How To Make and Sell Your First Photobook

Self-publishing your own photobook has never been easier. This helpful video gives you some insights into how to create a platform for your product, choose a printer, take preorders, and get your book on sale.

With digital printing becoming cheaper and easier by the year, photobooks seem to be ever more popular with a wide variety of printing options available. The first half of Evan Ranft’s video focuses on creating a web platform to deal with the e-commerce side of things with more information about printing in the second half.

The other printing process that Ranft mentions is offset (or lithographic) printing and if you’re creating a large number of books, this is definitely the way to go, both in terms of price and image quality. Digital printing is great but the quality is not quite the same; the balance is that offset printing has a high upfront cost and a more complicated preparation process. For example, creating a proof of a digital print is very quick, easy, and affordable; with offset printing, it's not so straightforward.

The vast majority of photographers will choose to go digital and if you’re interested in having more control over the layout of your book, you might want to have a play with Affinity Publisher. Given its one-time fee of $49.99 and a free 30-day trial, this professional desktop publishing software is definitely worth checking out.

Whichever process you choose, I'd advise beginning your project on the assumption that it is not going to make you any money. Create a book because you are proud of your photos and because you know at least a small number of people will also like to support your work. That's not to say it won't be profitable, but the process and the final product should be the primary motivations, especially the first time around.

Have you published your own book? Let us know your route to printing in the comments below.

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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That might be true for you but that's not necessarily true for others. As the article mentions, self publish for the enjoyment of the process and creating something physical — not with any expectations of making money.

I don't know how much differs from publishing a regular book with pictures versus a photobook, but my up-front costs were zero when publishing through Createspace (now Amazon).

I have a website that's similar to Mentalfloss or TodayIFoundout (I don't want to name my site because I don't want to self-promote) where I write interesting articles about wide array of topics (do mosquitoes prefer a certain blood type? What came before the big bang? What's the hardest language to learn? Etc etc...)

Every article has multiple pictures, all created by me (some with my camera, some are entirely Photoshop). So all my content was already created, I just had to go through the process of getting it all in book format per their specs, and create a front/back design.

My only expense was time. I don't sell many books, a handful every month, but it's nice to have residual income every month. Taxes are a slight pain as I need to fill out a 1099 royalty form, but that only adds 10 or so minutes to my filing time.

For fear of sounding like a broken record, I shall not comment further. :)

And fwiw, the dig about the mic isn't the power blow that you think it is, I'm afraid. I am not Evan Ranft. 😆

What a negative attitude. I know plenty of photographers that I follow on social media that I would buy a photobook for a reasonable price from, either for myself or as a fun gift.

Now say that person has 5K followers, and even only 5% of them buy a photo book, that's still probably going to cover your costs and maybe even make a little money.

Even breaking even would make me happy. You are putting some of your hard work out in the world and some people are enjoying it. For many people that is enough.

A suggestion... you will probably draw the viewer in more if you stop looking at the mic and start looking at the camera.

I thought this was a very interesting and insightful review and video. I didn’t know SquareSpace was so versatile and now that my interest is peaked, I’ll check them out.
I agree that publishing should be for the joy and self satisfaction and it can add also be profitable.

I’ve publish a couple of books (I won’t self promote) and my first one was through a Print On Demand company. It is a book of poetry and the company did all the legwork to pay for the ISBN, which I thought was a big deal at the time. The % was skewed to their favor, but I sold a number of copies and retained all rights.

When my contract ended, I updated my book and published it through Amazon Kindle Publishing. This offers the best of four worlds:

I’ve done the first three and am considering the fourth. My biggest drawback is that I think I should include pencil sketches to accompany each poem…or not. Since then I’ve published a book on leadership and one on mentoring. I’m working on a book for Unscrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) Drone Pilot operations and applications.

Bottom line. If you want to self publish for fun or profit you can do so in s number of painless ways.

Thanks again for sharing another option for getting work out there.
Eugene Matthews