Moving Past the No’s
now that I had a real physical book in my hands I was feeling pretty good. the dream of “Found in Kitsap” might actually happen. I could imagine seeing the book in my doctor’s office or on the shelf at an art store. but even though I had made a book, I knew nothing about getting one published. and that my friends, was going to be an issue. so I began to read up on it online. then I talked to a few photographers who had made art books. the more I researched it, the more I realized this wasn’t going to be easy.
I started to contact book agents, but the project was tricky. was it a photography book? was it a book of poetry? was it literary or a collection of short stories? there wasn’t a clear place for it to land and I didn’t know who exactly was the best to submit it to. one the few people that wrote me back said that “art books” just weren’t very profitable, and the amount of time it would take to make one successful was going to be tough when the author was an “unknown.” basically, he liked the concept, but didn’t like me as the author.
the rejection emails came in, one after another. this wasn’t a new experience, after all, as a filmmaker I’ve gotten plenty (tons) of rejections, but still the constant stream of “no’s” began to take it’s toll. was I that wrong about the project? was I just not reaching the right people?
then, after months of searching – a positive response. there was an indy publisher who was interested in the project. it fit in with their needs and they could have it in their upcoming line-up. I was over the moon. finally, someone had said “yes.”
but then came the catch, they wanted a “co-publishing fee” of $30,000.00. wait, what? yes. they wanted ME to pay THEM thirty-thousand dollars to publish my book. as they explained it, this would be 1/2 the cost of making and marketing the book. and what would I get for my 30K? I’d get 500 copies. what was I supposed to do with 500 copies of a book? go door to door with them? hiphop hustle out of my trunk or just give away to friends? I’m not sure really.
some quick division meant that I’d have to sell each copy for $60 just to break even. I asked what the “list price” would be… and they said $45. for those of you keeping score at home 45 * 500 = 22500. so if I sold every copy at list price it would mean I’d be $7500 in the hole. and this didn’t take into account the thousands of dollars I’d already spent on the project…
I contacted the photographers who’d given me advice before. was this “co-publishing” thing a scam? I mean, it had to be – right? but it wasn’t. sadly, for “unknown” artists it was really common. why the heck would anyone make a book that lost them money? I still don’t know, but the best I could reason is that artists would consider it a “promotional expense.”
hypothetically, artist spends money and makes book. then one day Person X sees the book and likes artist’s work. Person X then buys an expensive print, original painting, or commissions the artist to make new work. this all sounds well and good, but for me the book wasn’t a representation of my work, it WAS my work. what would someone hire me to do, find random cameras or write short stories?
the dire reality of my situation was beginning to set in. “Found in Kitsap” might never happen. the copies of the book I’d made for my family might be the only ones that ever existed. all the work I’d done would lead to nothing. this realization was a pretty bitter bill to swallow.
over the course of a few days I stewed in this disappointment. I had such a positive response from friends and colleagues and even strangers about the project. how could this not be happening? it was a sure thing. an amazing hook, a great story, and a beautiful book. I’d made something that people needed to see, dammit.
I tried to take an objective look at the situation. what was really the goal of the project? was it to publish a book, or was it to share this discovery with an audience? did I care more about what I was trying to say or my ego? being a “published” author would be a great item for the CV and something that would give me validity as a creative. but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the initial goal was to share the photos and stories. I wanted to inspire an audience with the treasures that I’d found and encourage them to find their own. and to do that, I didn’t need to make a coffee-table book.
if the only way I could share “Found in Kitsap” was online I decided I would be okay with that. so I started posting photos on Instagram, stories on Tumblr, and I began to build the eBook. I was determined to share what I’d made with the world. one way or another, people would get to see what was “Found in Kitsap.”
the next step was creating an eBook, which would allow people to experience the entire story for a fraction of the cost. there are two different versions. one is an iBook that features some interactivity – you can enlarge the photos and text. for this you need a Mac or iOS device. you can purchase this from iTunes here.
if you use an Android phone or Windows computer fear not, there is also a version for you. Head on over to Amazon.com and get your Kindle Fire copy here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reliving the journey of “Found in Kitsap” with me. it’s been a long and twisting road, full of surprises and revelations. I’ve learned so much about not just book making, but also the creative process, and I’ve gotten a unique view into a group of strangers lives. these people might be our neighbors, our friends, our coworkers… hopefully some of you will recognize them. hopefully we can return to them the photos that were found in Kitsap.
and please, connect with us!