Photo by Alex Martinez
After you are shooting for a while and you got some compliments and made some prints for people, you eventually want more. You want to be published. I think it’s a validation thing to see your photos in a printed publication. Something you can show your parents that you’re not wasting your time.
But what if no one wants your photos? It happened to me. I submitted photos to 100 magazines and newspapers. Maybe not 100. This was pre-internet so the only way was to send a box of prints. A “portfolio”. You would have to wait until the editors went through stacks of portfolios and hope they would send yours back in a timely manner so that you can send it somewhere else. Sometimes they were cool though and would mail it to other editors for you. I had at least 3 in rotation. I know some guys that had more.
I didn’t ever get any magazine gigs then, but while waiting I was making zines. And I started getting cool feedback about them. And I started showcasing my friends’ photos too. And once there was some momentum, suddenly I got some magazine assignments. The irony is by the time I am getting these offers, my zines had evolved into a magazine where I can shoot and print whatever I want, sell it and make more money then what those jobs would have paid.
Not saying this is a proper path to pursue, but there are a ton of reasons to consider publishing your own work if you haven’t already. Here is a quick list.
1. It’s easy.
With all the new software and all the uploading technology of print shops these days, it is super easy to publish your own books and zines. Why not?
2. It’s fast.
If you are working with another publisher, they might have a whole team of people working on your stuff along with 100 other projects. It could take months before you even see half of a layout. If you know the basics, you could get it done in an hour or so.
3. You’re the Boss.
Most publishers will edit the shit out of your photos and the idea for the book is at minimum half of their idea. It really is a collaboration. If you do it yourself, it is all you. You are in the driver seat. On the other hand if it sucks, then that is all you too. LOL.
Most book deals are like record deals. You will get some royalties but only after the book starts profiting. That includes all the production costs like printing, designing, editing etc. It is expensive to make a book which is why you would go with a publisher in the first place. But if you can manage the costs and manage the production yourself, then you can make 100% of the profits.
I mentioned speed earlier, you can get the project out faster than anyone else could. But you can also work at your own pace. Working with other publishers there are a lot of starts and stops and eventually gnarly deadlines. It can be difficult at times but not if there are no deadlines.
6. It’s a good workout.
Putting together pages, editing, and sequencing is a lot of work but it will only make you stronger. It will feel like you might die but you will live and will be a better person for it. It will be good for your brain and heart.
7. Learning a new trade.
Maybe you didn’t know about page signatures and paper stocks and spine width calculators but now you do and now you are a publisher. You have entered a new industry and maybe you will love it.
8. You can be weird.
I say “weird” a lot. It may have a derogatory sound to it. It’s because what ever is not “normal” is considered “weird”. Really I mean “creative” and not “mainstream” and “boring”. This is probably the main point to self publishing. You can do whatever you want and share your epic visions.
Even if it is xeroxed at 7-11 it is fulfilling because you made it and you are sharing it. I am talking in terms of validation status as mentioned in the beginning. When someone wants to see your photos, now you can just hand them a printed book. No need to exchange websites, ig handles, etc. Your work is in print.
Sometimes, seeing someone’s photos online or in an exhibition isn’t enough to hire them for a commission or offer them a big book deal. But if you already have some books and zines and magazines to show them, the gears might start turning and they have a vision of how you can work together on something.
11. It’s fun.
I get a kick out of making things. You do too, that’s why your reading this.