If you are a photographer chances are that you have always had the secret desire to eventually have your work out in a large format book. And if you have tried to pursue that logic and send your manuscript off to a publisher you will know exactly the following:

1. That no one at the other end ever even acknowledge receipt of your prized work.

2. After you make numerous phone calls you eventually get to talk (maybe) to the head in charge, who sounds brusque while you sound apologetic, you get to hear the usual, ‘have not seen your manuscript, send it again’; ‘but you know how busy we are, we get hundreds of manuscripts daily’.

3. You re-send and meet the same fate

4. You repeat no 3. and if you are lucky you’ll get the familiar ‘we’ll call  you,  you dont call us’.

5. Six months on you pick up enough courage and you find out that they have lost your manuscript, misplaced  your DVD and other material; ‘shifting office’, no apologies!

6. The scenario has many shades all of which you would think are true to us only in the third world, but here is some solace, it happens everywhere, even among the best publishing international houses.

7. The days of people being professional and responding, forget the days of lick a stamp and mail; when things could not be easier to reply while you wait on tenterhooks, are OVER, this can add to the frustration.

But here is the good news – you can SELF PUBLISH and even make a profit doing a big photo book.

My experience for its ten paise worth:

There are a few components to getting your book out of your HDD or your archival closet if you shot TPs/Negs in the bad ol days.

1. Pre – Press

2. Print

3. Market

4. Distribute

I. What pre-press means, is that you have to get  your ‘dummy’ ready for the print shop, this has several shades and nuances. But its no occult art, its science and you can do it by the numbers. I am presuming that if you are a photographer you can handle a computer and even better PhotoShop and In-Deisgn (book design software) if you are a Mac person, or Quark or the equivalent in a PC, this is not a complex operation. However if you are having difficulty, hire a kid with some of these skills and you are free.

Lets talk first of ‘scanning’ your TPs/Negs film derivatives. if you only have prints of your work that too can work, but understand that you should work best with the raw material, meaning the first generation of image, either the neg or the TP is best.

Regardless of what pre-press houses will tell you, please bear my advice and do exactly what I say now.

Ia. Get hi-res, 16 bit scans, this is best done on a drum scanner, leave your desk epson or whatever for the Income Tax documents that you need to scan. For a book  you need clean, crisp and rich scans, 16 bit RGB does this job, many people have scanners, but like anything, how a scanner is used is crucial. All pre-press houses have drum scanners or very high end flat bed scanners that will do the trick, many older scanners convert to CMYK immediately.

Ib. All scanners, like your TV, camera, projector and indeed monitors produce colour via RGB, it is basic to all CCDs and CMOS  and photomultiplier tubes. So be firm and request 16 bit RGB, a minimum of 300dpi (dots per inch) and if you get a file size of around 80+ mb  without conversion from CMYK, raw scans you are doing good.

Ic. Depending on how much money you have for this opertation and whether you want to exhibit large size prints of this work later or during  your book launch, you need to think about this now, so that you avoid having to scan and pay more money later. You can scale an image down with less damage to the integrity of the image than the other way around. Dont ever try to scale an image up by more than 20%. If you must, only use Genuine FRactals or some software like that, that will do a good job interpolating.

Id. Pre-Press houses will like to recover costs on their defunct scanners, and quote you ridiculous prices, per mb and stuff, if you are going to do a book with some 100 images, you should pay no more than Rs 300/scan. Understand that you have the bargaining power here, scanning is a dying operation.

Ie. Its best to go to the same print house that will have a pre-press dept to get your scans. I have listed some printers below who will do world class work.

If. Bring your scans to your system, its best to do this operation on a fairly good monitor, a Mac cinema display or if push comes to shove an iMac will work too, clean up your photos, dust, scratches and any other retouching that you need to do, is best done now, work in native 16 bit, it will occupy twice the disk space but leave it that way. All your ‘curves’ and adjustments and layers etc that you do, dont compress your file, leave it with all its layers as a .psd file in 16bit RGB. (I am presuming again that your monitor has some basic calibration, like that you have set your colour preferences in Adobe to adobe RGB (1998) or sRGB, these have much larger colour space than CMYK and offers the printer a larger space to play with.

Ig. By now you would have done your layout, with In-Design or Quark or similar. The software makes a package of the images, fonts, colours and that sort of thing that makes the logic of placement of images for printing easy.

Ih. if you are shooting or using digital files, please shoot in RAW which by default is 16bit RGB, set your camera RGB to the same colour pref. on your PS. so if its sRGB on your camera then it should be sRGB on your PS etc and follow the steps above.

Ii. You are done with the image from your end. Now you take it to your printer who has a pre-press dept.

PRINT PRE-PRESS

Ij. sit with your printer and bring up each of the images from your book, your printer now will convert them to CMYK that best suits the paper you are going to print on. Each and every paper absorbs inks and reflects ink differently, there is something called ‘dot gain’ and SWOP that you need not concern yourself with, but it is crucial for the printer and if they are any of the below mentioned they know what to do with those figures.

you have to look at your images in a ‘controlled light’ environment, generally the office this is done in use 5500k light that most closely resembles daylight. The monitor should be a high quality EIZO/ Lacie type monitor that costs much more than your Cinema Display for good reason. The monitor will show you simulated CMYK that should be close to what you will eventually see ‘proofed’ so trust it and make the best possible colour corrections here, this stage is crucial to getting great print quality.

Ik. Next insist on a laser proof, this is an inket equivalent of your book, its printed only on one side and the colours are a bit richer than will be your book. You still have  a chance to make corrections in type and in pages, images at this stage without any costs of ‘plates’ yet.

In. once you approve of the ‘proof’ you are ready to go to the next stage of PRINT.

2,. PRINT.

This is usually an offest job and could be in two types of screens used to get ink on to paper, one is stochastic (FM)and the other is an AM screen, your printer will best decide which one is best for your application.

modern digital printing is CTP, (computer to plate) with no intermediary steps, at this stage plates are made, one for each of the colours C.M.Y.K.

2a. If you are new to the printer and the process, ask for a ‘gang’ proof, this proofs your ‘difficult’ images and text as pages on the actual paper that you have choosen with the same inks that your book will be printed in. This is equivalent to the strip test prints one made in the darkroom and will give you the last and final proof of how your work will show. There is a small incremental cost for the plates made for this process but its well worth doing it to avoid disappointment later.

2b. you can make changes here if warranted, go back to the colour correction on the Eizo monitor for large changes you want made.

2c. When satisfied give the go ahead signal for your job to PRINT.

2d. You should be present when the print rolls off the press, its a heady feeling to see your ‘forms’ emerge crisp and rich from the machines.

2f. you can even here, with the print boss, make subtle changes especially when images run as double spreads or across the ‘gutter’, to make sure the tones are matched. The print boss generally puts the tabs on a densitometer and checks values to see if they are within range.

2g. Your book is printed, it needs to sit for 48 hours before it can be folded, cut, ‘perfect’ bound and stiched and have the cover pasted, before it gets shrink wrapped and delivered to an address you provide.

3. Marketing

3. Try and pre-sell your book, take your dummy or make a presentation along with some hard copies of your photographs and run them via corporates or institutions that match closely your style or content of your book. Financial year ends and beginnings, academic year ends, and festivals are good times for gifts. Pre-selling can save you all kinds of worry and if you do a good job here  you can avoid a distributor and maximise your take home money to recover your large printing over heads, also this will give you the best idea of how many books you should print. If you can pre-sell 500 books, that is before the launch date, you will have recovered your costs if you do a 3000 print run.

You can offer a special prices and take orders on 1-5 books, 6-50, 51-100 etc etc. all before the launch date, on the launch date you can increase the cost a bit but keep it below the mrp and a day after  you can sell at 10-20% lower than the MRP direct.

3a.It is imperative that you do the marketing and PR for your book, no one will do it with more enthusiasm than yourself. it needs to be done. If you have friends or students who have done a BMM course and are in media houses, then you should be tapping into those sources and scheduling some interviews. You need to create a buzz about your book.

3b. FaceBook is one great way of informing everyone of an event. Get books stores to allow you a ‘reading’. The media loves a celebrity, so muster whomever you can to read from the book and find as many ways to promote your book as possible, there happen to be several these days and many malls and book stores like to have some live and relevant event in their stores. Make sure you display the books prominently. Make some large posters too with the name of the book and your name prominent. This you can do at any digital printing, laser printer outfit, you could even do some vinyls too.

3c. If you have an exhibition of your work, that works both ways one promoting the other, its a good idea to have an exhibition of your work simultaneously. But press is very important. Choose your book release at festival times, like the Kala Ghoda festival or the Jaipur literary fair, check dates in advance and work  your schedule backwards.

3d. Y0u need to make some press kits, where you have hi-res (300dpi) images no bigger than 5×7, with an assortment of photos no more than 10 and a bio of yourself along with some text if any from the book, as excerpts. You will also have to allocate some books (10-15) to be given away to the press.

4. DISTRIBUTION

4a. This is a tough call, you will need to get your book out to as many book stores as possible. for this you will need a distributor with reach. A distributor typically will take 50-65% of your MRP, so  you need to keep this in mind when pricing your book. I will give  you a rough guide to how you should price your book later. A distributor will sign a contract with you. you can customise this, viz, you may want to give Strand Book stall, in mumbai the books yourself. STrand will take 40% off your MRP, and return 20% to the customer, everyone benefits. You get stung 40% but thats better than what the distributor will take, so you can make a caveat like that in your contract, that the Distributor will service all book stores except the ones you will do directly. Book stores and Distributors take between 2 and 6 months to pay.

You must get all inventory off your premises. Try not to schedule your launch around the monsoon, you dont want your precious books to sit in a dank warehouse.

There is an alternative to printing large quantities by offset, its called Print On Demand (POD), this means you can print one copy of your book and each can be presonalised  too. The method for doing is is called an Indigo print and its printed on an HP what is euphemistically called a digital offset. Its a much more expensive per copy method but you dont have inventory. All the above steps are valid, till the point where you make ‘plates’, with the Indigo the plates are reusable and the paper is sheet fed. Bellow are listed the Indigo POD print shops in Mumbai and around.

You can also get your book on to Amazon, Barnes and NOble and other speciality photo book sites. not figured out the process am searching, if anyone knows how, let me know. I will post as soon as I know. Its not insurmountable, I hear its quite easy actually, but I need to follow up on this.

FRankfurt book fair happens in the first week of october. Make appointments at least 6 months in advance to get your book a co-edition.

Getting a quote:

To get an accurate quote from a printer you will need to specify some details

1. size of your book, generally 9.5×11 inches is about the proportionate division of the paper size. Ask your printer what size is the most economical that is closest to the size of the book you envisaged. Dont do odd sizes, that involve paper wastage, a large portion of your budget is consumed by paper, so keep that part of the equation maximised.

2. No. of pages

3. Colour or black and white, you can do 4 colour black and white for a rich tonality.

4. End papers, these are generally thicker papers, like card, that is stuck to the covers for strength.

5. Hard or soft bound

6. Dust jacket

7. Quality of paper, you can choose from various swatches of paper, and can even get a sample photo of yours printed on a few different papers for you make  up your mind. paper is measured in gsm (grams per square millimeter). Generally for a lush book 160-175gsm works well

8. Number. Print run, anything smaller than 1000 copies you might want to consider POD, but offset comes into its own with larger quantities the costs per unit come down drastically. but simultaneously your inventory also gets considerable. Think of where and how you are going to stock those books. and if you life in an apartment whether the slab can take the weight.

9. Printers can do special things like metal stamp foiling, on-line aqueous silk/gloss coatings, die cuts, special folds, special colours like gold, spot UV lamination etc. each of these is an additional cost.

10. Scanning

11. Digital pre-press

12.  Digital proof

13. Gang proof.

14. Make sure estimates are all with duties specified, CIF (cost, insurance freight), if you want various quantities shipped to different locations you need to specify that here.

Print shops

Pragati – Hyderabad. Contact person: chandresh@pragati.com, 9821114114

Reproscan – pre-press. mumbai, Pankaj Mehta98210-31209, Ketan Mehta accountsrepro@gmail.com

Jak Printers –  Kushru, “JAK Printers Pvt.Ltd. Business Development” <jakprint@vsnl.com>

SilverPoint, 493-9908/9/10/24, silverpoint@vsnl.com

Comart – Pre-Press, 9892237339 freddie

Jasra – Pre Press, Ravi Jasra, ravi@jasras.com, gyan@jasra.com

There are great printers in Delhi too, but I have no personal experience of them.

POD

ZoomIn- sunny, sunny@zoomin.com, 9967546468

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