An open letter to all APUG members.

I have been asked to consider publishing an APUG book. Here is what I have come up with. Sorry if some of this will be repetitive.

I can easily put the book together, design the book (other designers would actually do the work in InDesign), select the photographs, and all at a price that all APUG members can afford. I expect to be met with hostility, "Who does he think he is, trying to take over," kind of thing. So be it. I do not need to be everyone's friend. I will certainly solicit and be open to all suggestions. But final decisions will be mine.

Based on my photography book publishing experience (, I can guarantee a beautiful book, printed in offset, that all APUGers will be proud of.

No publisher will ever put up any money to publish such a book. Photography books, unless the photographer is VERY famous do not sell well. Through Photo-Eye, maybe a couple of books would sell, tops. On Amazon, maybe a dozen. As detailed below, I would be paid for my time (at half my customary rate) and if there are any profits they would be returned to those who put up the money and/or to Sean to go to APUG. I am not doing this for the money.

How much would a book cost? This question cannot be answered until the following questions have been answered.

1. Trim size of the book. That is page size.
2. Number of pages
3. Size of print run.
4. Hardbound or Softbound?
5. If hardbound: dust jacket or tipped in plate on front?
6. If softbound: flaps?
7. There are other things, but I can fill those in.

These questions cannot be answered until the photographs have been selected. How to select the photographs?

The most important thing, if it is to be a valuable book, and not just an ego-gratifying thing, would be for all of the photographs selected to be museum quality--in vision and in technique. Who on APUG can evaluate that? Well, I can, along with Paula's input. When I juried an exhibition long ago, with a photographer who painted on her color photographs, she ended up selecting most of the black and white ones, and I ended up selecting most of the color and manipulated ones. Most of the black and white work was not up to my standards, and most of the other work was not up to hers. So no one should think that because I work in black and white, my taste is limited. I do not care how a photograph is made, or what process is used, as long as it is made well. All I am concerned about is excellence. And since I never go the APUG Gallery section, I am totally unfamiliar with almost every member's work, except for the couple of people I happen to know personally.

Now, when putting a book together I always go for the ideal. If it is too expensive, either more money can be raised, or the ideal can be revised downward.

My thoughts on the book are this: one photograph per photographer. Each photograph would be on a full page. Ideally, so that it can do the photographers some good, on the page opposite his or her photograph, there would be a small portrait of the photographer, a brief bio, a brief artist's statement, and full contact information. Photographs sequenced in alphabetical order by photographer's last name. Except that color and black and white would be printed in different sections. When black and white and color are printed together, black and white gets printed in four-color, rather than with grays and blacks, and there is always a strange color-cast to the work. One could run the sheets through twice, once in color, and then a second time for the black and white work, but that doubles printing costs.

Only one photograph by each photographer can be submitted. One of the problems here is, "Do the photographers know which is their best work?" Often not, we have found. So the photographers will need to be objective about their work and do some very serious editing.

Here is how I see the selection process going. Scans would be emailed, or prints would be mailed, to a third person who would make sure all identifying information as to who the photographer is was removed. He would number each scan or print and Paula and I would look at them with no knowledge of who the maker is or what process was used. In this way, there will be no bias of any sort whatsoever. Our decisions would be based entirely on the photograph itself.

How many photographs would be selected? It depends on how many we think are excellent. It could be 50, 100, 150, whatever it turns out to be. More rather than fewer will make a less expensive book per page.

Once that is done, a quote can be gotten. If the quote seems too high, then revisions can be made. The small portrait, bio, etc., could be put on the same page as the photograph and photographs would be on facing pages. That would make the book considerably less expensive to produce—less paper, fewer print runs, but before I would automatically go that route, I would want to see what the ideal would cost.

Now, let’s assume photographs have been selected and a reasonable quote has been received. How to pay for the book? All money needed would need to be in hand before the book is produced.

Taking numbers at random here is how I propose the money be raised. Each photographer selected would pay $100 ($200?) for their page. In return they would receive books that would make up their cost. So if books were selling for $25 and if photographers put up $100, they would each receive four books. Probably not enough money would be raised from that, so since the market (and probably the ONLY market) for this book are APUGers, pre-production sales would be made to APUGers. Since there are, what, 15,000 members, I would hope sufficient money could be raised to cover all costs, perhaps 500 to 1,000 pre-production sales.

Another way to raise money for the book--something Paula and I always do--is for the photographers who are selected to offer their print at a reduced price to APUG members. They could, for example, keep half of that money and put the other half toward the book. This is just a suggestion.

This book will not sell to the greater public. Sales could be attempted, but trust me, they will be so minimal as to be discounted entirely when planning. It will be up to APUGers to support it.

If this gets going, we will ask Sean to write an introductory essay about the history of APUG—his starting APUG and its evolution. If he will have trouble doing that, Paula and I can help him.

Selecting the photographs: I would not charge anything for my time to do that. I would be "on the clock" for all other details. My cutting my rates in half is my donation to the project.

I am not doing this to make money. In fact, between my own photography, which comes first, and Lodima Press, our having a second run made of Lodima silver chloride paper, and overseeing Lodima Archival Materials, I will lose money by spending my time on this.

Agreeing to do this is risky for me, as Paula and I have so much to do--and I know she will hit the ceiling if she thinks I am taking this on, so if there are serious objections to what I propose here, I will happily drop out.

Whether submissions are open only to subscribers, advertisers, and sponsors to APUG or not would not be my decision, but a general consensus decision. I think it is a good idea to so limit it. Someone else would need to monitor that. Those who are not currently subscribers might subscribe just so they could enter a photograph.

If this is successful it could be repeated at regular intervals.

Assuming the response to my proposal here is positive and you would like to participate send notice of your interest to the APUG member who goes by "guitstik." This was his idea. I have been in touch with him. When he is ready to receive the scans or prints, he will let us all know. There will be a cut-off date for submissions.

Oh yes, scans. Photographers selected will be required to submit hi-res tiffs at 360 dpi. If they are unable to do that, we can do it here as we have fine flat-bed scanners and top-of-the-line drum scanners. But there will be a charge for that.

There has been talk of a doing a survey. As I see it, the only questions that are needed to be asked are: Are you willing to participate, either by submitting a photograph and agreeing to pay your share if selected, and if not selected (or if you are not submitting), are you willing to buy a copy of the book if it is priced at, say, $40 or less? Someone else can figure out how to do the survey.

I think I covered most everything needed to get started if enough APUG members are interested.


Michael A. Smith