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How to self-publish an Artist's Book (a beginner's guide)

I've self-published a little, artist's book, all about my Arts Council England funded Garlick Lane project! The process was intense, but I learnt so much and I'm really proud of what I have achieved - both the work shown, the words that describe my year, and the end result. It's available to buy here, but if you want to know how to self-publish your own, read on...

1. Gather

As a visual person, I knew I had to start with the images. I collated a folder of my favourite shots - a mixture of photos I'd taken of my work and Garlick Lane itself. I also commissioned a photographer to take some 'branding shots' of me at work, corners of the studio (aka the kitchen!) and out on the lane, to add interest and rhythm to the pictures I had selected. I wrote about the process of working with a photographer here, if you want to know more about it.

Once I had the types of images I wanted, I assessed how they worked together - Did they tell a story (a beginning, a middle and an end)? Were they orientated the right way (portrait or landscape)? Did pictures of the same art pieces/locations work together on a page or over a double page spread? What resolution were they (I converted mine for free with an online converter to 300dpi, ready for print)? Were they in focus?!

Now I had my notes, I knew which I needed to retake or crop, and I could start on the words.

2. Write

I loved this part, but I appreciate that staring at a blank sheet of paper, or a flashing curser on a word document, is not in everyone's cup of tea!

To get beyond the 'empty page stage', I always start by making headings - breaking down each page or spread into manageable chunks.

Having worked as a magazine journalist for many years, I knew I wanted a mixture of flowing text (an intro, plus sections about the lane, natural dyes and my creative residency) and captions: short paragraphs, specifically about the work.

Breaking down each section means you're only writing in shorter chunks at any one time. Much less overwhelming, and nice to tick off as you go.

I made a 'page plan' in my notebook before writing in a word document - but remember to save as you go!!

Photo by Holly Bobbins Photographer.

3. Learn

This was the trickiest part for me - learning how to use Adobe InDesign. Massively out of my low-tech-comfort-zone, once I had my words and images ready to go, I signed up to InDesign on a monthly contract, knowing I had to work efficiently so I didn't have to pay more than I needed. Luckily, there are lots of tutorials available online and within the Adobe suite, so after a bit of trial and error, I was able to drop in text and images to the programme, and work on the layout and colours.

Top tip - schedule screen breaks!

4. Publish

Where do you start? I chose to start with a google search for 'self-publish artist's book'. Lots of companies came up, some local, some online. Having never had a book printed before, I was a little confused over paper weights, lamination, text size and colour saturation (amongst other things), so I started by looking at rough costs / minimum quantities / lead times and eventually chose to work with Ex Why Zed who had good reviews and, most importantly, had a 'how to' section on their website for getting your InDesign files print ready, as well as a free sample pack which they sent out so I could choose the correct paper weights for my project as well as glean some top tips on font sizes and colour v black and white. Invaluable!

And that's it! It sounds so straightforward when I write it like this, but I promise you - it can be. You are the creator of your work. You understand the stories you're telling. You know the magic that fills your heart when you think about the pieces you create. It's all there, inside you. Yes, there are tech-y bits, but don't be afraid to ask - don't put off telling your story because of something you haven't learnt (yet).

I really hope you have found this short blog useful - if you'd like some further help, advice or pointers, I offer 1:1 mentoring, which you can use for all sorts of things you might need help with - even writing a book. Click here to find out more.

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