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January 26, 2004

Some Interesting/Humbling Numbers

Some interesting numbers I’ve heard/seen lately…sort of a follow-up to my post “Working For Pay…Or Not” from last week:

Pay for a front page photo in the Boston Herald: $100

Pay for two to three photos in a Boston Magazine (monthly) feature: $250 to $300

Not exactly inspiring numbers for editorial/photojournalist types. Now if you want to skip the work for pay stuff…if you want to simply pursue the fine arts angle, and you’ve assembled what you feel to be a fairly impressive body of work, maybe you’d like to publish a book. Of course, there are all sorts of low tech publishing options if you want to print small quantities, and I consistently hear about aspiring and established reputable photographers issuing small quantities of work in the form of inkjet prints, bound or gathered into a small book.

But what if you want to publish with a more reputable small press that has a shot at getting some modest press coverage, and placement in the better independent specialty outlets (Photo-Eye)…and maybe even the more well-stocked urban locations of Border’s and Barnes and Noble. Say Steidl, one of the hottest and best boutique publishers, who have assembled quite an impressive resume lately with recent titles like Mitch Epstein’s Family Business, Robert Polidori's Zones of Exclusion, and Paul Graham's American Night.

Here are some numbers from a recent Picture Magazine article, "The Power of the Art Book" on the costs of book publishing, with Steidl featured...these numbers come from an interview with Alexander Gallan of Distributed Art Publishers:

"A photo book priced at around $65 is successful if it sells 3000 copies. It should cost around $13 to make, so if you print 3000, you're looking at $39,000. In the U.S., bookstores buy books at around a 45% discount, so the publisher is selling that book for $35.75. Distribution costs come out of this, so the break-even point is somewhere around 1100 copies.

"Artists receive on average 10% of the net billings based on the wholesale price -- so for a $65 book they get around $3.50/book (when books are sold at a 45% discount to stores). So on a print run of 3000 -- which granted is small --- a sell out would return to the photographer around $10,000."

So this isn’t exactly a casual thing to pursue…and of course, you have to have a reputation in order to be able to secure a book contract in the first place. In response to the inevitable question regarding whether publishers work with emerging talent as well as established photographers...

"Steidl's list has a good number of exquisite books on emerging photographers. Marc Joseph, the photographer of American Pitbull...is a perfect example. He has shot for many magazines and makes a decent living as a commercial photographer. He is not a well-known name yet but is getting his name out there. For a few years, he's been photographing pitbull culture in the U.S. and amassed an impressive collection of images that really tells the story of this subculture. Steidl loved it and is releasing it as a major photo book. It is Marc's first book ever and from it he expects to get a lot of payoff in terms of his career"

Steidl does have an interesting if odd array of titles...in addition to the outstanding ones mentioned earlier, it also has more dubious titles from Lou Reed and David Byrne (in equally dubious packaging...check out the books at your local bookstore if you don't believe me). On the other hand, they're also going to be publishing work from Alec Soth (featured on Conscientious last week), whose work strikes me as being extremely worthwhile...I'm definitely looking forward to his book.

On a side note, I have to say, looking at the very polarized reviews on the Amazon site for Joseph's book on pitbulls, it does look interesting...check them out. And here's another review of the book.


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Tracked on Jan 26, 2004 3:29:18 PM


Oh boy! All those poor pitbull lovers who are disappointed that they got an actual photo book. I don't want to sound too nasty but those people the only person who could do a good enough book was probably the late Leni Riefenstahl... ;-)

Posted by: Joerg at Jan 26, 2004 4:23:32 PM

I looked through the book at a local B&N. Some good photos. The author chooses to spend some significant time with people involved in breeding fighting pitbulls, however, which might explain saome of the bad amazon reviews. People like Colby puished the breed into what it is today primarily by breeding for gameness and selling to people they knew would fight the dogs.

Anyway, there are still some good photos there.

Posted by: Topango at Jan 26, 2004 9:37:35 PM

i have a fear of these dogs... but your photo makes him look a little scarier... and well beautiful @ the same time

Posted by: teesh at Jan 29, 2004 9:50:47 PM