Thursday, May 15, 2008

there and back again

sofobomo title

Paul asked some good questions about the SoFoBoMo experience. Was it fun? Stressful, stretching, gut squirmingly worrying but fun all the same. That sort of deep fun that comes from the satisfaction of a job well done, rather than the superficial fun that arrives more passively. What sort of things did you learn? What a book looks like. Recognising the structure, with two title pages at the start of every photography book I own surprised me. I learned an amazing amount about fonts and typography in a very short space of time. I know now about em dashes and other twiddly bits that I'd never even noticed before. My eyes have become a bit more tuned into features in a book that I never knew existed. As is typical with this sort of revelation, I can't stop seeing them in everything I read for just now. Also picked up a lot of fundamentals of graphic design which have been useful in other aspects of my life. I managed to re-enforce my understanding that most people, including complete strangers, will happily let you take their picture and often be very flattered that you asked. Having the story of 'doing a book' didn't really help or hinder - everyone was very kind and helpful. I learned a lot about how Adobe InDesign works and found it pretty easy to use. The PDF generation and layout were relatively easy, the main distraction was the lack of features for soft proofing for RGB print output, it all being tuned towards CMYK separations. Doing a proof book with blurb prior to the whole SoFoBoMo exercise really helped me understand the quirks of Print On Demand, which is maybe why I've had less problems than others with Blurb and similar companies. I got to fiddle with Yahoo pipes and play with their GUI scripting tools. While neat, it further convinced me of the horrors and general pain of using a GUI to write code. Things that should have been simple and quick in a text editor drag on while I wait on forms to load and widgets to drag around the screen. Functional, fun for everyone involved but a pain to update and maintain. Give me a text file and vim over a GUI web editor any day of the week. I learned I'm still not very good at soft proofing. That seems to be mostly experience and will come with time, I'm sure. I just don't do enough print output to be able to interpret well what I say on the screen and how it'll translate to a sheet of paper. Was your experience pretty much what you expected, or it did turn out that doing the book was wildly different from what you'd pictured when you signed up? It was a lot more work than I expected, given how little I really produced (400+ pictures, but not much text or complexity in the layout). I was particularly surprised by how much Holly managed to find wrong with my typography, for just 4 simple pages of text, that had been carefully proof read and spell checked by that point. I have a satisfyingly smug feeling about getting it done within the alloted time and am actually looking forward to working on my next book soon. Overall it was pretty much what I expected coming in, but I've been through the process a couple of times with much simpler and simpler looking books. The act of writing was as fun and painful as ever. I enjoy writing but my mind twists and turns and tries to avoid it at every opportunity. Blogging in general is helping with that, but I'm always in an on-going battle with myself to actually sit down and put words on a page. The more I do it the easier it gets, so I just need to get on with it I suppose. What aspects of the whole thing were frustrating? I can't think of any aspect that was frustrating. It was stressful for a while trying to shoot enough good portraits for the book. I suppose I am frustrated by a few potentially great images that I lost of stupidity - incorrect camera settings, not catching that the shutter speed was too slow at the time of shooting, that sort of thing. That's just my on-going occasional frustration with photography, not something SoFoBoMo specific. What aspects were most rewarding? Seeing all the finished books on the project page. (32 so far!). Opening the box and pulling out the finished copy of my book is a close second. Over 4400 views/hits on my Issuu version of the book is quite rewarding too. Having participated this year (regardless of whether you finished it or not), would you ever want to do it again? Yes, certainly. I am surprised by the creative vacuum left behind by doing this one project. I'm sure that will go away soon. Probably true from any really intense period of effort. Do you have suggestions about ways to change things to make it more successful/fun/educational/rewarding for participants in future SoFoBoMo events? I'm not sure what could be more fun and rewarding than having a book! with my name on it! that I made! We could no doubt capture our experiences this year and bottle them up, to present as a how to make a book course, but part of the endeavor and value for me was not having an easy, predefined path to follow. Making it up as I went along and making the decisions an mistakes were part and parcel of what I learned and valued from the process. I think if someone came up with a 35 photo page template generator that I just pointed at a set of images and a PDF book fell out the other end, it would be a much reduced experience, for example. SoFoBoMo is a great dangling carrot to place in front of people. The challenge is well defined, the goal is reachable with a stretch and easy to understand. I don't think it could be presented much better. From my perspective, maybe because I'm a photographer and not a writer, it seems like an easier goal than the 50,000 word bar for the National Novel in a Month challenge, or 12 songs for the album in a month. Maybe next time around we try to raise the bar a bit. Not sure about that for now or what form it would take. Perhaps we just have to raise our own personal bar, rather than dragging everyone kicking and screaming with us. Many people have taken up the additional challenge to try to produce a PoD physical book from their SoFoBoMo PDF. That seems like a good example of that sort of bar raising. Not sure what the next step is - trying to produce a publishable book in a month and then re-editing and re-working it and taking it to publishers? I know I certainly didn't have that aim this time around. What resources did you find helpful? The Non-Designer’s Type Book, Second Edition and The Non-Designer's Design Book, Third Edition both by Robin Williams I found several good blogs about PoD and blurb/InDesign that were helpful. More specifically SoFoBoMo related, I found a large collection of photography books useful to see what a book really looks like. The community of bloggers that sprung up around SoFoBoMo and the yahoo pipe I put together really helped me feel connected to the rest of the people struggling along at the same time. I think that connection and shared experience was one of the most valuable and helpful aspects of this first attempt. Motivated me at times when I might have just quit because things were too time consuming or hard. What aspects of SoFoBoMo were positive surprises? What aspects were disappointments? I was surprised by just how many people seemed excited by the idea and got involved, both personally, wanting to see the book, being supportive, and actually creating their own SoFoBoMo books or even just attempting what is still a big goal. I thought there would be a dozen at most. Getting to write a promo piece for the Online Photographer was fun, mainly to see the effect on my page hits. I am curious to know if we got any new participants from that, or if it was a bit too late in the fuzzy month to get on board. top
How about that fuzzy month thing? Did that work for you, or not? Worked well, though I suppose I cheated and jumped the gun by a few days. I was surprised to actually finish the PDF in only 3 weeks from start to finish. I do think that the late starters might be missing out a bit on the shared experience now that some of us early bolters are finished. Maybe a shorter fuzzy window would help (I saw Eric suggested 6 weeks in the discussion on Paul's blog - that might not be a bad limit to try)


Anonymous said...

I got directed to SoFoBoMo from the On-line Photographer and got hooked on the idea at the beginning of May. It was only this morning that the final idea finally took root as I was editing pictures from my daughters grade 3-4 Lacrosse games. So as soon as I get permission from the parents of the kids in the pictures, I will start putting the book together. Hopefully I will be able to pull it together since I got a late start. I will definitely start earlier next year since I know about it.
It has been a great help in getting me out to photograph again, learn photo editing programs and hopefully page layout programs.
I also hope to get my daughters involved and interested in making their own photo books.
John Doty
Westford VT

Unknown said...

Thanks for letting me know, John. Sounds like you have several book projects on the go, with you and your daughters. Hope you'll share some of the finished results if you can.

Andreas said...


Congratulations to your book, it's absolutely fantastic. I love your portraits.

As to myself, it took me a while to come up with a project, but finally I'm in it. It was just too painful to see you all finish your books and not have one for myself :)

Could you please be so kind as to add my blog "The Daily Photography of Andreas Manessinger" to your pipe?

Thanks a lot


Andreas said...

Thanks for adding, traffic's coming :)