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relatively high,” he explains. “If you add a markup for the distributor, the books are too expensive for most book buyers.” Schmid also finds online bookstores (such as Blurb’s) to be dissatisfying because they are open to all comers and “consequently cluttered with amateurish books,” he says. In response, Schmid and four colleagues formed the Artists’ Books Cooperative in late 2009. The ABC includes 30 artists, who elect new members based on merit (artists may apply online). The ABC website is a place for collectors to peruse monographs endorsed by the co-op. Books cannot be purchased there, but the site includes links to sites where visitors can buy books directly from the photographers. There’s just one problem with that idea, says Joachim: “Many collectors don’t want to buy books that they haven’t seen as physical objects. It is important to have the thing in your hand.” For this reason ABC artists take turns representing the cooperative’s books at art-book fairs around the world. Last August the ABC also established three Blurb-supported repositories—in London, Berlin and New York City—where members’ books are available to browse and buy. You can schedule visits to these self-publishing hot spots by e-mailing them through the ABC website. SELF PUBLISH, BE HAPPY selfpublishbehappy.com A kind of DIY-photo-book support group, Self Publish, Be Happy began last spring, when Bruno Ceschel, a former book editor at English photography publisher Chris Boot Ltd, put together an exhibition/showcase at the Photographers’ Gallery in London. Ceschel says he had a feeling that there was a lot going on with self-published photo books, but he wasn’t sure how much of a response he’d get when he put out an open call for them. In two months he received more than 350 entries, many of which were included in the show. He now receives about 15 books per week from artists hoping to be featured on the Self Publish, Be Happy website or in one of the group’s upcoming shows. Although Ceschel isn’t inclined toward business, his supporters are
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NOT BY THE BOOK
Self-publishing is the surest way to get a photo book, but getting it seen is a challenge. These groups can help BY Miki Johnson
ne of the recession’s effects on photographers has been many more rejections from book publishers. Both mainstream and boutique publishing houses seem to be taking on fewer projects they deem risky—books of work by lesserknown photographers or about less palatable subject matter. Luckily, the DIY phenomenon has kept the photo book alive as a medium for showing work. Photographers don’t stand to make much money in print-on-demand selfpublishing (though they never really did in the mainstream, either). Yet its affordability has allowed artists to create books that would never have been considered by a traditional publisher even in the best of times. As a large, enthusiastic group of artists embrace self-publishing, excited by the freedom and possibilities it presents, they’re also aware of the pitfalls. Without a publisherfunded distribution network and marketing machine, how does a photographer get his or her book into the hands of an audience comprising more than close friends and family? Here are a few advocacy groups for photographic self-publishing and what they’re trying to do about it.

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ARTISTS’ BOOKS COOPERATIVE abcoop.wordpress.com When photographer Joachim Schmid began to use print-on-demand publishing services (such companies include Blurb, MPix, AsukaBook and AdoramaPix), he realized that photography books were suddenly easy to produce but still very difficult to distribute. “Self-published books are not in bookstores, and the price per copy for the photographer is

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urging him to take the next step: sales. He has been contacted by retailers interested in stocking Self Publish, Be Happy titles. In February 2011 he’s opening a pop-up shop in London, where books displayed as art objects will also be available for sale, and he’s just launched the group’s online store. “There are a lot of photographers talking about self-published books, and publishing their own, but many don’t buy them,” Ceschel says. “We’ll see soon if photographers themselves are willing to buy others’ photo books. People aren’t going to carry on forever investing in something that’s losing money.” INDIE PHOTOBOOK LIBRARY indiephotobooklibrary.org Larissa Leclair, who founded the Washington, DC–based Indie Photobook Library (IPL) in May 2010, wants to make sure self-published editions are both purchased and preserved. She solicits a wide range of nontraditional photo books, carefully cataloguing all donated volumes on the organization’s easily searchable website. The books themselves then become part of the permanent IPL archive—a sort of self-publishing Library of Congress for photography. The library will open to the public as soon as Leclair finds a permanent space for it. With some 400 volumes and growing, the archive is now too large to exhibit in its entirety outside Washington. However, Leclair is cocurating a show at the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, planned for September 2011, that will include a selection from the Indie Photobook Library. For Leclair, who has a BFA in photography and focused on archiving in her graduate studies, preserving indie photo books feels like the perfect way to combine interests. For photographers who donate work to the IPL, it’s a way for them to feel less isolated in their self-publishing endeavors. “They’re not just putting a book out into the world as a singular entity but as part of a larger community,” Leclair says. “If you’re publishing something yourself, it’s nice for it to have a final destination—a long-term collection, as well as a venue for showcasing it now.” AP
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