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Self-Publishing a Photo Book: Follow These Steps

June 13, 2022 (Last Updated January 23, 2023)

Marcy G.


Are you a professional photographer with a vast portfolio? Maybe you’re an aspiring photographer looking to showcase your work. Either way, self-publishing a photo book is a solid way to show off your photographs in one, neat, professional package.


Digital book printing has become a great resource for photographers – it lowers costs, the printing is high-quality, and you are able to print large and small quantities.


If you are thinking of self-publishing a book of photography, consider following these steps:


Step 1: Compile Your Portfolio


As a professional photographer, you may not adhere to one subject matter for your photography, but rather cover multiple subjects. If this is the case, you have to ask yourself some important questions:


·      What is my book’s focus?

·      What photos do I want to include?

·      How do I want to format my book?


A good point to start for selecting from your portfolio is to organize your images into groups: subject, theme, aesthetic, color, and/or composition. Sorting your photos this way can help you visualize what stands out and what goes together so you can begin to format your print files accordingly, forming the final product.



Step 2: Conduct Market Research


Once the photographs for your book have officially been selected and you have an aesthetic or theme in mind, you can begin researching your market. Start by answering these questions:


·      Who is my audience?

Who do you define as your potential buyers? What are the demographics? What are their other interests?


·      Where can my audience be found?

Does your audience live on one social media platform more than another?


·      Where does the photo book industry stand?

How many photo books were published last calendar year? How many were self-published? How much does a standard photo book cost? Where were they purchased?


·      What time of year should I release my book of photos?

Is there a popular time of year to release a photo book? Do books sell more during a specific time period or season? Is there a significant date that would coincide with my book’s release? Are there other professional photographers currently teasing a book release?


Once you have this information, you can start forming a marketing strategy…



Step 3: Create a Marketing Strategy


Research suggests that it’s important to have a marketing plan before the book printing process starts. If you tease your book’s release long before you plan to print, then you can get a ballpark idea of what sales you expect after your initial release, helping you plan print quantity ahead of time. First month sales add a lot of value to how the book industry views your potential for more profits. 


One benefit to self-publishing a photography book versus a novel is that you may have access to more opportunities to promote your book than you think. For example, professional-looking photos already get more likes on Instagram and other social media platforms, so if you have a built-in social media following, half the battle is gaining exposure. You can promote your photo book on your social platforms and make it easily accessible to people who are already familiar with your work.



48 Hour Books has marketing tips to help

you form your strategy.




Step 4: Choose Quality Print Options


Photo books are dynamic: they can be printed several different ways and are often used as a piece of art themselves – the star of the coffee table! Because of this, you want to make sure you’re thoughtful about the print materials you choose to best represent the quality of your photographs.


Quality is key for a polished look and for driving book sales. Here are some print options we’ve found to be the most common for photo book printing, available at 48 Hour Books:


·      Hardcover book printing:

Since many photography books are used as coffee table books for display purposes, people are more likely to pick them up and start flipping. Because of this, you want to choose a binding that will last over time, minimizing any wear and tear. Hardcover printing is a popular binding choice for photo books for these reasons. If you are looking for a book that is more cost-effective starting out, paperback binding is still a popular option when printing any book.


·      Upgraded paper options:

For printed photographs, we recommend a coated paper stock with some added thickness. 48 Hour Books offers 80# and 100# Gloss and Silk (matte) Text paper – both are popular options for photo printing. These paper types are not only recommended for best displaying photography, but they are also recommended for books with a high flip rate.


·      Cloth & leather covers:

Other common print options for photography books are cloth and leather covers (hardcover printing). These special covers add a professional, “special edition”-like quality and are often paired with a dust jacket.


·      Special cover treatments:

A captivating book cover is shown to generate more photo book sales. Your book cover is the first impression, so of course you want to make it stand out! In addition to cloth and leather covers, dust jackets, and foil stamping, 48 Hour Books offers Diamond 3D Printing – a cost-effective cover treatment that will make your book cover stand out. Highlight your title or a design element on your cover, and it will quite literally shine from the shelf.



View our print options up close, including all of our paper types and Diamond 3D printing, when you order our FREE Ultimate Guide sample book.



Step 5: Obtain an ISBN & Barcode


If you plan to sell your book in stores or online, you will need an ISBN and barcode. Bookstores and distributors use ISBNs when ordering titles, so if you want them to carry your book, you’ll need an ISBN.


Luckily, if you print with 48 Hour Books, we make this easy for you. Simply request an ISBN on your online order form. We’ll send you the application to fill out, we send it to Bowker (We are authorized channel partners with ISBN.org, so we can help you streamline the process and save a little money, too!), then once we receive the ISBN, we’ll generate the barcode and put it on your back book cover for you.


Unlike other printing and self-publishing companies, we do not own your ISBN – you are the official holder, and you can register your book wherever you please.


Step 6: Find a Self-Publishing Partner


If you have designed a photo collection you want to print, 48 Hour Books is the perfect partner. We offer bookstore-quality printing, with quick turnaround times, multiple binding types, and paper options to best showcase your photographs. Not to mention, our stellar customer service, ready to help you through every step of the process, ensuring you love your finished product!


Are you ready to print your photography book? Contact us today to get started!

Print painlessly

Sign up for the 48 Hour Books newsletter to learn how to self-publish your book — and get it printed faster with us than anywhere else.

Print painlessly

Sign up for the 48 Hour Books newsletter to learn how to self-publish your book — and get it printed faster with us than anywhere else.


Harold Hemberger January 20, 2023

Seeking info on publishing a photo book.

48 Hr Books January 20, 2023

Hi Harold! We have all the print materials needed to print a high-quality photo book for you. Since we are a book printing company, we will be unable to publish your book. We do have resources for people looking to self-publishing their books. We recommend visiting our website to explore our services. You can also visit the "Publishing Resources" tab if you're interested in self-publishing: https://www.48hrbooks.com/ If you would like to speak someone about getting started, we can answer all of your questions: 800-231-0521

Kevin M. Hall December 28, 2022

Hi, just researching steps.to.publish several art / photography books for contemporary artists, whom are contemporaries of mine.

48 Hr Books December 28, 2022

Hi Kevin! Let us know if you have any questions getting started - we're happy to help!

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