The vast majority of creatives that I talk to start out the conversation with "I've been thinking of creating an art book...." While art books are a common subject to talk about, there is a ton of bad information out there about creating your art book. Most of it comes from Print on Demand companies that want to convince you that creating an art book is as easy as uploading a bunch of images and hitting print. While it is true that you can create an art book in that manner, it isn't exactly the best solution for the majority of the professional artists that I work with and who want to create books that are more than just a collection of pretty images. To be really effective with the creation of your art book, you have to know a few things...
In the beginning...
Before you choose to launch your art book, you should be able to distill the reason for your art book, and why anyone else should care. Let's look at getting your ducks in a row before you start planning a Kickstarter...
Kickstarter is awash with art books. It seems that every other day I'm getting a notification or an email about someone that is launching a new art book and is asking me to help promote it. There is so much noise out there for personal art book projects, that you really have to come up with a better sales pitch than to say "I'm made a cool new art book of my favorite art pieces."
What is it that makes your art book distinctive?
Who would be interested in this art book?
Why should they spend $XX on your book when there are 20 other books coming out this quarter?
What is the unique selling point for your book?
What is the unique user experience offered by your book?
It's not enough to just say that your art book is different because it has your work in it. This can work for a highly recognized name in the industry, one that has many tens of thousands of fans and followers, but even known names have been struggling to get their art books funded due to the buyer fatigue in the art book market. You have to offer something more that just a collection of pretty pictures. You have to offer an experience.
Doing the Research
The very first thing I do when having an initial consultation with an artist is to recommend they head to the book store and do some research. I ask them to roam the shelves - and not just the thinning art section. I ask them to check out what folks are doing with cover designs, cover materials, printing techniques, formats and sizes. Touch everything. Feel the difference between materials and techniques. Understand the tactile difference and emotional resonance each technique provides. Then, move to the inside of the book and do the same thing for the interior pages. Feel the weight of the paper, the amount of tooth or smoothness, the matte or glossiness of the page, the special treatments or papers that are used. This research is invaluable, and can help you to express more fully the differentiation you have devised for your book. Often, I will purchase all the books that one of my ArtOrder clients references so that I have tangible assets to reference as we move into development of their product.
Setting a Price Point
As part of the research you are accomplishing, you should also be paying attention to the price points your competition and product category define for you. It is vitally important to understand what the consumers see as a "normal" production value. If your category is awash with $40 standard art books that are hardcovers, with dust jackets, 8"x10" in size, with full color 200 gsm art paper, and 200 pages in length - then you will be hard pressed to be successful pitching the very same value proposition for $60. Knowing the price points, and value propositions that you are competing with is crucial to mounting an effective product launch. Again, this why creating unique selling points are so very important. Increasing the value proposition is a better way to increase the value of a book than just adding bells and whistles for the sake of bells and whistles.
Understanding Your Business Model
It is one thing to create an amazing art book, it is quite another selling it effectively. One of the first decisions that need to be made is your sales channel. This is critical, because waiting until late in the process can actually paint you into a corner and eliminate many channels of sales simply because you didn't set yourself up for them in the planning process. What are the sales channels you plan on selling into - online sales, event sales, distributed sales, traditional publisher, etc.? For example, if you plan on working with a distributor to get into speciality or mass market sales, then you have to prepare your books production, marketing, and pricing to match this notion. Just a few things you are going to need to consider are: wholesale pricing (typically 50-60% of the MSRP), ISBN, UPC barcodes, release dates and catalog dates (most distributors work 12-18 months out from release date). What I don't want to see happen is what happened in a recent consultation with a client, where they realized by the choices they had already made in the development process that they had cut out the possibility of going through a traditional publisher without throwing away a significant amount of work that had already been accomplished and paid for.
Designing Your Book
Every book is comprised of a number of definable parts, and the choices that you make in these various arenas will define the perceived quality and value of your book.
Producing Your Book
The process of producing a book is pretty straight forward, but different companies and different printers adopt slightly different steps along the way to a completed book.
Producing your own art book can be a very rewarding experience. Teaming up with an partner, to help you walk through the process and to help you avoid all the pitfalls, can help minimize the risks and enhance the rewards. When you are ready to create your next art book, please consider ArtOrder for all your art book needs.