So You Want to Publish a Book?

by Fred Perrin

A montage of the books that Friesens has published

A montage of the books that Friesens has published


Compared to challenges nature photographers often face and embrace in their work, creating and publishing a quality book has never been easier. You have the images, likely enough to publish a hundred coffee table books, so what’s next?

This article summarizes what you should know when considering, designing and publishing a photography book.

Before we get to that, let’s review a common book printing question today. Should I print my book digitally or through a traditional offset press? Which is best for me?

“Best” is relative to many technical, artistic and personal variables. Years ago, for professional image quality, digital cameras fell short, yet today they deliver outstanding results. Similarly, the print world has seen impressive advancements in digital press technology. Which is best? Depends. With higher quantity book runs, traditional offset printing remains an “ultimate quality, more options, and lower cost per book” home run. At the same time, print craftspeople using the newest digital presses can print lower book quantities with outstanding quality. Do your homework. If you aspire to deliver trade publishers’ coffee table book quality, does your intended printer print these books? If not, have you reviewed samples of their work? Be careful and inquisitive. There are printers printing books on digital devices much like an office copier, charging as much or more than some book printers printing books on million dollar digital offset presses. There is a quality difference. If you’re unsure of final book quantity (and most book publishers are), ask your book printer to quote multiple book quantities (e.g. 100/250/500/750/1000+) comparing traditional offset and digital prices, and provide samples of both. Depending on your book quantity range and the printer’s press options, you will quickly learn where digitally printed or traditionally offset printed book quantities are attractively or unattractively priced. You must also consider quality bookbinding, but we’ll reserve that for a follow-up article.

Labyrinth Sublime: The Inside Passage, by photographers Pat and Rosemarie Keough. This book opens to almost three feet!*

Labyrinth Sublime: The Inside Passage, by photographers Pat and Rosemarie Keough. This book opens to almost three feet!*

What’s next?


  • Have a book concept. Tell a compelling story – don’t just show photographs.
  • Showcase unique images – avoid repetition.
  • Are you a photographer or a graphic designer? If you’re a photographer, hire a professional graphic designer.
  • Hire a professional editor.
  • If you choose to personally design your book:
    • Review and compare published books similar to your concept.
    • Consider and compare font sizes and page layouts before beginning design. Design only when you have fine-tuned your intended layout(s) to your (and more importantly your intended audience’s) satisfaction.
    • Calibrate your monitor. Printers can provide kits that help measure a monitor’s accuracy at which point you may need to calibrate your monitor using a colorimeter (prices start around $100).
    • Ask your printer for a cover design template (based on your book specs).
    • You can work in RGB (Red/Green/Blue) up until you select your printer at which point you should convert RGB files into CMYK (Cyan/Magenta/Yellow/Black). Printer profiles for printing on coated paper are available for this (example: GRACoL2006 Coated1v2). Note: When color images are printed on paper the effect of the paper causes the images to look slightly darker because a computer screen emits light rather than paper which reflects light. Converting images to the GRACoL profile on its own does not simulate this effect. You can use the Proof Colors option in Photoshop to simulate this effect when printing on coated paper.
  • Review and understand book manufacturing formats, options and material specifications. Once you have an idea of book size and format, page count, paper, cover, and quantity range, request a quote. Don’t worry about future quote revisions based on changing specs and/or trying to hit a price point. This is part of the business.
  • If you are personally scanning slides, make sure your scans are of the highest quality. Send test scans to your printer for review and proofing to avoid discovering at press that your images are not at their best.
  • Send hard copy proofs as a guide to your printer especially if you will not be present at the press when the job is run (called a Press Check). You should also request proofs to see and compare to what is expected at press.
  • Sewn binding provides higher book quality and longevity.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread (and not just by you). Errors are easy to miss – even for big publishing houses – but, once printed, impossible to erase.
  • Consider crowd funding to help pay for your book.


  • Design in RGB (can cause issues at press which prints CMYK)
  • Personally scan images unless you have a high quality scanner (by printing industry standards), you know what you’re doing, and you’ve tested your scans through your intended printer.

Good luck with your book! I hope this article is helpful. If you have any book production or publishing questions, please contact me anytime by email at

Fred will be one of the featured Breakout session speakers at the 2015 NANPA Summit taking place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this exciting and inspirational event, please visit 

Fred Perrin began his career as a Kodak Technical Sales Representative for Professional Photographers. Fred has received honors from The Professional Photographers of Canada as Craftsman of Photographic Arts (Scenic/Nature Photography) and his lithographs have been presented to sixty world leaders by the Government of the United States. Fred is now VP of Marketing & Business Development for Friesens, North America’s premier book manufacturer. Friesens customers include many of North America’s most prominent museums, art galleries, publishers and photographers. Company Website:

*Pat and Rosemarie Keough detail their experience in printing and binding their beautiful book on their website at