Updated: Sep 15
Each of us has their own story.
Every decision made and not taken has both positive and negative consequences, especially when we are experiencing something for the first time.
I thought that sharing my adventure - the creation of a photo book, love, sex and relationships - might be useful and provide some clarity for those who have to make decisions about creating a photo or art book.
Showcase of self-published books
The first obstacle to be faced is discouragement, frustration, confusion, and that little voice in our heads that keeps repeating - You will never make it!
When I decided to transform the video-photographic project of love, sex and relationships into a book of black and white photographs combined with intimate conversations, thoughts and poems, something changed within me.
I knew it would be a very challenging undertaking, at least for me.
I was aware of the difficulty of realising the idea (knowing my inexperience in the publishing sector).
Still, I was confident that I had an art project in my hands with interesting content to publish. Even though I had no contacts in the publishing sector and had never published a book before, I thought about embarking on this new adventure.
The first thing I did was to start believing in myself.
From the beginning, I knew that it would be a self-publishing editorial project, and that to make it happen, I would have to widen my circle of contacts. I would need a graphic designer, input from an editor/publishing house, advice from a crowdfunding expert, and expertise in marketing and communication strategies, along with a quote from a typographer.
I had various tasks to accomplish: for instance, organising the book's content in advance before presenting it to potentially interested parties, planning the content of the crowdfunding campaign (what to write, what rewards to offer, which crowdfunding platform to choose for fundraising, and when to launch the campaign online), figuring out how to involve associations and institutions in the project, as well as reaching out to journalists, bloggers, influential individuals, friends, and even strangers to promote the crowdfunding campaign on social media. Additionally, I needed to deal with the distribution and sale of the book once it was created.
In short, it was an enormous task that had nothing to do with being a photographer or an artist.
To prepare, I created a presentation PDF draft of the final book using Indesign, making it clear that I had a well-defined plan for the book-project.
To all this work, I must add the pre-production phase of the project, which included finding couples and individuals to participate in the project, conducting interviews, capturing photographic shots, and post-production tasks. Post-production, such as organising 40 hours of English interviews, transcribing, proofreading (with the help of two of my friends who are English teachers - Jonathan Graham and Peter Dixon), video editing with English subtitles, collecting poems, thoughts, and reflections, processing black and white negatives, scanning and retouching photographs with Photoshop, selecting photographs and text content for inclusion in the book, creating the book's layout/structure with InDesign, contacting an editor and a graphic designer, calculating production costs, and more, proved to be a rather complex operation.
I ruled out the traditional publishing option and decided to consider self-publishing despite its associated challenges.
At that time, I wanted complete control over the book's contents, though in hindsight, this may have been somewhat naive. If I could turn back time, I would opt to work with a publisher because deciding to work alone on such a complex project has kept me occupied for over six years, and I'm still here working on it.
At that point, I decided to find an editor who would be interested in my work. After numerous searches, I contacted Steve Bisson, who helped me organise the book's layout and contents, providing structure to the project. I felt understood and motivated. However, I was also aware that being an unknown photographer wouldn't make things easier.
The first question I asked myself was - What does it mean to be a self-publisher?
Self-publishing is a form of independent publishing that has gained significant popularity in recent years, even here in Italy. Abroad, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, self-publishing has long been a valid alternative to traditional publishing.
It's an effective way to become a publisher of yourself, overseeing every aspect of your work: drafting, layout, distribution, pricing, and other related activities. It's a very different approach from traditional publishing.
However, "visibility" is crucial; being able to reach as many people as possible is essential. Traditional publishers can generally ensure visibility with relative certainty because books are placed directly on bookstore shelves, advertised in specialised newspapers, online magazines with large followings, and on TV.
Self-publishing is indeed a real job. It's akin to becoming your own editor and entrepreneur, overseeing all aspects from conception to delivering the book to readers' tables (or smartphones). The topic, however, is much broader.
So, I began to educate myself, read, and acquire knowledge about self-publishing and publishing. Time passed - the first year, then the second.
I felt trapped, not just by the period of COVID-19 but also by this new world that I was trying my best to understand. I wasn't taking photographs anymore; instead, I was focused on learning how to produce the book' love, sex, and relationships'.
I decided to concentrate solely on the goal and set myself a deadline. As the days went by, I became more aware of the difficulties and gained more clarity. Discouragement was significant, but I didn't give up.
I kept wondering, "How can I proceed now?"
The second question I asked myself was about organising the crowdfunding campaign and understanding who the followers are, who will support the project during the campaign, and where to find them.
But first and foremost, what is crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is a collective financing of a project that is carried out thanks to the contributions of ordinary people who believe in the project's strength and want to contribute to its realisation. Several crowdfunding platforms, such as Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Crowdbooks, GoFundMe, among others, exist. The project's success may partly depend on the choice of the platform.
Still, the project's quality, presentation, and promotion play a significant role. Simply listing the project on the platform and waiting is not enough. The most challenging work often begins once the project is launched online - another entirely new topic for me.
The hardest part is creating a pre-crowdfunding campaign, dealing with market and customer analysis, brand positioning, finding the right influencers who can support the idea and vision, reaching out to journalists who can write about it in magazines or online publications, and engaging followers so that they believe in us, trust us, and help us achieve our goal.
There's a lot of work to be done.
But who are these supporters/followers, and where can we find them?
It's nice to have a community that already follows you or friends who strongly believe in what you do. Surely, among your followers, there will be people eager to support your projects. One piece of advice - don't exclude anyone; you never know who they might know.
Participate in group discussions, comment on their posts and online events, inform everyone about your project, update your social media profiles.
Meanwhile, questions continued to pile up in my mind: Will they take me seriously? Will they be interested in my artistic work? Will they buy the book?
To make my life a bit easier, I consulted a few crowdfunding experts.
I showed them my work and my overall situation to determine whether I could manage the crowdfunding campaign on my own.
One of them discouraged me even further.
"To reach your goal, you'll need 650 people who believe in you and can invest at least 30 euros each" he told me."You should already have 30% of the project funded in advance before launching your crowdfunding campaign. At least 400 backers should be ready to get started."
"Where can I find 650 people who believe in me?" I asked. "I'm not that famous!"
"Don't you have friends, acquaintances, colleagues, people you've known all these years?" he responded.
"Not 400" I replied.
"Okay, then you will have to work on them and find them through marketing and communication strategies, mailing lists, contacts with journalists and the press, newsletters, brand positioning, blog posts, influencers' posts… If you can't find those 400 people, your campaign is doomed to fail."
It was indeed a real job - a new world I had never considered before.
Once again, I found myself in the dark.
The third question I asked myself was: Should I publish with a traditional publisher or pursue self-publishing? The age-old dilemma!