new PDN on books
Since I am in the book world, I would pick up a copy of the new PDN titled The Book Issue from the newsstand. But since I was one of the 30 asked for my opinion, I have to also post it here (and mail one to my parents). You have to be a subscriber to read most of the articles, but the one titles Marketing Moves That Sell Books is available at pdnonline.com. Conor Risch at PDN granted permission for me to post the interview questions with my responses, some of which were used for the final article. Here is the interview with Conor and myself.
CR: Which person or publishing company has brought out the most compelling photography books over the last one to two years?
MM: There is really no single answer for that, although I will say that some of my favorite for this year are KesselsKramer, Snoeck, Fotohof, Chris Boot, Journal, Nazraeli, Little More, Foil, and Nobody Books.
CR: What did you like about the books?
MM: I think any good book ties directly in to the publisher’s mission and focus.
KesselsKramer is playful and explores vernacular and found imagery. Snoeck, Fotohof, and Journal work with many European photographers that you might not find in the US. Foil and Little More are Japanese publishers who have produced many Rinko Kawauchi books and work with other artists that take lovely and quiet color images. Chris Boot and Nobody are both UK based. Nobody books, Stephen Gill’s imprint, currently publishes all of his own books. Each is an artist book (although mass produced) with printed cloth, designed endpapers and richly printed photos. Almost everything that Nazraeli produces is gold.
CR: in book publishing would you consider a tastemaker and/or aesthetic forerunner?
MM: J&L books, a not-for-profit based in Atlanta, and The Ice Plant, a very small publishing house out of LA, are mainstream, but underground art book publishers. There is a relationship between the two as they have published work by some of the same photographers (Jason Fulford and Mike Slack), and both also extend their catalogue to art forms other than photography. J&L published a book by Michael Northrup called Beautiful Ecstasy, it is brilliantly designed by Paul Sahre with most of the images covering both pages of the spread in full-page bleeds. Each reproduction is bisected by the gutter adding to the already rude imagery, which I would define as a sort of redneck snapshot aesthetic. These two publishers expand on the concept of photographing what you know and making quotidian and almost banal aspects of life acceptable. Mike Slack photographs the wastebasket; Edward Weston photographed the toilet, right?
CR: Which person in book publishing takes the most risks with unknown photographers?
MM: Is seems less and less likely that most publishers will take the risk. Some will only take the chance with a personal financial investment from the photographer. It seems that almost all publishers know their audience and usually play it safe when it comes to choosing titles, even not-for-profits like Aperture and J&L.
Many photographers are venturing out on their own these days. Farewell Books out of Sweden, Hassla Books in NYC and Decode Books are just a few examples of companies started by photographers to publish their own work, who have picked up other projects of interest as well.
CR: Which publishing company's sales and marketing department stands out?
MM: Steidl. They have caught on to the fact that they are producing beautiful books that often go up in value. I love almost every Steidl book we carry. I get emails frequently from them and they are very good about keeping us abreast of their new publications, of course they have the benefit of doing their own image scanning and printing at their headquarters in Göttengen, Germany.
CR: Can you think of recent examples of books that were particularly well marketed?
MM: It seemed like everywhere I looked for the past year, I saw something about An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar by Taryn Simon. The book was a staff favorite at photo-eye and has won numerous book awards including the ICP Infinity award for Publication. Simon was featured on Charlie Rose and I recently saw an article on this project in the June issue of Time. It is a perfect example of a well-produced Steidl publication with an introduction by Salman Rushdie and I am sure the exhibition at the Whitney Museum didn’t hurt.
CR: What other bookstores do you like?
MM: My favorite bookstore is a second hand bookshop called Big Star right here in Santa Fe. Other art bookstore where I spent hours are Spoonbill and Sugartown in NYC, Dashwood Books in NYC, The New Museum Store in NYC, Tattered Cover in Denver, Powell’s in Portland and Stephen Daiter’s Gallery in Chicago. Stephen has such a small book selection for sell, yet shares so much of his out-of-print collection and his love of books that I could not neglect to mention him.
CR: Who are the publicists that you think do the best job of generating book sales?
MM: Chronicle’s PR department including Patti Quill and soon to be leaving editor extraordinaire Alan Rapp were always on the ball with contacting us about their new books, even sending information on titles they think will interest us before the catalogue is published. Alan has been bringing in some outstanding photographers and pushing beyond the coffee table books of the past. Sadly, he is moving on to grad school, but the Fall season with books by David Maisel, Jo Whaley, Linda Connor and Stuart Klipper should prove to be a strong finish.
CR: Do you think photographers do enough to promote their books?
MM: Promotion and marketing can be very difficult. I get an average of five solicitations a week from photographers working on projects soon to be or already, a book. Some of the solicitations are right for us and others are not. Photographers need to do their research and find out who is the right match for them and their work, but it is also good to take some chances. It takes time and effort to write personal emails or letters and costs money to mail out the PR and review copies and then to follow up on those contacts. The expense can pay off. For example, Martine Fougeron followed up with an email and phone call about her catalogue Tête à tête. It was a perfect fit for us and we sold many copies.
Ultimately, I want to have a review copy in hand and see if I like/love the book and/or it will appeal to the photo-eye clientele.
CR: What has been your favorite photography book of the last few years?
MM: This is a tough one. In the last few years I would have to narrow it to: Bodywork by Liz Cohen (Onestar/Galerie Laurent Godin, 2007), The Memory of Pablo Escobar with text by James Mollison (Chris Boot, 2007), Bright, bright day (Photographs and essay by Andrey Tarkovsky (White Space Gallery, 2007), 3 Poems by Jim Dine and Diana Michener (Steidl/Bose Pace Gallery, 2006), Local Studies by Joel Tettamanti, (Etc, 2006), and Carla Van De Puttelaar (Basalt Publishers &van Zoetendaal Collections, 2004).