I attended the Blurb symposium last Friday and I have to admit it was not quite what I was expecting. Advertised with the words “You’ll hear working photographers talk about their books, hear industry practitioners discuss how to curate and design books, and learn how to market a successful book.” I did expect something with a slightly more practical, craft-focused angle. Instead we were privileged to hear some very eminent publishers (notably Dewi Lewis and Chris Boot) talk about the state of the photo book world and gain some insights into how they approach the market and manage their own activities. Curiously, none of the speakers was a Blurb user and all of them spoke from the perspective of a “traditional” publisher. It was fascinating to discover that many books run to only 1500 copies and that one which sells 3000 is more or less a bestseller! It is also expected that in pursuing this route, a publisher is likely to require the unknown photographer to inject substantial amounts of their own cash into the £10,000 – £15,000 average cost of publication.
In comparison, the £25- £50 (or thereabout) per copy for creating and publishing one’s own Blurb edition seems positively risk-free. The advantage of the standard publishing method is, of course, that the publisher has a head start in marketing and already has routes into the distribution network of the book trade. Nevertheless, given the stunning quality of the Blurb editions on display last Friday, the self-publishing option is very, very attractive, especially as the print quality problems which have marred its potential until now appear to have been largely dealt with. My first book is shaping up now and I am now getting quite excited about the possibilities that these new technologies present.