very tactile materials to create unique works of art that
go so far beyond the machine-made book.”
When I decided to work with a bookbinder, I ventured
into the book arts community to do some research. I
contacted Inge Bruggeman, a letterpress printer, book
artist and binder whose stellar work I had seen in an ex-
hibition (we both live in Portland, Oregon). This meeting
was invaluable. She showed me books she had worked
on and explained how artists in other mediums were
publishing their own books. Through meeting with
Bruggeman I decided I wanted her to letterpress print
the two essays I wrote instead of inkjet print them.
Letterpress printing would add to the tactile quality of
the book, encourage viewers to touch the pages and feel
the impression of the text, and remind them that the
book had layers of craft beyond just my photographs.
Bruggeman also supplied me with a list of binders she recommended. “People have to see samples
of a binder’s work,” Bruggeman says. “It takes a little
sleuthing if you want really high-quality work, but I
recommend that people go to book fairs, find people’s
work that they like and ask them who their binder was.
Also, contact schools that teach book arts and ask the
professors if they have recommendations for professionals in the field.” (See sidebar: Resources for DIY
Photo Book Publishers.)
I then phoned Vicki Topaz, one of the few photographers I knew who had successfully published a handmade book, Silent Nests. Topaz selected San Francisco
binder John DeMerritt for her book. After meeting
with DeMerritt multiple times, and seeing his studio
and the incredible books and boxes he was producing
for clients such as Michael Light and Robert Adams, I
asked him to bind Displaced.
Although the choices for bindings are vast, DeMerritt
and I felt that a traditional case-binding structure would
not compete with the quiet and subtle images.
The next question to resolve was what materials to
employ, with the interior paper being the biggest and
most costly decision. In printing Displaced as well as the
other handmade books I’ve made since, paper has been
about 40 percent of the cost and the most difficult decision to make. So much rides on how the weight and texture of the paper will influence a reader’s impression of
the work. I chose to print on a matte rag paper because I
use it for exhibition prints and feel most familiar with it.
It also further distinguishes Displaced from offset printed books since many don’t use matte paper.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many options for double-sided matte inkjet paper. There are double-sided versions of Hahnemühle’s Photo Rag; Moab’s Entrada line is
available in two weights and shades; and Epson offers a
few choices as well. I selected Moab’s Entrada Rag Bright
White because I felt my prints simply looked best on it.
I have since discovered other options for paper,
especially from large book arts suppliers like Hiromi
Paper in Santa Monica, California, and Talas in New
York City. For example, the paper I selected for my
second book, Silence is an Orchard, was a single-sided,
inkjet coated Japanese kozo paper from Hiromi that
was a perfect complement to the mood of the black-and-white images I made in a field in Maine. I’ve also
learned of other binding and folding techniques that
can make working with single-sided papers easier, like
French-folding or Japanese stab binding.
Design and budgeting should progress hand-in-hand
so that a design decision that affects the budget can
lead to the modification of other design or printing decisions to bring the budget back in line.
BO TH PHO TOS © QUIN TON GORDON
Because Displaced was my first book, I calculated
pricing later than I should have. Once the design, binder, letterpress printer and materials were selected, I
was able to get a more accurate picture of total cost.
The only variable left was how many books to make.
Cost, print time and how many you think you can
sell are the biggest factors to consider in determining
an edition size. I settled on 60 for Displaced—which
was about 40 books more than I would make if I were
publishing the book today. (I now publish in editions of
20 because the cost and time required to make more
copies limits my availability to work on other projects.)
At 60, the total cost for everything was $7,500. I
barely had $500. A few fundraising ideas surfaced:
First, Bruggeman recommended I apply for a grant;
second, I asked for sponsorship from a local photo supply business; and third, I publicized and marketed the
book to generate pre-sales.
I secured a nearly $5,000 grant, which covered two-thirds of the cost to publish the book, from the local
arts organization Regional Arts & Culture Council. The
smaller pool of competition for the grant increased my
chances of winning, but the application process did take
some time. For example, having to answer the question, “How will publishing this book affect your artistic
career?,” in a few sentences required hours and hours of
editing and redrafting. I also needed a firm grasp of the
costs, a list of exhibitions already planned that would
Find out how to distribute
your self-published book at
http://bit.ly/e9VD8H and learn
more about self-publishing at