Hannah Watson is directory of Trolley Books a photobook publisher based in the UK.
Hannah tells the story of Trolley books. In 2001 Gigi Giannuzzi with Nan Goldin founded a publishing company called Trolley Books . Gigi would go to the Frankfurt Book Fair with his book dummies looking for published as it cost money to rent a stall at Frankfurt something Gigi did not have he would go up and down the rows with the dummies in a shopping trolley. The story of Trolley Books is documented in the book Trolleyology, with stories from photographers published by Trolley. In 2005 those at Trolley felt the future of publishing looked bleak but the advent of self-publishing marked a renaissance in publishing. Trolley has ridden this trend publishing 1 to 2 books a year.
Hannah explained the process of getting books published from Trolley's perspective. To publish a book requires between £10k to £30K depending upon the specific features of the book design. You might be lucky and find a patron who believes in the project and will help fund publication. Trolley have used Kickstarter to fund two book projects, though getting the required funding can be a little hit and miss. Though having a good following can help make a kickstarter campaign successful. Offer tiered benefits such as signed prints for those that commit a higher sum to the campaign. The top tier Trolley offer is a chance to go "on press" in Italy when the book is printed. Printers expect to be paid before the book can go to press. Typically a production run for a photobook is 1000 books but can be as low as 500.
Promoting is the book can different forms depending on the photographer but it helps if the photographer work with the publisher to promote the book. Use of slideshow videos will help support the promotional process. A number of copies of the book are delivered to press to help with book reviews. Exhibitions can help market the book with the opportunity to sell the book at exhibitions. Trolley Books do direct sales at Art Fairs such as Arles, PhotoLondon and Unseen.
When looking to get a book published approach the publisher take source material, physical dummy or a PDF version. Hannah felt the more interesting projects are those where Trolley can work with the photographer to shape the final product.
In the Q&A session Hannah was asked about publishing costs and sale costs. She explained that to print 1,200 books would cost about £12,000 and the retail price would typically be 3 times manufacturing costs. Overall Hannah's view on photobook publishing is that breaking even once all costs had been taken into account was a good outcome as selling all books is not always guaranteed.
Overall the talk was very useful to gain insight into the process and the benefits of engaging a publisher in the process. Engaging a publisher could help guide me in the design of the book and help avoid potential pitfalls and costly mistakes that could occur without the help of someone with experience. It was clear to me that helping with the publisher to fund the book is going to increase the chance of creating a successful book.