Self-Publishing with Digital Books

By Veronica Cotter Back to


For many, making and/or taking pictures is a process that often provides the opportunity to capture a moment, event, place or person we find compelling, interesting, whimsical or just plain hard to resist. Images are nurtured in a darkroom, computer or some version of workflow that eventually produces a print that best represents the original vision. A series of pictures slowly and carefully begins to take shape and eventually becomes a body of work. The work might maintain a defined theme (landscape, portrait, urban, rural, still life, etc.), or venture off during the course of a lifetime. The images that are the most meaningful are those that mean the most to you.

Sharing personal work with friends, family and likeminded photographers is a great opportunity to connect with an enthusiastic audience. The work can educate, inspire and in certain situations (portfolio review, workshop, print critique) provide feedback to enhance and refine our methodology. A gallery exhibition provides additional exposure and allows the work to reach a broader audience. The recognition of our work and efforts is a well-deserved acknowledgement of our dedication and passion. Such affirmations are a positive boost to the psyche. It’s gratifying to see the work displayed and realize its broader reach and potential to influence.

What comes next? Until recently that might have been a more complex question to answer. In the past one could only hope that someone would see the work that either had a connection to publishing or knew someone, who knew of someone who might be interested in looking at your portfolio. It’s a long shot at best, but difficult to resist nonetheless. Combine technology with opportunity and the result is a number of satisfying self-publishing choices.

Print On Demand Technology

(POD) is both a printing technology and business model. Books are not printed until an order has been placed. The cost per unit is generally fixed, with the publisher either taking a percentage of the revenue or charging a processing fee. You can set up your own virtual bookstore on the publisher’s site and promote the book on your website, blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Blurb -Portfolio, Mustafah Abdulaziz

Blurb is a company that offers creative publishing services that include bookmaking tools, step-by-step tutorials and webinars featuring insights and tips to help with layout, text, design and more. Using their Set Your Price Program you can decide how much profit per book you want to make. BookShow allows you to share your book on your Facebook page, blog and website. Friends can easily view and purchase your book. Blurb has recently added a ProLine option with enhanced papers and hardcover linens.

Lulu is also a POD company that operates a global print network that allows you to upload your photos, use their formatting tools to assist with size, binding and cover art. Using their Book Cost Calculator you can set your book price and list it on the Lulu Marketplace. Lulu offers Forums, a Blog and Newsletter to connect their community of more than one million “creators.” Lulu offers a Professional Services Team that includes editors, designers, writers and marketing professionals with experience in the publishing industry. Options include Prepublishing Service Packages, Marketing Packages or Individual Services.

A&I -The Ancient Mexicans, Olivia Barrionuevo

A&I is a legacy photo lab in Los Angeles that is remaining true to its roots, while embracing a digital imaging future. A&I’s perspective on books embraces a photographic point of view. All of the printing is done in house, which allows them to maintain a high level of consistency and quality control. A&I offers a free initial consultation, either in person or by phone, with additional services available for hire as required. Their Publishing Packages include a number of features (conceptual strategy consultation, unique design template, ISBN registration, proofreading, etc.), designed to help photographers realize their specific goals.

Paper Chase Press

Paper Chase Press in Los Angeles was established in 1976 and continues to offer high-end commercial quality printing. They feature Custom Products (Hardcover and Softcover Books), Exhibition Catalogues, Economy Products (Paper Cuts/ Hardcover Books) and a Portfolio Program that allows for on-demand printing. Paper Chase Intelligence is a creative services bureau that offers access to the best local freelance writers, designers and more.

There is certainly a sense of challenge inherent in making a book, especially your first, but the upside is certainly worth the investment. Think of the project as an opportunity to curate your work and create a finished product that truly reflects your aesthetic and artistic vision. A book should be shared with those we cherish and those who admire the work. It might also make an unexpected connection with those who discover you in the global book bazaar. Creating a book could turn out to be the most interesting new chapter in your life as a visual artist.

About the Author

Veronica Cotter
Veronica Cotter started her career in the photo industry with Oriental Photo, and established their East Coast office. Veronica also worked for ILFORD Imaging and was most recently the VP of Education Development for HARMAN technology. She is currently working as a writer and consultant.