Photo Books

Resources for Self-Publishing Your Photo Book or Exhibition Catalogue

May 28, 2018

By Mary Virginia Swanson

© Jesse Winter

The annual NY Art Book Fair, presented by Printed Matter, presents artists’ books, catalogues, monographs and journals.

We asked Mary Virginia Swanson to select some resources that can be useful to anyone considering self-publishing a photo book or exhibition catalogue. An educator and frequent speaker at PhotoPlus Expo and industry events, Swanson is the co-author (with Darius Himes) of Publish Your Photography Book: Revised & Updated (2014).


One of the most exciting developments in self-publishing is the increasing presence of “custom” publishers, which utilize a range of printing technologies for your publishing project. Some, like Conveyor Arts, combine traditional printing and binding capabilities with their in-house HP Indigo digital press. If you want a special small-run title, or to place a special cover on limited edition copies, consider what a custom publisher can produce for you.

Book Dummy Press
New York, New York

Brilliant Graphics
Exton, Pennsylvania

Conveyor Arts
Jersey City, New Jersey

Edition One
Berkeley, California 

Horse & Buggy Press
Durham, North Carolina

Paper Chase Press
Los Angeles, California

Shapco Printing,
Minneapolis, Minnesota

© Louie Palu

To produce his “Federal City” concept newspaper on newsprint, Louie Palu turned to New York-based printer Linco. © Louie Palu

Newsprint Producers

If your project warrants visibility to a wide audience at an affordable price, consider newsprint. Photojournalist Louie Palu used Linco to produce four 12×15-inch “concept newspapers”as well as a newsprint piece he included in his 2017 book, Front Towards Enemy.

Linco Printing
Long Island City, New York

Select Print-on-Demand Sources for Photo Books and Zines

I encourage every photographer to “test” their edit/sequence as they approach final layout by ordering a single copy from a print-on-demand producer. This can be an extremely valuable exercise. Whether you then step up from print-on-demand to a trade publisher or to a custom photo book producer, consider keeping this initial print-on-demand version as your promotional piece. Magcloud is my personal favorite first step towards publication ($.20/page). I know many artists who build on that first Magcloud title and use it as a promo. As their work gets more recognition, they update their resume or add installation views from their shows, and order new, up-to-date copies of the title as needed. Print-on-demand publishing is also a perfect way to produce an impressive exhibition proposal, the results of which help to keep your publication sales active.

A & I Books

Apple iPhoto Books   

Artifact Uprising

Asuka Book



(Acquired by Blurb, spring 2014)


Picto Books

Pikto (Canada)

Selected Photo Book & Photo Fairs

The trend for collecting photography books—whether in the form of artist’s books, limited editions or other small-run titles—continues, as evidenced by the growing presence of photo books within traditional art fairs. The following events are annual, unless otherwise noted. Events that have a primary focus on photo books reflect that in the title. These events provide a place to explore designs, papers and the market for artists’ books. Also, individual artists can apply to be vendors at these fairs in order to sell photobooks direct to collectors.


Art on Paper
New York, New York

Classic Photographs Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California

CODEX International Book Fair & Symposium*
Richmond, California

San Francisco, California

Printed Matter’s Los Angeles Art Book Fair*
Los Angeles, California

Photo L.A.
Los Angeles, California


The AIPAD Photography Show
New York, New York
(now has photo book section)

Head-On Photo Festival
Sydney, Australia

Fotobook Festival Kassel
Kassel, Germany

PGH Photo Fair
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
(Strong presence of photobooks due to Spaces Corners, a great independent bookstore based in Pittsburgh.)


Printed Matter’s New York Art Book Fair*
Queens, New York


Editions and Artists Book Fair* New York, New York

Fine Art Print Fair (IFPDA)
New York, New York

Photo Independent*
Los Angeles, California

PhotoLUX Festival
Lucca, Italy

Lists of Photography & Photo Book Fairs

There are many photography festivals across the globe. Use these resources to discover them.

Art Collecting

Art Forum Guide to Art Fairs

The Curatorship

Festival of Light



If your title has a broad subject (i.e. it’s not a monograph or exhibition catalogue), you may want to bring your book to the attention of a broader audience than just buyers of photo books. Here are some book publishing trade shows where it may be worthwhile to exhibit your book for a fee and prizes offered to books for more general audiences.

Book Expo America 
The annual publishing industry conference (May, NYC), has a section called “NEW TITLE SHOWCASE.”
 Created in partnership with Combined Book Exhibit (CBE), the New Title Showcase provides “a prominent venue to launch your new titles and put your books in the hands of booksellers, librarians, distributors, the media and consumers,” according to its organizers.

International Book Awards sponsored by American Book Fest

George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award for Art Publications

Next Generation Indy Book Awards

Book-Making Education

Opportunities for photo book education are growing. Look to your local community for photo book and artists’ book groups and their competitions /activities, and offerings from regional/national not-for-profit photography organizations. We are seeing an increasing number of book arts workshops offered by programs such as Anderson Ranch, Santa Fe Workshops and Maine Media, and small publishers such as Radius Books (in Santa Fe) offer special classes with book makers. Be sure to join all these mailing lists for current offerings.

Aperture Foundation
New York, New York

The Book Arts Web
The Book Arts Web is an excellent resource for all things artists’ books. They also have an extensive list of places for book arts education. Their list includes several of the sites listed below as well as many more.

The Center for Book Arts
New York City

Minnesota Center for Book Arts

San Diego Book Arts

San Francisco Center for the Book

Visual Studies Workshop

Women’s Studio Workshop
Rosendale, New York

Photo Book Competitions

Whether you win the top prize or not, photo book competitions offer opportunities to get your work in front of key individuals in the photo book community or publishers, and can bring awareness to your publication in the long run. Listed below are calls for photobook dummys, first books and Books of the Year.

CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography**

Cortona On The Move Photo Festival’s Photo Book Prize (Italy)

Fiebre Photobook Dummy Award co-sponsored by Artes Graficas Palermo

Kassel Dummy Award (Germany)

La Fabrica (Madrid) and Photo London Book Dummy Award

Paris Photo | Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards

Photo Book Melbourne Photobook Award

PhotoEspaña Best Photography Book of the Year (Madrid)

Photo Independent Photobook Competition (Los Angeles)

Photolucida’s Critical Mass
(Top award: Book Prize)

Photo District News (PDN) Photo Annual

Unseen Dummy Award (Amsterdam)

*biennial, odd years    **biennial, even years


This is a broad list of available titles about both artist’s books and photo books.

1,000 Artists’ Books: Exploring the Book as Art
By Sandra Salamony and Peter and Donna Thomas
Quarry Books, 2012.

How to Make Books: Fold, Cut, & Stitch Your Way to a One-of-a-Kind Book!
By Esther K Smith
Potter Craft, a division of Random house, 2007.

Indie Publishing: How to Design and Produce Your Own Book
By Ellen Lupton
Princeton Architectural Press, 2008.

Photography and the Artist’s Book
Edited by Theresa Wilkie, Jonathan Carson, and Rosie Miller.
MuseumEtc, 2012.

The Printed Picture
By Richard Benson
Museum of Modern Art, 2008.

Publish Your Photography Book: Revised & Updated (2014) by Mary Virginia Swanson and Darius Himes.

Publish Your Photography Book
by Darius Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson
Princeton Architectural Press, updated and revised 2014

Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students
By Ellen Lupton
Princeton Architectural Press, 2nd ed. 2010.

Understanding Photobooks: The Form and Content of the Photographic Book
By Jörg M. Colberg, Focal Press, 2016.

Self Publish Be Happy: A DIY Photobook Manual and Manifesto
By Bruno Ceschel
Self Publish Be Happy and Aperture, 2015.

© Jamie Williams

Mary Virginia Swanson. © Jamie Williams

Mary Virginia Swanson is an author, educator and advisor who helps artists find the strength in their work, identify appreciative audiences and present their work in an informed, professional manner. Swanson co-authored with Darius Himes the acclaimed Publish Your Photography Book: Revised & Updated (2014) and continues to stay current on the growing market for photo books, reflecting both the relative ease of self-publishing and the rise of the collectible photo book market.


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