Hey, That Should Be in a Book

On The Earned Obsolescence of Publishers
- Clayton James Cubitt

Right now you can use an inexpensive computer with page layout software (the same used by all publishers) to design and lay out a lush offset-press printed hardcover coffee table book, and have it printed in Asia (the same presses used by publishers) for just a few thousand dollars. Soon, this will be much cheaper, and you'll be able to print the same quality one at a time (as they sell), instead of how you currently have to commit to a print run in the hundreds or thousands.

For free, you can start a blog online and showcase your photos and/or writing, and develop an installed fan base of interested readers, as well as use the blog as a cheap and easy way to highlight your talents in more traditional venues, like magazines. This costs nothing, and can go from zero to sixty in about a day.

And since publishers are generally a dull and incurious lot, who hope to maximize profit by minimizing the expense of content creation, their business now largely rests on free contributions and press releases. So when you publish your own book, if you agree to give them a few images and a pithy little blurb about it, they'll be more than happy to publish that in their magazines for you, since it's interesting, but more importantly to them, free. And importantly for you, free advertising.

You can then sell copies of the book you yourself printed with the same quality as a traditional publisher, but targeted to a dedicated and primed audience, rather than whoever happens to pass by a bookshelf in Barnes and Noble (if you even get there). The printing house that you used in Asia can interface with (or in fact sometimes acts as) fulfillment centers that will ship your books all around the world to your audience.

You can do all of this, and retain 100% of the profits. In traditional photo book deals you might expect 4-10%, at best.

I have several colleagues who have recently done exactly this, or are in the process of doing it. Every other artist or photographer who hears about this is instantly sold on it. Their eyes light up, like some of the joy that's been slowly drained by the publishing industry leaches over the years has been instantly relit. We are fast approaching a turning point, if we haven't already gotten there, where the distance between creator and publisher is zero. Power to the people, death to the middleman.

Will readers shed a tear for the middleman? Will anybody even notice that he's gone?"

- Published 01.28.08 in Nerve