Whether you’re interested in publishing a catalog of your work or creating an art book, here are some ways you can make it happen.
Maybe you’re an artist working with photography, graphic design, collage, printing, etc. and want to start a book project, but aren’t sure where to begin. That’s understandable — it can be challenging to find access to materials, resources, and equipment. Not to mention that it can be expensive.
Likewise, perhaps you’re looking to have a catalog of your work or a specific project published. A publication can increase your exposure, professionalize your practice, and maybe even bring in some income through sales. But again, production can be costly, and may take time to build support and get off the ground. So what options do you have?
We’ve gathered some tips and resources to help you out in this area — whether looking for publishers or going the self-publishing route.
Making a plan
In general, before you approach a publisher or apply for funding to produce your book, it’s a good idea to have a clear proposal and budget plan. This is especially the case if you are applying for a grant, for example.
Are you designing and doing the layout of the book yourself? Or will you work with a designer? Will your book contain texts? Are they exclusively written by you or will you commission texts from other writers?
Get quotes for any fees related to graphic design, printing, text commissions, editing, etc. And also have an idea of page count, type of paper, and book size in order to estimate costs accurately.
You should also come up with a timeline for production. When working with writers or designers, for example, you’ll want to get in touch well in advance of any deadlines.
When it comes to submitting proposals or applications, the more confirmed, accurate and complete information you have compiled in support of your book project the better.
To get the ball rolling on your book idea, do some research on available opportunities geared towards producing art publications. There are some out there!
Some art book publishers may have an open submission policy, making it possible for artists to submit book proposals at any time.
Wirklichkeit Books in Berlin, for example, takes an experimental approach to publishing works in the realm of art and language. They welcome those with publication proposals and potential collaborations to get in touch at any time. And, located in Montreal, Anteism is a publisher of artist monographs, artist books, exhibition catalogues, and more. They also operate a printing and binding studio, under the name of BookArt, fully equipped with resources and materials to facilitate both analogue and digital printing processes. Anteism accepts hardcopy and digital submission proposals on an ongoing basis for projects that bring art and publishing together in exciting new ways.
Look at art books to find potential publishers — and inspiration
Maybe there are artist books that you like and admire, or you come across some interesting ones while browsing your local bookshop. Who’s the publisher? Look them up and see what else they publish and whether they accept proposals. This could be a great way to start the research process, while enjoying some books!
Or maybe there’s an art book fair taking place in your area (perhaps not likely at the moment, due to COVID-19, but eventually!). Fairs for art books and independent publishers can be a great place to network, make connections and find inspiration.
But before submitting to a publisher, make sure to read through any guidelines they provide very carefully. And follow all instructions when formatting and submitting your proposal. You should also review all your material beforehand and make sure it is presented in a professional, clear and organized manner.
In addition to publishers, some galleries and magazines, for example, also operate as publishing houses. And in some cases, they run open calls to support winning artists in the production of a book or catalog. This usually means that the publisher bears all costs and handles or assists with all aspects of production. Here are a few such organizations and their current and recent calls to check out:
Founded last year, Cologne-based BUMMBUMM BOOKS is currently running an open call until September 15, 2020, on the topic of freedom. The publishing house invites artists working with photography, illustrations and/or texts to submit their projects on this topic for the opportunity to have it published as a printed and bound book. Four projects will be selected, with all costs of printing, visual editing, layout and production covered by the publisher.
rive gauche gallery
rive gauche gallery and éditions in Paris recently ran an open call for photographers to submit their photo series for the chance to turn it into a book, as well as an exhibition. The gallery offered to publish the artist’s book and provide full financial support for its production and promotion. With the book’s design — it’s format, lay-out, and paper — decided on in collaboration with the artist.
Similarly, Light Observer magazine launched last year in Milan and ran its first open call earlier this year, offering artists and writers a chance to realize their project as a book. Again, all costs — designing, pre-press, printing, distributing and promoting — were covered by the publisher.
Aside from looking for opportunities and publishers to submit to, another possible route is to self-publish your book. Of course, having a publisher or institutional support for your publication can bring more credibility to the project. But this doesn’t mean that self-published books can’t be successful, of course.
Self-publishing also doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you’re on your own — financially or otherwise. There may be opportunities available to support the project, whether via material, resources, production, printing and/or financing. And working with collaborators or contributors can also be a way to reach a wider audience and gain more credibility.
It may be possible to produce your art book through a residency program, where you have the possibility to receive funding, support, and access to tools and equipment. There are even some programs that are specifically focused on independent publishing practices.
Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) in Portland, Oregon, for example, provides affordable access to space, tools, and resources for creating independently published works. In addition, they also run a program including workshops and a BI/POC Artist & Writer Residency. Through the residency, artists and writers are provided time, resources, support, and a stipend to create their projects.
Studios and Workshops
To manage the printing, production, and binding yourself, there may also be workshop and studio facilities available for use by artists at reduced rates.
As mentioned above, Independent Publishing Resource Center (IPRC) in Portland, Oregon, for example, also operates affordable studio spaces for projects in print. Their facilities include digital design software and equipment, as well as paper cutting, finishing and binding tools, in addition to studios for printing processes like risograph and screenprinting. The Center’s studios and equipment are made available via monthly and yearly membership packages, as well as hourly, daily, weekly and monthly rates for non-members.
There’s also the BBK Berlin Printmakers’ Workshop at Kunstquartier Bethanien in Berlin-Kreuzberg. The printmaker’s workshop of the berufsverband bildender künstler*innen (bbk) is open to all artists and can be accessed for a daily rate. It offers extensive resources and equipment for producing work in all printing techniques, as well as papermaking, bookbinding, and catalogue and book printing.
Book Design and Printing Services
As an alternative to doing it yourself, print-on-demand services may be a cost-effective way to produce your book.
There are businesses that facilitate book printing and/or design. Through BookArt, for example, Anteism arts publisher also offers book making services — printing, binding, design — for self-published books.
Such services range in price and quality, of course. So do your research, ask around, price out different options. And always ask questions and look at samples before deciding to go with a printer. You want to make sure you know exactly what you’re getting for the price. Poor paper, printing, and binding quality means poor overall presentation — even with high quality images of great artworks.
Also keep in mind that, even if you use a book printing service, you may still need to take care of the design and layout yourself — either on your own or working with a graphic designer. And always make sure to use high quality images when submitting materials for print!
Applying for grants can be a way to partially or fully fund your book project.
Something to note is that just because you find a publisher that is interested in your book, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will have the resources to fund it. This means you might have to find outside funding sources for the project — even if you are not self-publishing. But having a publisher on board is certainly a plus for funding applications!
There are grant programs that fund the production of artist catalogs and books — either specifically, or under the umbrella of artistic projects and presentations. A good place to look for these might be your local art council or government funding agency for arts and culture. In Berlin, for example, the Senate Department of Culture and Europe offers support for artist catalogs via the presentations of contemporary visual art funding program.
Or, if you’re a US art writer with a focus in contemporary art, the Arts Writers Grant Program may be a possibility for you. Supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation, this program by Creative Capital runs an open call each spring and has a funding category for books.
Applying for a grant can be a lengthy process. Only apply to those that you are eligible for and are well suited to your project aims and requirements. This also means having a concrete project idea and goal in mind. And, of course, make sure to leave yourself enough time for the application. Prepare your materials in a professional manner, create an accurate budget, follow all instructions and review everything carefully.
Once you’ve published your art book — firstly, congrats! But you may be wondering: what now? If you worked with a publisher or applied to an organization’s open call, then the promotion and distribution of your book will likely be facilitated by them.
If you went the self-publishing route, then you’ll have to consider how to market and where and how to distribute your book. Of course, social media platforms and online market places make it easier to promote and sell your work online. But you may also consider participating in an art book fair or stocking your book in a local bookshop. Research bookshops, check out their policies, and get in touch or submit a copy of your book for consideration. Keep in mind that most shops take around 40% commission on sales. But it can be a way to give your book, and your work, more exposure — and hopefully sell some copies!