The road to "havana" – filed under ‘deadline’


Every book project (at least every book project I’ve ever worked on) is governed by two factors: deadline and budget. Most projects observe a 75/92 ratio, whereby 75% of a project is dictated by its deadline, and 92% of a project is dictated by what the budget can accommodate. Trust me when I say there is nothing wrong with my math.

Many art and photography books originate because an artist is preparing for a future exhibit, and is looking for a book to document that exhibit. The book at the center of this blog—Havana—is no different: Michael’s photographs of Cuba are scheduled for an exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, opening on September 8.

To the uninitiated, 6 months might seem like plenty of time to pull a book together. However, when you consider that the contract wasn’t signed until this morning; that two essays and an interview have yet to be assigned let alone completed and edited; and that simply shipping the finished books—by boat—from the printer—in Asia—will take at least three weeks . . . It’s enough pressure to cause someone to wrap themselves in denial and spend all of their available time obsessively updating their blog . . .

And then there’s the matter of the budget. On any publishing project, you can tell who is responsible for overseeing the budget because they look as if they just witnessed a horrific dirigible accident moments earlier. Publishing any book is expensive; publishing a 150-page, hardcover, 5-color, oversized photography book is . . . well, VERY expensive.

That said, the publisher very much wanted to make the book affordable. The “natural” price for a book of this kind is $65. However, considering Michael’s exhibit is opening in Oklahoma City, not New York City (where people are accustomed to paying $65 for a pack of off-brand cigarettes and a cup of coffee); considering the downward price pressure placed on photography books by publishers like Powerhouse and Taschen; and considering the overall sense of impending apocalypse in the publishing industry generally, we’re aiming for $50.

I admit I used to scoff when a book I was working on wasn’t allowed any extra bells or whistles: “How can we not emboss that dot?! It’s only an additional $7,500 and two weeks of prep time!” Having spent the last few years in closer collaboration with publishers, and having seen how tired their check-writing hand gets with even one project, I now try to keep the scoffing to a minimum.

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