Hindsight is 20-20. There are several things we wished we had known before designing and re-designing our photo book. We read reviews and tested Blurb, MyPublisher, Kodak, Smile Books and VioVio photo books.
In the end, we designed our photo book in both MyPublisher and VioVio. After seeing the previews and options for both publishers, we purchased soft cover and hard cover VioVio photo books.
Hopefully, you will learn from our experience. Here are 12 things that you should consider before designing your photo book:
1. Type of Photo Book
Do you need a horizontal, square or vertical book? You might want a vertical book to display in bookshelves. Horizontal books look good on a coffee table. Square books stand out in a crowd. Choose the type of book before you begin because that will dictate your picture layouts and which publisher you choose.
2. Photo Book Size
o you want a small book to put in your bag or do you need a big spiral bound portfolio? Redesigning the book size often requires hours of reworking so choose your final book size before you begin.
3. Number of pages
The cost of your photo book, the thickness of your finished photo book and your ability to have the title on the spine of your photo book depend on the number of pages. Always remember there are minimum and maximum pages for printing depending on the publisher.
4. Image Requirements
Some printers needed H x W pixels, dpi, raw images or other formats. It’s hard to redesign an existing page or cover without taking into account the files needed by the software. Also, make sure that you provide photos with the proper resolution for printing.
5. Fonts and Templates
If you are a beginner, you probably need to use templates and fonts provided by the publisher so make sure the publisher provides options that you like. If you are an advanced designer, you will probably want to make your own designs and require full bleed photos. We were using full bleed photos but both MyPublisher and VioVio had unexpected surprises when it came to the design of our final product.
6. Dust Jacket
Do you want a dust jacket? We originally chose a hard cover landscape photo book designed with MyPublisher. Their dust jacket software is not flexible for the front and back flap designs. Also, to use their best software for generating a custom dust jacket on a PC requires 2 expensive shipping charges.
There is something about having to pay twice for shipping a photo book and jacket to one location on the same day that made us rethink MyPublisher. However our aversion to shipping costs required redesigning our photo book for VioVio which cost us time. Plus VioVio doesn’t even offer a dust jacket so there was a tradeoff.
7. Shipping Costs and Quantity Discounts of Photo Books
Cost to buy more than 1 book plus shipping varies greatly between publishers. For example, if you buy 1 hard cover version of your book, 1 soft cover of your book and a variation in the title page on another photo book, MyPublisher will not combine shipping. If you plan on buying variations of your book, take the cost of shipping into consideration.
8. Cover of Photo Book
Do you want a soft cover or hard cover book? Do you prefer a die cut hardbound book with the cover picture peeking through the hole? Do you need your pictures to surround the cover of the book? Do you need your photo book to lay flat to show your portfolio to clients? This decision is crucial because it will dictate the look of the finished book and your publisher.
For example, we thought that a landscape 11X 8.5 inch VioVio photo book had a full wrap around picture cover. This option only came with a smaller size. Rather than redesign our photo book again with yet another publisher, we had to limit our choice to a size that accommodated our cover design.
9. Photo Book Software
Each publisher has their own requirements for designing your book. MyPublisher requires downloading their software. Their software has different capabilities for Mac and PC. Their software is easy for beginners and robust enough for advanced users who want to upload full bleed photos developed in other programs. Their dust jacket software leaves much to be desired for the front and back flaps.
In our opinion, it is too limiting for an advanced designer. VioVio uses online software. Their tried and true software is not as easy to use for beginners as MyPublisher. Advanced users should have no problems. VioVio has a beta version of their online system that is easier for beginners but still needs to have kinks worked out.
10. Tech Support
For the two publishers we used, the best way to reach MyPublisher or VioVio was by email. MyPublisher had the fastest response time i.e. within about 15 minutes almost any time of day or night. VioVio responded within hours. Both publishers depended on boilerplate canned responses but VioVio was more likely to add a friendly thoughtful note. Sometimes it took several emails to fully understand the email answers provided with each publisher.
11. Printing Allowance
Always remember to add the required printing allowance for book binding and cutting. You don’t want an important element of a picture or words cut off.
MyPublisher has a nice online photo book sharing capability that simulates the feel of real book pages. VioVio prints to PDF which isn’t as sophisticated. Make sure you carefully preview your final design before purchasing because you will pay for your mistakes.
Our experience with designing and publishing our photo book would have gone a lot smoother if we had known the limitations and options of these 12 design considerations. Hope we have streamlined the process for you.