How to make a photo book that may sell well

Notice: The text on this website is a Japanese text translated into English by automatic machine translation. Because I’m not good at English. I’m sorry, but it may be a strange sentence.

This article is a bit enthusiastic because I write about making commercial books. Please note that this article may not be helpful to the general public.

Now, I don’t know if it’s good to talk like this from the beginning, but if you bring a photo book plan to the publisher, you will not get a warm welcome. This is because the recognition that “photobooks = boring” is spreading to publishers and readers. Please go to the bookstore to try it out. There is no photo book shelf at a small bookstore. Even in a big bookstore, the farthest from the entrance is the fixed position of the photo book.

I want to improve this situation.

If there are lots of photo books that sell well, readers may change their perceptions of the photos and improve the status of the photographer. However, if you are going to publish a photo book for the first time, it is difficult to bring plans and photos to the publisher. In the first place, you don’t know how the book is published. This will not improve the situation. So, I decided to share the process of making a photo book that I experienced as a photographer.

Let’s start with the current situation. The minimum number of copies for commercial publications is generally 3000, which is the same for photo books, but even 3000 copies are not sold easily. Moreover, photobooks are costly for platemaking and printing, so they are considered to be a high risk for publishers, and it is assumed that the author purchases a large number of photo books from publishers, I have heard that some of the contracts are close to self-publishing, such as very low royalties. In my case, the royalties are 6% to 10%. The truth is that I want to get all royalties to 10%, but I have to find a compromise somewhere because I can’t publish the book because of the high conditions. The first edition has about 3000 to 5000 copies. This is a general number. In addition, 5 out of all 8 my works are reprinted. An acquaintance editor says that if 30% of the books made are reprinted, you are an excellent editor, so it seems to be quite good.

Because of this situation, it is very difficult to make a profit with a photo book. In my case, even if I subtract the expenses from the royalties, it will remain a little, but this is because there are few days to go to shoot, and if there is a lot of days or a plan that has to go far away, it will be red. So why make a photo book? There are several reasons.

1) I have something to tell
This is a major premise. What I want to tell everyone is important. Without it, I am just self-satisfied.

2) Creating opportunities for shooting
I can’t shoot without permission from someone, so I need a reason to shoot. Photo book production is the best reason. The photos I take are used for my lectures, website, and SNS. However, if you ask the interviewer to say “I want to use it for SNS, please let me take a picture”, I feel a little weak as a reason why I have to shoot. Besides, if I don’t have a final goal, I don’t know how to shoot, so it’s also for me to make a photo book the final goal.

3) To give a story to a photo
Now it is easy to publish on SNS, but you can give a story to a series of photos by setting up a photo book. In other words, if you shoot as a story using more than 100 photos from the beginning, you can choose from the 100 photos to suit your purpose, whether you are exhibiting a photo or presenting it on SNS. On the other hand, if you try to put together photos taken for no purpose after shooting, it will not work.

4) As a large presentation
Photographs are not the end of shooting, but their value comes out only when they are viewed by many people. In addition, the visibility of the photographer will increase as many people see it. Certainly, the photo book itself can only be sold in the thousands. However, by creating a photo book, you can get the opportunity to handle it in newspapers, magazines, and television, and as a ripple effect, it is possible for millions of people to see the photo. And I think that you can give a business card to the other party.

5) Build your own brand
Now that the equipment is better and anyone can take good photos, it’s not a situation where you can get a job just because you have technique. I take requests and shoots as part of my job, so I must actively provide reasons for customers to choose. Making a photo book tells many people that “I’m taking these photos,” and if the content can be differentiated, it can be a reason for clients to choose me. Differentiation and quality are necessary both when you plan for publishers and when readers buy your books, so if you can create a photo book that sells well, you will be able to build a brand naturally.

By the way, why does the photo book not sell though there are many people who are interested in a photograph? This is my personal imagination, but the reason why a photo book is considered “boring” by publishers and readers at present is that it is a commercial photo book that has not been suitable for commercial publishing in the past. I think that it is the result of arranging them in the bookstore as a thing. There are now on-demand printing, and some people make hand-made photo books. I think it is necessary to find the most appropriate method according to the contents of the photos, not just commercial publishing. Also, if you are aiming for commercial publishing, you need to make it suitable for the planning stage before shooting.

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