New Papier Mache Book – And Thoughts About Self-Publishing Full-Color Art Books

A few months ago I told you about an artist in Canada who creates museum-quality papier mache sculptures. I also mentioned that the artist, Monique Robert, was in the process of writing a book about the unique processes she uses to create her large, lifelike sculptures. I’m happy to say her book is now available.

Papier Mache Design

Check out that dragon on the cover. Some truly amazing work is coming out of Monique’s studio, and I can’t wait to see how she does it. Her techniques for creating shapes are different from anything I’ve ever seen anyone else do.

I ordered my copy, and you can read my review here.

Some Thoughts About Self-Publishing a Full-Color Book:

Since I can’t tell you any more about Monique’s book until I’ve had a chance to read it, this seems like a good time to talk about some of the challenges an author faces when self-publishing a full-color book. Since you’re probably an artist yourself, you may be thinking about writing a how-to book of your own (admit it — the thought has crossed your mind). If so, the info below may be of some use to you.

Jessie and I recently started our own book project, and we’ve done a lot of research into the business-end of self-publishing. We’ve discovered that many artists use self-publishing services (also called author’s services) which charge fairly high up-front fees, or they charge a high price to print each book, or both.

Once the book is printed through one of these services, it looks great — but it’s not available for distribution through large online booksellers like Amazon.com. Basically, that means that every book has to be sold from your own website, (you’d better be really good at marketing) or you have to sign up for a service like Amazon Advantage which takes a hefty commission on each sale (and you ship books to them at your expense).

As far as I’m concerned, in today’s world if you can’t get your book on Amazon.com there’s not much point in writing it at all.

The good news is that you can self-publish a full-color art book at a reasonably competitive price — and have it automatically available for sale through Amazon.com — by using Amazon’s own publishing division, called CreateSpace. (And no, they aren’t paying me to mention their name). Their printing charges are quite reasonable, and there’s no set-up fees. Your book won’t show up on the UK or Australian versions of Amazon.com, which would be nice, but you can’t have everything.

Monique’s new papier mache book was first published through AuthorHouse, an author’s services company that charges a fairly high set-up fee, but it is now, fortunately, available on amazon.com, since she switched to CreateSpace. Other artists we know have published their books through Blurb.com — click on that link to see a beautiful book by artist Carol Marine. As far as I can tell, AuthorHouse and Blurb books are not available on Amazon.com unless the author signs up for Amazon Advantage.

The “Problem” is the Full-Color Inside Pages

Most self-publishing experts recommend that authors have their books printed at LightningSource (LS).

LightningSource is so highly recommended because LS prints black and white books at a very competitive price, and every book printed by LS is immediately available for ordering by any bookstore, including Amazon.com — where LS books are always listed as “in stock.” The author never has to order a book, store a book, sell a book or ship a book if it’s printed at LightningSource. Another very nice thing about LS is that the author can keep a higher percentage of the cover price by setting their own “discount.”

However, when artists write books, we usually need color on the inside pages. Unfortunately, full-color art books are at a disadvantage at LS, too. They charge a lot more to print a book with color on the inside pages — enough more, in fact, to make your book too expensive when compared with similar books already on the market.

For new authors, there are other disadvantages to LightningSource. You have to own your own ISBN number, and you need to have a certain amount of technical knowledge in order to prepare the printer-ready computer files.

At this time, it looks like CreateSpace is the best option for full-color printing. It isn’t perfect. CreateSpace determines your royalties themselves, while LS lets you set your own discount. And although a local bookstore will be able to order one of your books that CreateSpace prints (through an agreement they have with LightningSource), you won’t make much money on these extra sales. However, CreateSpace color printing charges are so much lower and they have no set-up fees, so it (almost) makes up for the reduced royalties.

Also, with CreateSpace you don’t need your own ISBN number (they’re expensive), and the technical requirements for your computer files are a little easier to understand. Plus, the books are automatically listed on Amazon.com because CreateSpace is Amazon’s own printing company. That’s why Jessie and I will be using this company for our upcoming book. Watch this space for an announcement…

If you’ve written a book yourself, or if you’re thinking of writing one — especially a how-to book for fellow artists — we’d love to hear about your experiences.

3 thoughts on “New Papier Mache Book – And Thoughts About Self-Publishing Full-Color Art Books

  1. What wonderful and generous information.
    I have microsoft publish. Would that work?
    I have to laugh at all the questions I have…then I’ll look up the things you suggested. I really would love to write a how-to book. My work is a bit complicated but if ya stick with it, it’s well worth it.

    • I don’t know anything about Microsoft Publish, but if it keeps your images where you put them, and lets you play around with fonts and text, then it should work just fine. Feel free to ask your questions – I’m just happy that I finally talked somebody into writing a book. It’s so much fun, and it really feels like you’ve accomplished something when it’s done. Plus, once it’s done, you can keep getting paid for it years afterwards, and that’s not a bad thing, either.

      I want to be the first one to write a review, so be sure to let me know when it’s available. (By the way, since I made those three videos, CreateSpace changed their file size requirements, so it’s now possible to print through them without buying an ISBN number – which costs over $200 in the States. No need to go through Lightning Source unless you want to.)

  2. This article couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank you for the invaluable information! Getting yourself published sure has progressed as of late. I will definitely be referring back to this again and again.

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