Few things are as rewarding for photographers – and enhance credibility – as seeing your work in print. While there are many great photographs on the market today, one way you can stand apart and increase your marketability and income potential is to supplement your images with writing.
Writing can be a challenge — even for people with graduate degrees. The dreaded ‘blocks’ happen to everyone, but don’t be discouraged. One way to become a better writer is to simply read and learn about your subjects. Doing so will give you that much more to say as well as help you get a sense for the styles of successful writers.
Blogging is one way you can practice working text with your photos. It also increases your website’s visibility in search engine results. For those with time and resources, school courses or working with a professional writer are also options. Below are a few more general ideas on getting an article or book project underway.
Have a Common Theme
You’ll need a unifying theme that pulls your work together. It may be as general as a particular region where you can feature a variety of related subjects, or be more specific such as the life cycle of an animal. Look for unusual or creative connections. For example, the fall foliage of 2011 was so poor that I was able to do an article about the reasons for it!
Begin the Search Process Early
If you have an idea and want to work with a publisher, it’s a good idea to start searching sooner rather than later. The process can take a while, and waiting can significantly delay publication or cause you to waste time and money on material that isn’t included in the final version. An important first step is to find companies or organizations that publish titles in your field. This is easily done by visiting your local library or bookstore and searching online.
Apply Your Photography Knowledge to Related Projects
While building your image collection, you’ve likely accumulated a base of knowledge relevant to your subjects. Examples include hiking trails, tourist attractions, natural history, fall foliage routes and scenic roads, winter recreation, vintage cars, etc. This can lead to opportunities that don’t necessarily feature photography, such as travel and hiking guides.
Preparing a Proposal
Book proposals generally require the following information:
- A working title, table of contents, and an overview of your proposed work.
- Information about similar titles. This requires some research, but it’s relatively easy to search on Amazon and other sites. If you find competing work, look for ways to make yours unique and highlight this in the proposal. If the other books have been out for several years, this will work to your advantage.
- Your qualifications as an author. Include all relevant professional, educational, past publication, and other experience, such as pro bono or volunteer work.
- Sample text and images. For books, many publishers will want 1-3 chapters worth of draft material.
Be Patient, Persistent, and Flexible
If your proposal isn’t accepted on the first go-round, don’t be discouraged! Many publishers are unable to take on projects for reasons that have nothing to do with quality. Even accepted projects often require a follow-up or amended proposal. Publishers may also be willing to work with you on a related or entirely different project.
With digital technology and a number of print and Internet options, self publishing is a viable option for book projects. You’ll have control over the content and layout, so be sure to carefully check your text for accuracy. You’ll need to consider your financial goals and resources, and then search for an appropriate publisher. While large chain retailers may have restrictions on carrying self-published items, local independent booksellers, gift shops, libraries, general stores, nature and tourism centers, and art and craft fairs are all potential outlets. Keep in mind that these will keep a percent of the profits (often 20 to 40 percent), so make sure to factor this in to your final selling price.
~ John Burk
John Burk is the author of several books and guides related to New England, including New England’s Natural Wonders: An Explorer’s Guide, which will be released this month. These may be viewed on his Amazon page.