Over the past week, I’ve been exploring the world of publishing-on-demand (ie making a one-off book which can be re-ordered on request). I made one of these print-on-demand books through Apple a couple of years ago which I converted into a digital version for the I-book store to test the market and I was about to revisit the process when I discovered a company called Momento (www.momento.com.au) which prints books that include “all the bells and whistles” (creative stock choices, embossing, customised covers, special binding and opaque sheetings etc). So, I thought I’d give them a go on a personal project I’ve embarked on – a series of fine art photography books showcasing the disappearing traditional cultures of the South Pacific. As I discovered when I downloaded their free software, the entire process can be done on-line and its incredibly user-friendly (for the few questions I did have, Momento had a 1300 number with helpful support service (nothing like $$##@! Telstra I might add which has just aged me 100 years trying to get my phone bill sorted out). ……Sorry, where was I? Assuming you have collected the photographs and written the text you want published, it’s merely a matter of dragging and dropping the material from your folder into a range of size and design templates, tweaking it with whatever embellishments you want at the ordering phase, then uploading your book, waiting about 14 days for it to turn up in the post. It really is that simple. The cost obviously varies depending on the size of the book, the embellishments and the number of pages. In the case of this project, I chose a textured, 140 gsm art stock to complement the photographs and I’ll Insert a few opaque pages, do a printed hard cover, opt for special binding and produce the grand size edition with about 150 pages which will arrive in a customised presentation box printed with the same cover. While the average book probably costs around AUD$200 to produce, this one-off, Rolls Royce version will set me back about AUD$500. Once I have it, the plan is to send it off to the international publishing house, Taschen, to win their involvement. I’ll probably also use it to demonstrate this area of speciality I am seeking to promote as a photographer. Once in hand, I’ll study the finished product to see if it can be produced more cost-effectively to sell as an adjunct to the photography exhibitions I’m planning (refer previous entry). You may wonder why I don’t print the book through my own publishing company, Frontier Publications, which has produced 12 books of my work – each of which, I’m happy to report, has been commercially successful. Well, the main reason is that I know there is limited commercial interest for the sort of fine-art book on traditional culture I want to produce unless a major publishing company with a worldwide distribution network gets involved. And, yes, I could have simply written to Taschen (who I have just been informed rarely takes unsolicited work but would welcome my submission). I could have included copies of some of the prints or simply e-mailed them a digital presentation. But this book’s appeal is best conveyed by holding it in your hand, seeing the images at size and turning the warm, textured pages which have been deliberately chosen to do justice to the subject matter and the sepia processing of the photographs included (and, the fact is, with a company like Taschen, you only get one bite of the apple). We’ll see. Otherwise, if worse comes to worse and I don’t get the series off the ground, I guess I’ll have joined the long line of vanity publishers out there and I’ll have a somewhat expensive book sitting on the coffee table in my lounge room. That said, I’ll still be left with a book to showcase the work of which I am most proud and I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I took the first step in my grand plan for the new year to leave a professional legacy and draw attention to the importance of recording disappearing traditional cultures before it’s too late. Here’s a thumbnail presentation of the book Momento send through to you once you have uploaded the material (click on the image below and roll over the area below the book that comes up, then click the tiny off-centre button on the lower right for an impressive – albeit tiny – page-turning preview). I’ll let you know how the finished product comes out in about a fortnight’s time.
Post Script: Just got the test proofs back. So impressed, I’ve started working on Samoa and Vanuatu. Final note: It’s two weeks later and, as promised, the book turned up and I couldn’t be more pleased (in fact, neither could Momento which wants to enter it into an international book competition). That’s not to say there isn’t some tweaking to be done (ie to avoid some pictures disappearing into the crease and some text alignment issues but that was my doing as I was a bit rushed and I was eager to make an evaluation of the process and outcome before my assignment cycle started. In conclusion though, I’d have to say, what an amazing product Momento offer. Very satisfying. I’m now considering completing the book with them by producing it in their grand landscape size and adding another hundred pages to extend the range of the photography and give more weight and presence to the publication). And I’m seriously looking at its commercial options.