A Guide to Self-publishing Your Art Book

  1. Think carefully about what you want your book to be and who you want to read it. Sometimes it helps to figure out a title, and possible cover images. Try writing a couple of paragraphs in your own words about what you would like to be. This description will be valuable as you begin determining what to include, or not, and it will be useful for others who may help you with the book, such as writers, editors, photographers, and designers. As in creating your art, a continual process of deciding “this, not that” is at the heart of bookmaking.

  2. Decide on the size of the book. Obviously, the larger the book, the more it costs to print. I have found a midwestern printer that will print 100 copies of a 9x12 book for about $9/book. That’s less than a third the cost of most self-publishing services, such as Blurb or Shutterfly.

  3. If you haven’t already, have your pictures professionally photographed (unless, of course, they are photographs). Preferred file formats for output are .psd or .tif. A .jpg file is also acceptable, but be aware that jpegs lose some detail. With the photographer, decide whether you want the object to have a shadow. If you are imagining an object set against a white background on the book page, have the photographer leave a healthy margin of white around the object.

  4. Select the pictures you want and their size and order. Use whatever process is easiest for you. Color copies are fine, as is a document created in Word or Photoshop. You could consider laying out the book using the proprietary tools of one of Blurb, Shutterfly, or one of the other services. They are designed to make it easier for people who don’t know InDesign or other more sophisticated software.

  5. Write or commission any text you want to include. Write out the titles or captions in Word or a similar program. Ask for blurbs from people whose endorsement may help sell the book.

  6. Get feedback on the book from people you trust. Don’t insist on knowing whether they “like” it or not. Ask for specific suggestions that will make it better. Take only those suggestions with which you agree and revise the layout.

  7. Commission me or another designer to create the files for the printer. When you see the book design the first time, you will probably want to change some things. Build time and a budget for some back-and-forth into the process.

  8. Have the book edited and proofread by someone else—either a friend with those skills or a paid professional.

  9. Send the book to the printer. That process will take 3-5 weeks. During that time, work on building anticipation for the book on social media or other platforms.

How I can help you.

First, I can spend an hour or two helping you conceptualize the purpose, structure, and “flow” of the book. I can help you improve your written description. I can also design and edit your book, and prepare the files for the printer. After an initial meeting, I will provide a scope of work for the services you want and an estimate. My rate is $50/hour or $360/day.