Five experienced editors and publishers on what photographers should consider before they pitch a photo book to publishers.
By Conor Risch
This is an exciting time for photography book publishing. Digital printing has lowered the costs and other barriers to self-publishing, and new, small publishers seem to crop up every season with interesting projects. “The beauty of where we’re at right now is that there are many different options for making a book,” says Aperture Foundation Publisher Lesley A. Martin. While more books are being produced, the level of interest in photography books has also increased.
Yet publisher Dewi Lewis tempers this optimism by making a couple of important points. The first is that the increase in the number of books being produced hasn’t necessarily led to more buyers. “That increased interest [in photo books] hasn’t really converted to sales,” Lewis says. The second, related point, is that “the majority of these books are being funded by the photographers themselves.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that photo book publishers are interested in books only if a photographer is willing to subsidize the production. But it does mean that some publishers are seeking to lower their financial risk when they publish a book. “It’s a market that’s being driven in a way which is almost certainly unsustainable in the long term,” Lewis argues.
Trade publishers offer photographers a different opportunity than publishers focused primarily on photo books. They publish very few monographs or fine-art photography books, but they do publish dozens of books that utilize photography to explore subjects that may interest a wider audience. For example, fashion, food, interior design, and science and nature are some of the big categories for Abrams, says VP and Editor-in-Chief Eric Himmel. If a photographer has produced work on one of these perennially popular topics, “then the opportunities [to publish the work with Abrams] get larger.”
PDN recently spoke with five experienced editors and publishers, at both specialty photo book publishers and trade publishers, to get their take on what photographers should consider when they’re thinking about pitching a book to publishers.