Thanks to e-publishing it's easier than ever to publish your own work, but there's one criteria that's stood the test of time since Shakespeare: Will people want to read it?
The last thing I want to do is discourage anybody from writing a book, if that's what your dream is. However, there are some questions you've got to be able to answer the right way before you start to chase a goal like this. With so many mediocre authors on the scene today, it seems like a great time to help you with a check-off list of things to consider, before you embark on one of the most difficult journeys of any artist's career.
This list isn't meant to be all-inclusive, just enough to help you start the process...
What's the topic going to be? This is more than just figuring out what you want to write about, but understanding what people want to read. It starts with understanding what's missing in an industry filled with self-proclaimed experts. Then, you need to understand how to expand your reach to make it an interesting topic to your target audience.
Are you an expert on the topic? It seems so basic, but just being a good photographer isn't enough for a great book. You've got be considered one of the best in your specialty. You've got to have images people want to see and a reputation for being able to teach and share. People have to be excited to want to invest both their money and time in reading whatever you're about to publish.
Can you write? I know it couldn't be more basic, but most of the best selling books in our industry have been written by the artists themselves. Yes, you can hire a writer and start dictating, but there needs to be a collaboration. All six of the books I've written have been with other photographers. While most of the written words were mine, the concepts surrounding technique and creativity belonged to my co-authors. Working with Don Blair, Bambi Cantrell and Joe Buissink I'd spend hours essentially listening to them teach a workshop and then put it all down on paper. GoingPro was different, because Scott Bourne is a wonderfully talented writer as well as photographer. We both chose topics we wanted in the book and then wrote our own sections where we each felt a level of expertise.
"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is …
the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
Do you have the time? A deadline is critical, whether for your own e-book or working for a publisher. In fact, usually deadlines are tied directly to some event that's critical to the launch of a new book. That means that during the process of becoming an author you're literally going to have to step away from your business and just write...without interruption from clients, friends, kids and your significant other. You need time to just lock yourself up and focus on one thing, your book.
Self-publish or work with a publisher? Having done both, it's a topic that deserves it's own post, but for right now, it's just something to think about. There are some terrific publishers today in photography and the big advantage is being able to get fast global distribution. They have reach and access to markets most of you don't. On the other hand you give up profit. Regardless, books for the most part are about fame not fortune.
What if you're not ready yet? It's not a sin to want to do a book some day and just not be ready now. This is where special projects come into play. Every photographer should have a special project of photographing a particular subject matter, just to help you stay focused on your passion as an artist. Maybe it'll become a book or a gallery exhibit, but the point is, for now you're just building a collection of images, with only one goal - pushing your creativity to the max and smiling with every click of the shutter.
“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. …
It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create,
to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities,
to let nothing go down the drain, to make something,
to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.