So You Want To Write a Photography Book

So You Want To Write a Photography Book

by Skip Cohen

There are hundreds of books available on how to be an author and I hear comments over and over from photographers who want to write a photography book. I have been incredibly fortunate in my career and written six books, all with co-authors.  Don Blair, Bambi Cantrell, Joe Buissink and Scott Bourne have all been partners with me since Don and I created the first book in 1999. With each photography book, I feel like my understanding of the task itself becomes a little stronger, but the work involved never gets easier.

My goal today is to help you realize your dream, not stifle it. There are so many of you who just jump in wanting to start writing without really considering your options and the commitment. Here are some points to seriously think about:

Writing a book takes time. Even with today’s ability for anybody to publish an ebook, if you’re not going to set a schedule and stick to it, then wait until you’re truly ready. Writing a book and telling your story takes discipline. Don’t underestimate the amount of time you have to set aside to not only write, but pull it all together.

Think through what you’re going to write about. Your topic needs to be unique and have appeal to do well. The fact that your family likes your work doesn’t really count. What makes your work different, thought provoking and of interest to your fans? Most important of all, are you an expert on the topic?

Self-Publish or Work With a Publishing Company:
I’ve done both and there are advantages and disadvantages. If you’re on the lecture circuit and have access to a large audience, like Don Blair did, self-publishing is a terrific way to go. We worked with Marathon Press and they did an outstanding job. However, if your fan base is relatively limited, then a publisher has the distribution network you don’t have. A great publisher can get your book out in front of thousands of potential readers.

Books are About Fame NOT Fortune:
If you think you’re going to make a killing on a book, then think again. Very few authors, especially in the photography arena, make enough money on a book to change their lifestyle. Most of us, at least in photography, are unlikely to make the New York Times bestseller list. Just make sure you have things in perspective. There’s nothing wrong with the fame aspect of your own photography book – in fact, it’s terrific, exciting and loaded with pride.

Loose Lips Sink Ships:

If you’re going to write a book, then my suggestion is to keep it to yourself until you’re far enough along to really have a target date. Unless you intend to crowd-fund the book, then telling everybody you’re writing a photography book is like announcing the resolution to diet for the New Year. Once the word is out, everybody wants to know how you’re doing and the pressure you’ve created on yourself with the announcement, before you were really ready, winds up slowing you down.

Get a Great Editor:
I sat in on a program by Guy Kawasaki two years ago and this was his advice and it makes so much sense. A great editor is a necessity in writing your own book. Even with Guy’s track record as an author, he told a terrific story about delivering a manuscript he thought was his best ever…his editor still found over a thousand mistakes! Guy’s book is loaded with great advice and well worth the read. Just click here if you want to find out more.

Okay, so there it is, six points to think about before you get started. Personally, there’s nothing more fun than creating your own photography book, but there’s also nothing more frustrating, challenging and time-consuming. Just think it through before you take that first step.

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This article was written by
Skip Cohen

Skip Cohen is an industry executive recognized for his diversity. He has served as past president of Hasselblad USA, Rangefinder/WPPI and in 2009 founded his own educational consulting company. In 2013 he launched Skip Cohen University dedicated to helping artists build a stronger business. He's a regular speaker at a variety of conventions and writes for several different magazines, as well as having two business classes at Click above to visit the SCU blog.

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