Jeff Fox – A Self Publishing Experience

Jeff-Fox Alumni front-cover
Alumni Jeff Fox recently published his first book. He shares his experience with self-publishing here  …
Self-publishing a book: My adventure so far
In June 2008, I took my first workshop with JP,  “Illuminating Creativity.” It so inspired me that six months later I began work on my first book. Published in April 2009, Yankee Stadium: The Final Game is a photographic essay, with commentary, on the passing of The House That Ruth Built. (As I write, the original Yankee Stadium is in the process of being dismantled and replaced by a public park.)
The book is sold on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It has also been featured on several blogs that cover the Yankees, as well as in USA Today Sports Weekly.
In the hope of informing other would-be authors, I share below some of my experiences and what I’ve learned from them so far.
The project was driven by one of my passions: A lifelong Yankee fan (I’d been going to Yankee games since 1962), on September 21, 2008, I set out for the final game ever played at the Stadium, intent on capturing and preserving the experience for all time. There was no conscious intention to produce a book, although I can’t say the idea wasn’t floating around somewhere in the back of my mind. Armed with my Nikon D300 and a couple of lenses, I tried to capture the feeling of being in the neighborhood on that historic day, as well as at a variety of locations within the Stadium itself—in and under the stands, plus on the field before, during, and after the game.
A couple of months later, I decided to turn the photos into a book, using a print-on-demand service called The nice thing about this service is that you can download free software with templates that make laying out a book so easy that you can do it in a matter of a few days. The problem with such services, I soon learned, is that they are too expensive (at least for photographic books) to be able to sell books profitably on the open market. However, proved a wonderful tool for prototyping my book and, just a couple of weeks after I started, I had a bound book to show people. There is a huge difference between describing a book, or even sketching one out, and having one that people can hold and flip through.
If you’re interested in producing a relatively small number of copies of a book, no more than a dozen or two, to showcase your work or for colleagues, friends, and relatives, a service like Blurb (or Lulu) is all you need. But after I got raves from a number of people who saw my protype, my goal quickly became selling thousands of books in the marketplace. With the baseball season a few short months away, there really wasn’t much time to get an agent and find a publisher. So I formed my own publishing business (Veridico Publishing LLC). And, after some research, I decided on a more economical way to print: A commercial printer using a four-color press.
Conventional printing is economical, but driving down the cost per copy can require a significant up-front investment. Which you means you’d better have some cash on hand and be confident that you can eventually sell all, or at least most, of what you print. (Printing abroad is generally cheaper, but I decided to print my book in the United States.)
I’ll spare you all the gritty details of designing the book and getting it ready to print. Suffice it to say that the process was laborious, often maddeningly frustrating, and seemingly endless. But with the help of a professional designer I knew, I had everything ready for the printer in about seven weeks. (It also helped that I’m a professional editor.) Only after the printing was underway did I learn that what I had just been through was not the toughest part of publishing a book. Neither was getting the book listed on Amazon (Among other things, I had to buy an ISBN number and bar code; set a retail price; buy domain names for my own web site; and file as a business in a couple of states).
The toughest part of publishing a book, basic as it may seem, is making your best customers aware that the book exists. Amazon helped; it can do a lot to promote your book, though you must give up a chunk of your royalties in return. The essential problem in marketing is that, for an unknown author, traditional advertising is unprofitable. You have to sell a lot of books that way just to break even.
That leaves a number of other ways of getting the word out; I’ve tried the following: Street distribution of postcards (didn’t seem to be very effective); getting press and blog coverage (very effective, but requires that you or your book be newsworthy); book signings (small bookstores and public libraries worked well; large-chain bookstores haven’t yet); specialty stores (souvenir stands near Yankee Stadium have been so-so); blogging (my own blog, YankeesGadfly, has directed traffic to my web site and increased my visibility to search engines; Twitter (my tweets  have been very effective at getting traffic for my site); Google Adwords (buying ads on Google has provided millions of ad impressions online very cheaply, though it’s not yet clear how many have turned into sales). I’ve also publicized the book on Facebook.
My next effort is to offer the book at a sports memorabilia show. I’m also considering street vending in NYC at opportune locations. To market a book, you must be resourceful and endlessly creative.
So far, I’ve sold a fair number of books, though I’m not yet in the black. (Not only must revenues cover  printing costs, but there are other overhead items, such as shipping, legal, web hosting, etc.) But I’ve learned a lot. And, should I produce another book or two, I believe this will be a profitable business, as well as a lot of fun.
If any JP alumni would like to get in touch with me, drop me a line at:

Blurb Features John Paul Caponigro's Next Step Alumni

Blurb highlighted my alumni’s Blurb Group Book John Paul Caponigro’s Next Step Alumni Group on their blog today. Blurb’s Natalie Shahmiri asked me about the project and about my impressions of the state of books.
Here’s an excerpt.
“Books have been essential ways of sharing work for artists. Without them a majority of artists’ works would have remained invisible. Only a few people would have see them, not larger audiences. Even with the advent of the world wide web, books remain important communication and marketing tools. Printed matter offers focussed, localized, persistence while the web offers diffuse, transient, ubiquity. Books can also be the final product, special things in and of themselves.
While I will continue to work with major publishers, print on demand solutions are becoming essential tools for communicating and marketing my own work – specifically Blurb. Stay tuned to for many new Blurb books from me in the near future.”
Read the rest here.

Blurb Books From PDFs

Now you can use your own graphics layout software to design books and print them on Blurb. Or, you can have someone do this for you. The point is you don’t have to use Blurb’s BookSmart software to make Blurb books anymore. Of course, your designs need to fit standard Blurb book sizes. But after that … the sky is the limit.
Find out more here.

Blurb – Books On Demand

It’s a r/evolution. You produce the content, Blurb produces the product. Design your own book with easy to use software. Update it whenever you want – even after it’s gone to press. Order as many copies as you want whenever you want. Let other people purchase as many copies as they want whenever they want. Print only copies that are sold. Warehouse nothing. Let someone else handle and ship the product for you. No publisher or distributor necessary. Artist to client with only one entity in between – Blurb.
Having watched my mother shepherd the creation of some of the finest photographic art books of the 20th century, I know what goes into creating a great book. Blurb’s production values aren’t the finest on the planet – but they’re surprisingly good! Blurb won’t make you a great photographer, a great picture editor, a great writer, a great graphic designer, a great book printer, or a great book binder. But you can do it all yourself. And there can be something unique about having a singular vision controlling all aspects of a book’s content. Blurb’s about getting the job done. It makes things possible that were never possible before. For instance, you can quickly revise or expand a book. You can make unique one of a kind books customized for an individual. You can even make a book by collaborating remotely and independently with other people.
If you’d like some help producing your book, Blurb offers BlurbNation, a community of expert bookmakers available for you to hire to help make your books.
You can also make a GroupBook. Invite people to contribute photos to your book. Your contributors can simply upload photos to Blurb’s Web site (via a personal email invitation that we help you send). Then you can access the photos directly in BookSmart. Then, when you’re making a book, instead of “hooray for me!” you can cheer “go team!”
The most important thing about this r/evolution is it empowers you. You don’t have to wait for a publisher to sign on to your project. You don’t have make a big investment in producing a large inventory to self-publish. You don’t have to warehouse and distribute the books. You, the artist can create your own book – from start to finish. And that means more books are being produced. It also means different kinds of books are being produced. These kinds of books can span a wide spectrum from family album to artistic journal to community project to artists collaborations to monographs to thematic essays.
It’s a r/evolution. We’ve seen it coming for over a decade. It’s finally here.
Check back here soon for an upcoming announcement on the release of my first Blurb book.
Check out Blurb here.
Get a signed copy of my book at my Annual Exhibit 8/2-3. Find out more here.
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