Blurb’s 6x9 Trade Book

My thoughts and experiences of self publishing in 2017.

Last year I wrote an article on my experiences of MagClouds’ 8" square format. I followed that up with another self publishing article comparing/highlighting the differences between MagCloud and Blurb. Both of those articles are still getting double digit reads weekly after a year. All that to say I think it is worth a follow up article on the subject of self-publishing.

What I made and why.

As in 2016, I published six books in 2017. Though two of them almost don’t really count. The first was an exploration of the format and a “mission statement” of me working on portraits more.

Spoiler alert, I didn’t do that at all.

My second book titled El Burque came out in March and was filled with dark black and white photographs of my daily commute. When I got the book I was pretty excited because it was great on many levels. The pages I left all black were wonderful compliments to my black and white images and the photographs themselves were beautifully reproduced. But it was one select body of work and I thought the title “El Burque” deserved a deeper cut.

Book #1 (left) and #2 (right)

So I dove into the depths of my Lightroom Library (and old Aperture Library) to find a story of the place I call home. That exploration led me well into June before coming up for air. When I did resurface I had 113 photos that I re-edited and sequenced into a three volume series. That is books 3, 4, and 5 of the year if you’re keeping track. Anyway, these three books were exactly what this format was made for. Full bleed vertical and horizontal images with only black end sheets to act as the theater curtain. I kept the page count to under 30 pages and selected the softcover. The result was a book that fit well in the hand and gave the reader a personal experience of my story.

Books #3, 4, & 5

While I was working my way through my archives I also started a photography project about air quality. I would photograph the sky over and over again like a musician practicing a song. I wasn’t making photos of smog or haze but rather the typical New Mexico sky and looking at the slight variations in color. When I got 108 photographs I stopped and made a book of them. That was my sixth and final book for 2017. I decided to add two definitions for Rayleigh and Mie scattering at the end as well as some pages for notes. At the very end I put my email address. This book then was given to a good friend with the instructions to live with it, review the photos, leave his thoughts, then give it to someone else and repeat my instructions. I currently have no idea where this book is now. Hopefully I will see it again.

Book #6

Lets get technical and opinionated.

For all of my books I used Blurb’s standard color option not black and white. I am not sure if it was needed for my El Burque books because only my covers were color but I didn't ask, I just went for it. The books were still under $9 each which is an incredible price. My Air Quality book came in at just under $34, which again is a great price for a 100+ page hardcover.

I also used BookWright for the layout process. I find the program sufficient. There are things I wish it could do but it does the job well enough, they are updating it often, and it is free so who am I to complain? The auto-enhance feature really made my black and white images pop. I didn’t use that feature on my Air Quality book because I didn’t want it to push my colors around or add contrast. But on my first book of portraits I had some color photos that it treated well.

The image wrapped hardcover is a dream. It is has a soft clay feel to it while still feeling like it can take the wear and tare of being tossed into your bag daily. It does add a bit of cost, especially when you’re at $4 for 20 pages of a softcover. That extra $10 can seem like a ton but just remember you’re still only spending $14 for a beautiful physical object filled with your work.

The softcover is forgettable. It is nice heavy stock but the glossy coating is just a fingerprint magnet. I understand that if I ordered 100 copies or something I could custom order a matte cover but I don’t sell that many books. Yet. But back to the glossy softcover. My first book and the final El Burque books had lighter colors which hid the fingerprints and smudges but the mostly black cover I did on the El Burque dud (book #2) it was pretty bad. It isn’t going to stop me from buying or selling this option. Even with a dark cover. It is just worth noting.

In conclusion this format is perfect for the person who want a zine size but a book quality. I think that is the best way to put it. I have plans to release at least one book this year in this format. So that is saying something I think.

If you enjoyed this article or would like to find out how to purchase my work please join my Patreon community. I give these books out as rewards for your donations.