Pressing Business: RMB
RMB / Rocky Mountain Books
Fine art photo book lover Alan Bulley gets the scoop from photo book publishers across Canada in our new series of interviews with book publishers, starting with
Don Gorman of Rocky Mountain Books.
Publisher: Don Gorman
How do you choose what projects you publish? How far in advance do you work?
Like all publishers, I try to choose projects that I believe RMB can support and produce in the best ways possible, along with ensuring that we have the infrastructure to sell and promote the book and author successfully. Most of the time things work out very well! There are always challenges that may negatively impact any given project, but these are almost never "life or death" scenarios.
At this time, I'm trying to work on projections at least one year in advance of publication, but more often than not it's looking like 1-1/2 to 2 or more years in advance is going to be the new normal.
What has been the most commercially successful book you have published? (Why did it do well?)
The most commercially successful books that we've published have all been hyper-local titles, which sell extremely well locally, but also garner sales internationally due to the beauty and grandeur of western Canada as shown in many of our guidebooks and works of photography.
Successful books sell well because of the stories they tell, which can be told using words, images, or sometimes both. In RMB's case, the stories being told about outdoor landscapes using words and images seem to attract the most attention.
What makes an effective proposal from an artist?
First and foremost would be sending along as wide of a range of images and words to be used in any proposed book as possible. Given the access to produce books of photography (paper or digital) using Apple, Google, or even London Drugs, it's vital for visual artists and writers to present work that transcends what others are doing either in print or online.
The work has to do something that will stand out in the crowd, as well as tell a story that people will want to engage with, talk about, and share. As well, a good understanding of the artist's market, online presence, and future plans will also go a long way in terms of helping convince a publisher to take on an art or photography project.
What sort of financial arrangements do you have with artists (dealing with up-front costs, revenues, etc.)?
RMB pays for all editorial, design, proofreading, printing, sales, advertising, and distribution costs (there are no upfront costs charged to the author). Revenues on book sales are split between the publisher and the artists based on a traditional royalty system (artists are paid a portion of the proceeds from all books sold).
How involved is the artist in book design?
We consult with the artist in all aspects of the book's production: editorial, design, sales, and marketing. That being said, we are also responsible for ensuring that we satisfy the needs and aesthetics of our retail partners and consumers, so there are lots of things to consider when designing a book. The artist's vision and the needs of the publisher are both part of the equation. If an artist is looking to control all aspects of a book's design, the only real option is to self publish, as partnering with a publisher may mean that there needs to be a give and take scenario at play.
How do you market and distribute the books you publish? Where do they go? How many copies do you print on average?
In Canada, we work with Heritage Group Distribution, which handles Canadian sales and distribution to traditional booksellers (indie bookstores, Indigo, and Amazon.ca), non-traditional book retailers (outdoor retailers, gift shops, museums, grocery stores, seasonal accounts, etc.). For the US and international markets, we work with Publishers Group West / Ingram to fulfill the needs of traditional booksellers and library wholesalers. Our print runs vary wildly depending on the type of book.
What is your view of the publishing market in Canada?
I think the book publishing market in Canada is changing very quickly, though I'm not entirely sure where it's going. Likely due to the pandemic, many Canadian publishers are looking closely at their publishing strategies as every aspect of the industry has changed dramatically during the past two years. Unprecedented increases in production costs, printer capacity limitatio
ns, year-round shipping disruptions, limited book media, and a shifting retail landscape will impact all companies now and for many years to come. This isn't to suggest "trouble on the horizon", but perhaps more of an opportunity to re-imagine how things are done and what our expectations should be.
What one message would you give photographers who want to publish their work?
The one message I would give photographers would be to ensure that they research the market for similar books being published. If there are too many books of a similar style, content, or aesthetic it will make it difficult to stand out in the crowd.
Highlight what makes your work different in order to give potential publishers the information they need in order to see the potential in publishing your work.
What's your dream publishing project?
My dream publishing project would be one that defies expectations and shows people something new in terms of the story being told, the artist being profiled, and the way in which the book itself is produced and packaged.
What's one thing that would surprise our readers about your work behind the scenes?
Most of my day revolves around manipulating data in Google Sheets and juggling dozens of schedules in Google Calendar!
Is there anything else that our readers should know about your company or the work you do?
I think we can all agree that there's no more important time to hear stories from traditionally underrepresented communities. At RMB we are always looking for opportunities to support artists from different backgrounds and underrepresented communities and to help them to tell their story in their own authentic voice, through their own unique lens.
We know there are important stories out there from BIPOC artists, LGBTQ artists, and more, and we want to help support those artists. We'd love to see more submissions and portfolios from these communities so if you have a story to tell check out our Submission Guidelines at rmbooks.com. Photography books are such an excellent way to see the world through someone else's eyes and to learn from their stories and experience.
photos by by Grace Gorman courtesy RMB
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