7 Steps to Self-Publishing

27 September 2016

The RPS Journal

An army of self-publishing photographers have played a crucial role in the photobook's resurgence over the past five years.

Founded by Bruno Ceschel, the Self Publish, Be Happy organisation is committed to the promotion and evolution of the self-published photobook and provides a rallying call for all those involved in this contemporary revolution. 

























Founder Bruno Ceschel collects, studies and celebrates self-published photobooks through an ongoing programme of workshops, live events and various projects. Self Publish, Be Happy. A DIY Photobook Manual and Manifesto is the physical manifestation of a worldwide online community formed of a new, ever-evolving generation of young artists who experiment, stretch and play with the medium of photography.

Throughout his book, Bruno's book offers a survey of fifty key examples of self-published success stories, followed by a do it yourself manual. Here he shares his top tips for would-be photobook self-publishers. 


1. Forget everything you know about photobooks

Don’t procrastinate because you’re worried you should be creating a traditional, expensively-produced photobook. Your job is to challenge tradition, to make something new. The technology is out there. Get on with it! 


Cristina de Middel, The Afronauts, from Self Publish, Be Happy (Aperture/Self Publish, Be Happy, 2015) © Self Publish, Be Happy [pp. 256–257]


2. Enjoy the ride

Make a book for the pleasure of making a book. Not for the money. Not for the fame. See your publication as a work-in-progress. Print on demand means you can experiment with layouts, edits and sequencing and make mistakes along the way. 


3. Be a tough editor

Cast aside your personal attachment to individual pictures. If they don’t serve the book, they don’t make the cut. Start by dividing them into sets according to content or style. Pick out the best from each and start to spot relationships between them. Print out your pictures and play around until you have a sequence that works intuitively.


Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs, As Long As It Photographs, It Must Be a Camera, from Self Publish, Be Happy © Self Publish, Be Happy [pp. 18–19]


4. Set the project (and your budget) guide the format

Consider: size, binding, paper type and printing process. Find a good printer, someone who you like and respect, and get their input. Bring a designer on board. Pick a title that’s simple, nothing too pompous. Remember, a book is a physical object. How do you want people to engage with it? 


5. Do your own distribution

If you’re in it for the money, you’ll be disappointed. Books cost an awful lot to produce so they don’t tend to generate huge profits. In traditional publishing, bookshops and distributors take a cut. Cover production by fundraising and, as much as possible, sell your book through your own website or at book fairs. Never, ever, on Amazon. It’s bad for the industry. 


Valerie Phillips and Arvida Byström, This Is My Driver’s License, from Self Publish, Be Happy (Aperture/Self Publish, Be Happy, 2015) © Self Publish, Be Happy [pp. 328–329]


6. Share

Tell everyone you know that you’ve made a book. Send copies to relevant people. Get the word out on social media. Enter competitions. Keep a copy on you at all times.


7. Ignore advice, including this

There’s no formula.


Self Publish, Be Happy. A DIY Photobook Manual and Manifesto is published by Aperture and Self Publish, Be Happy. For more information, visit selfpublishbehappy.com




Impressions Gallery is looking for self-published and/or handmade photobooks, and photography zines to sell at their photobook fair this October. For more details go to www.impressions-gallery.com.

Lead image: Erik van der Weijde, with Linus Bill, Takashi Homma, Erik Kessels, Paul Kooiker, and Eric Tabuchi, Foto.zine nr.4, from Self Publish, Be Happy (Aperture/Self Publish, Be Happy, 2015) © Self Publish, Be Happy [pp. 368–369]