For nine years, I had been traveling to Acadia National Park (Maine) every Autumn to photograph the foliage, coast, lakes, mountains and everything else on Mount Desert Island. And for most of those years, I found myself wondering what to do with all the photos I was making. I had a website, Images of Acadia, which is a nice way for others to see your photos, but website pictures are small, and the photos deserved a better venue to be seen properly. Though I’ve sold a number of prints over the years, wall prints are expensive, and finding buyers with free wall space and the money to buy a quality print isn’t always easy. Eventually I realized that most people can afford a book, and if it’s done right and the pictures are good enough, it will sell.
Towards the end of 2014, I’d decided I would publish a coffee table book. The biggest market for the book would be at the national park– in the bookstores, gift shops and Acadia visitors center. I already sell posters in the visitors center, so I had a contact there. I wrote to her and asked if she thought my book was worth pursuing, and did she think it would it sell. Her words to me were, “Love the idea. We are always being asked for coffee table type books. People want to give them as gifts or want a hardback high quality book for themselves. I think it will sell!” That was enough for me to push ahead with the project.
I knew it wasn’t going to be a small undertaking, but I had no idea how much work it would involve. I had to find an experienced printer to make the book for me. I planned to self-publish it, but someone had to print the actual book. I knew there were services out there like Blurb and Apple Books, but the quality is marginal at best. My book would have to be done on a traditional offset press. After searching around, I learned that the minimum print run I could do was 500 books. Any less just wasn’t worth the cost involved, and would push the per-book cost up, so I decided to do a print run of 1,000 copies.
I searched the internet and found a company in Michigan that could handle the printing. I had a sample book sent to me to check on the quality, but wasn’t convinced. I decided to drive the three or four hours from my home in Chicago to visit the company and look through other samples, ask questions and meet some of the people who would be helping with the production of the book. It was a good day out, and I left Michigan satisfied, knowing they were my printers of choice.
Publishing a book is very expensive, obviously. I couldn’t afford to print the books myself, so I turned to Kickstarter to raise the funds for the book. I read up all I could find about Kickstarter campaigns and a month later, I had scripted, filmed and edited a promo video that I liked enough to use on Kickstarter (click here to read more about my experience with Kickstarter
). And amazingly… thirty days after the campaign started, 108 people had successfully funded most of the book’s printing costs. Work on producing the book could now kick into a higher gear.
I’d already laid out the design and chosen the photos before the Kickstarter campaign began, but now I needed someone with expert knowledge to help me lay out the design of the book. My good friend Dean, who works at a publishing house– and is a book designer– offered to help me out. For about three months Dean and I went back and forth, sending pdf’s to each other, gradually shaping the book to look just like I wanted it.
I own several fine art photographers’ books and based a lot of my design and choice of paper stock, etc. on those books. I had decided early on that the book had to be the highest quality possible within a reasonable price, so that meant using a heavyweight, 180gsm paper (for an additional $540) that would complement the photos well, along with a cloth cover and quality dust jacket.
By June, the book was at the printers and the long wait for proofs, etc. began. After several weeks and additional changes, the whole process was underway and the presses were finally rolling. A couple advance copies came to me by mid-September and I was able to take them with me on my trip to Acadia in October. I used these copies to show at the visitor center and to the president of the Acadia Corporation, which owns several stores around the Park. All agreed to carry the book when it became available.
Finally, in mid-November, I got a call to say my books were on the way. 167 boxes of six books each arrived on three pallets at my garage. A few days later, on my birthday, I spent the whole day driving to northern Illinois (twice) to pick up shipping supplies– my van couldn’t fit them all in one trip.
Now the Kickstarter backers have been given their copies of the book, and several copies have been sent to Acadia to be sold in stores there. A number of them have been sold though my website (acadiaphotobook.com
), in three local stores and on Amazon. The tourists are all but gone in Acadia right now, so I’ll have to wait until Memorial Day when it gets busy again to see how the book sells. If it sells well, I’ll be ordering another 1,000 or more books, so a portion of my profits will be used to fund the next printing.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Will the book be successful? Will it sell enough copies? I don’t know. Time will tell. But if the reaction of some of the people who have bought it are any indication, I think I’ll be re-ordering more books some time in the near future.
To buy a copy of the book, visit Images of Acadia. The cost is $75 and includes free shipping to all US addresses. This is the only place to get a signed copy of the book.