JAMES CRAIG PHOTOGRAPHY

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The Latest on Ordering My Fine Art Books – Availability, Price Changes and Some Tips Thrown In

Mar 1, 2019

I have some experience with this in that I've now had eight different books printed by six different companies, using at least nine different preparation systems. I'm posting this because I have just ordered the next two copies of my The Moon has been Eaten – More Images from Easter Island. This is the second volume of my Easter Island Images. And of course everything has changed – again.

Granted, hardbound books printed one at a time are expensive, but they can be treasures. And, despite all of the seemingly discouraging points I am going to make below, it is really not very difficult. Exacting, yes. But pretty much anyone can do it. And artists have a special need for this.

How the latest changes are effecting my books:

The Moon has been Eateen, More Images from Easter Island

This book is already being printed by BayPhoto press. I am out of printed copies so I went to order numbers 6 and 7 (#6 is sold!). But since it has been a little over a year since the last order, the book file shows up on their software as no longer existing on their server. To complicate this, BayPhoto now has a whole new way to order – better but not at all convenient for me since all of my files are designed for the old software and would require a couple of days of work to convert – Isn't that precious. I called and asked – only to be assured that after a year the files are automatically removed.

Then I did a Hail Mary – writing the help desk to double check – they have a very savvy tech-help desk. I tend to figure that, with long-shots, things that stand maybe one chance in a hundred – after a hundred or so, one will work out. I got the email reply this morning, the guy actually checked, found file still there, and asked if I wanted a re-order. Heck yeah!

In a few days I will have #7 on hand. The cost to me was a $170 each – the book is kind of exquisite, shown HERE. I'm charging only $275 for this one. When it sells I will order the final three copies – for which the price will have to go up. Probably 350 for #8 and I'm totally not sure about #9 and 10 (I throw in one of the first volume for an additional $25 – I’m working on the last 200 of the 550 of those printed – along with a small 7x9 original print of "Tongariki from the Sea" tucked in the front of the first book).

Looking Back, The Negative Years

The last one of these from the old printer is now gone. This will raise the price considerably – to $250 for the remaining copies in the edition of 10. I am now in the torturous process of converting the file over for BayPhoto printing. The quality of the book will go from great to exquisite. This book pretty much covers my work with B&W negative film – minus the Acadia project. A lot of local work in there. See HERE.

Acadia – A Portrait

The result of my 1982 month in Acadia National Park. Again, all B&W. There are two copies of this book still available that came from my now-closed printer. These are really nice, quality books. The price remains $175 each on both of these. After that, the last volumes will be printed by BayPhoto and will have to bear the same $250 price as the Looking Back book – with quality going from very nice to exquisite. See HERE.


* Both Looking Back and Acadia book files have yet to be re-worked for BayPhoto. I'm looking at a solid week's work there, each.


I'll be gallery-sitting Saturdays March 2, 9, 23 and 30th. Nan will accompany me for as many as she can.


SOME NOTES/TIPS ON GETTING FINE ART BOOKS PRINTED

OFFSET (CMYK or TRITONE)

I'll get this one out of the way up front. This is how my The Moon has been Eaten, Images from a Year on Easter island was printed (cheaper duotone sucks). I'm talking B&W here – color using CMYK is somewhat cheaper and the old standard. And this is, per volume, the cheapest way to get quality. BUT there are minimums – anywhere from 25 to 250 depending on the printer. It's a big investment (yes, image books are by far more expensive to have printed than any other kind).

I won't really go into this one because the expense can be so great, the pitfalls so daunting and the lack of control so frustrating. To solve the last part I had my book printed locally by Stockson in Bel Air – hiring one of his presses and his best press man for a whole week. Otherwise, you do NOT want to go there if you want to have any control whatsoever over the results.

Today there are a couple of outfits on line who will give you a little more control, as well as let you order as few as 25 copies. I've seen some of the results and am not impressed.

DIGITAL PRINTING

This is how the rest of my books have been printed – and it allows for one book to be printed at a time. But it's an obstacle course wrapped in a swamp that requires something of a guide. Get off the trail and disaster is inevitable. There are three reasons for this:

1– Everyone seems to want to go as cheap as they can go and the printers work for this. Most are far too willing to compromise on quality control.

2– By far most of the books ordered are family photo books, in color. This is what the printers are set up for, promote and see all day.

3– Among artists, who have a need for real quality printing, there is resistance to diving in and getting to "know the territory" (Music Man). The number of decisions that have to be made can be daunting and yet none of the on-line guides are really much help. There's a good reason for that: every one of dozens of decisions that has to be made along the way changes the next set of choices. By the time someone manages to sort all of this out in outline form, the result would fill far too many pages and require a system of choice-governed links.

There is a real need, in each individual case, for someone with experience with all this, to take a close look at what the needs are and outline a course of action, explain the various choices and even help a little with some of the many, many steps that have to be taken. And, yes it is worth it and not really all that difficult – more like putting one foot in front of teh other and taking it one step at a time. Oh, did I mention that it all changes so regularly that a year or two after getting a volume printed, you just may have to start all over for a second printing. Fun……… but very discouraging if one were to tackle it on their own.

Some of the more reasonable-priced printers, in my experience, do a great job on certain kinds of books:

     • Artists Record Book – remember when artists kept slides of their art work, along with a book of written notes. Well, now Nan simply keeps the record until we fill up the next digital-book file and make an order. It includes a nice 7X9 inch or so image of the painting along with all of the information (any sale records are kept in a little database on her iPad called Tap Forms. These are 8.5x11 hard bound books that she keeps laying around her studio (with a side benefit that book files can be exported as a PDF and put on the iPad, etc. as a carry-version of the book. I've been years trying to convince artists to go there on this. And the "regular", competitive book printers are great for this. With the added benefit that if you watch for a sale you wind up close to half price. All artists, expecially painters and potters should consider this. Really.

     • Family History Book – this is much more than just a book of color beach snapshots. And can be an important and time consuming volume to put together. I've done it and posted a how-to once – that is now obsolete (I would be happy though tooffer up some pointers).

The company I used for Nan's painting books and our family history book was one of these. Great results. Unfortunately that printer has now been absorbed into one of the worst of the lot – with sucky quality control. So much for that.

Of the rest, MixBook seems to have a pretty good reputation right now – in spite of my very bad experience with them. They, along with most, SUCK at fine-art B&W. Simply do not have the quality control necessary to get it right or consistent. The problem is – and they assured me that they could handle it – that printing B&W using CMYK is quite exacting. I had them try twice and they failed miserably. Looking at the books I put it down to no way near enough quality control in enough stages of the process. These presses are busy rolling off color books and here I shove a fine-art B&W at them – I shouldn't have. Otherwise the books were great – I burned them.

But if you want something that lives up to the full potential of Digital Printing – especially B&W

I'm sure there ar others, but I sure haven't fount them. I use BayPhoto in California. None of the top quality printers are mentioned in on-line reviews of "best book printers" – they are simply so much more expensive. But you do get what you pay for. BayPhoto definitely takes the high road – and quality control is excellent. Whan there is a problem, they fix it: I ordered two very expensive books at one point ($170 each) – beautiful things – and when I got them, and took off the jackets, I found that the binder had left a word off the end of the title embossed into the black linen. They promptly replaced both books – letting me keep the faulty copies. Throw them away? – Heck no, they are gorgeous. In fact, Nan wanted her #1 to be one of the copies that says on the cover under the jacket: "The Moon has been…… ". Then I was surprised by another person opting for the same.