copyright to the image, which means you can use the image in whatever way you wish while their use of the image is limited to the ways specified. 

Q: Recently I allowed images of my work to be included a how-to book. When the book came out, the author sent an email to all of us to let us know it had been published and said she “couldn’t afford” to send a complimentary copy. Correct me if I’m wrong, but since the artists’ images essentially made the book, shouldn’t each of us have gotten a copy?

A: If a complimentary copy was noted as part of the contractual agreement, then withholding a copy would be a breach of contract. In other words, what the author did is illegal. However, if there is no mention of a comp copy in the contract, the author's actions are not illegal. Unethical, certainly, but not illegal. While it's the rare artist who gets rich off of a book, that's no excuse for such selfish and stingy behavior. The author has royalties to look forward to, so her upfront cost for books will be earned back over time. And as you note, there would not have been much of a book without images from artists.

Not all authors behave in such an unethical way. When Jackie Battenfield published her book, The Artist’s Guide, she inserted into the artist’s contract that a small fee would be paid to each artist. She made good for every contributor. When I published The Art of Encaustic Painting, I spent $1000 of my own money to buy 50 books at cost so that every contributing artist received a copy of the book, which I packed and shipped myself. (Note to artists who receive a comp copy: Thank the author.)  And when I wrote a pseudonymed book for a publisher, I made sure that every artist received a $100 honorarium for use of the image and a copy of the book. When I have contributed images to other publications, one or more copies of the book were always sent in return.

If you are  invited to submit images in the future, ask about recompense. If there is none available, make sure a comp copy of the book will be offered in exchange for the use of your images. And read the contract carefully. Don't sign away your rights in exchange for a smidge of visibility.

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11 comments:

John Quatrale said...

Good advise. I wouldn't be surprised to see lots of artists flocking to the self-publishing sites. Could provide them a way to showcase their art in a different way and to new audiences.

annell said...

Really nice post, loaded with info!

Michelle Paine said...

This is great. Thanks for outlining the many options we have available to us these days.

Nancy Natale said...

Excellent post, Joanne! As someone who is considering writing a book, this is just what I need to know to expand my horizons. Thank you for laying things out so clearly and knowledgeably.

Oriane Stender said...

Very helpful. Thanks, Joanne!

Judy Edwards said...

FYI: self publishing a book with Amazon's CreateSpace is relatively simple and cost effective. If you know what you are doing, it doesn't cost anything. Here's mine:http://ow.ly/6lOBE . It is not about Encaustics but a good read none the less. I attempted to add my paintings into the manuscript but discovered if you add one color plate, the whole book is printed for color. The price would have went from $14.95 to $44.95. If you do b/w images, no cost increase. I was only able to put a painting on the cover and enclosed a link to the corresponding paintings. Vanity publishers have an upfront fee that may not be in your best interest. They do not provide any marketing without more fees. The same is true with CreateSpace but there is no upfront fee. When you publish with CreateSpace you are automatically on Amazon and what I like about that is that you can read part of the book before purchasing. If you have Kindle, you can make the first 10% viewable for free. I use that all the time, to see if I want to purchase the book.

I know more about this avenue if anyone wants to know more.

Betty Carroll Fuller said...

I have created several catalogues for the gallery I direct at a community college.(only when I can get a grant). I use a local print shop and do it digitally. I have a graphic artist create the file which is not that expensive and then I can order as many catalogues as I wish, and reorder if necessary. This proves to be fairly affordable, depending on # of pages, etc.

Fi said...

Excellent information, as usual. Thank you. I'm all for spreading the word about new options that this digital/internet age is bringing us. The possibilities for artists are exciting! I'm also glad to hear specific feedback on the different print on demand services as I have a painting-meets-cookbook project in progress that I intend to self publish in this way. Tips such as knowing that Blurb slap their logo on by default are a huge timesaver when sorting through the different services.

Jeanne Heifetz said...

Having published a couple of books, and being married to a 40-year veteran of the publishing industry, I would one small piece of advice to the commercial-publishing section of this great post. When establishing the "potential audience" for your book, if you can give concrete numbers, that's even better. For example, "X number of people register for courses on this topic each year"; or "The leading supplier of materials for this art form has retail sales in excess of Y dollars annually" or "A recent exhibit of/website dedicated to my subject's work had Z visitors in three months."

Franklin said...

A friend of mine is the author of an excellent short introduction to this topic: The One Hour Guide to Self-Publishing. It's aimed at writers but artists may find it useful.

Susan Schwalb said...

Advise about using Blurb.com -order one copy to use like a color proof. Yes you will pay extra for shipping etc but then you can correct colors, make changes etc. I thought this was a great place to make a very small run of catalogues. I actually disagree about the logo- it was printed on the last page inside opposite the cover at the bottom. I found it was hardly noticeable. Unlike the ones from mac where the logo is on the back cover. My small book was 40 pages! and I ordered twice, each time the printing was perfect.