Hit the Books with Dan Milnor: Getting Started

Hit the Books with Dan Milnor is a monthly webinar about all things book-making and self-publishing. In this edition, we’re talking about getting your project started. Missed the live session? Not to worry! We’ve got the entire webinar recorded below.

Getting Started 

  • Self-publishing and Blurb
  • Content and design tips
  • Surprising reasons to make and sell a book
  • Formats for your project
  • Page layouts and layout tools
  • Self-publishing success stories

Webinar Replay

Top Questions from the Audience:

1 ) What are some of the best ways you have seen a horizontal image in a vertical book?

DM: I’ve seen this done so many interesting ways, but one method is to run the horizontal image at the top or the bottom of the page so that the image bleeds off three sides of the page. The image will be about half the size of the page which leaves ample room for copy, captions, etc. Also, think about running images across the gutter meaning one image running across both pages. You can go partially or all the way across depending on your image and what critical elements need to be kept out of the gutter.

2) Do black & white images come out without any tints these days? Is there any sort of protocol or workflow to get them printed in pure B&W with Blurb?

DM: Digital printing has come a long, long way, but historically one of the most challenging tasks for digital printers was to print neutral black and white. Luckily this is now a very doable thing. There are a few things to keep in mind. Calibrate your monitor. No excuses. You have to know what you are looking at is color balanced. Second, you can download and install the Blurb ICC printing profile.

3) If I make a standard landscape hardcover using Blurb’s Lightroom module, can I later make a standard landscape softcover book with the same content without having to reformat the book?

DM: Yes. When you create a book in Lightroom, you choose your trim size. Standard Landscape offers Hardcover ImageWrap, Hardcover Dust Jacket, and Glossy Softcover – any of which you can choose from the drop-down menu in Lightroom.

4) What software program should I use to create and store text while writing?

DM: How about Microsoft Word? I’ve also used Pages, but Word seems to be the standard these days. 

5) How to choose a font for a book?

DM: Tricky question. Short answer, carefully and with insight. I see plenty of books with what I call “default typography,” which means the bookmaker used whatever font first popped up in the drop-down menu. You don’t want to do this. You want to choose fonts that ADD to your project, fonts that add to the design and feel of your work. I look for fonts that have a tie or connection to where the work was made. I also look for fonts that are easily readable for my main copy needs and other fonts that are bold statements style-wise for the cover and half-title page. I try not to use more than 2-3 fonts for an entire book.

6 ) Is the print quality higher with offset printing?

DM: Digital printing has come a long, long way, and the quality is outstanding. So doing offset and digital is going to provide different looks and feels but one is not necessarily better than the other. I’ve had people look at a digital book and were one hundred percent convinced it was offset.

7 ) Dan, what was your biggest obstacle to publishing your very first book?

DM: Well, I answered this on the webinar and spoke about technology limitations when it came to making a book in 1993, but I want to provide another answer here. I think one of the most common obstacles for people, including me, is keeping organized with my images. Most of us are using digital cameras which allow us to compile massive amounts of imagery, and unless we develop a good, efficient workflow we won’t have our work ready to print when the time comes. So, determine your system and stick to it.

8 ) Can you make a living from self-published art books that feature only photography? Are photo-only books successful or they also need text ( if so, what kind of text?)

DM: Anything is possible, and I’m sure there are a few people doing this but surviving off art book sales is a very tricky idea. In theory, it sounds exotic, cool, romantic even but it also feels very dangerous to me. One, I’m not sure I would want to put that kind of pressure on myself. Two, if I had to make my entire living doing this I think I would quickly find myself having to determine what subject matter would be the most palatable to the most people, and that might be very, very far from the kind of work, or subject, that I want to focus on. I think art books should be an important, liberating part of your overall strategy for being an artist. You don’t need text to make a book successful, but typically most good photography books have enough text to cover the bases via things like essays, introductions, dedications, etc.

9) Dan, what’s the biggest book-making mistake you’ve made?

DM: Where do I start?  Let me take a different tack. My biggest mistake getting started was doing what I thought I was supposed to do and not what I truly wanted to do. “You need to make a monograph.” “You need to create the largest book you can afford.” “You need a serious author to write the forward.” This is what history told me to do, what I learned in school, but this wasn’t who I was as a bookmaker. Still isn’t. I needed to learn how to be me.


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