How to Publish a Coffee Table Book, According to Interior Designers

“Conceiving a book can quickly become a second job, and it is important not to let that come at the expense of your, or your client’s, needs,” adds Varney. “Coming up with the big picture idea is easy, and always a treat,” he continues. “The hardest part is actually having the discipline to sit down and actually write it.”

To streamline the process, textile designer Lisa Fine, whose new book, Near & Far: Interiors I Love (Vendome Press), delves into the sources of her inspiration, advises maintaining close relationships with photographers and editors. “Without that compatibility and respect, the project could be overwhelming,” she says.

Be ready to make the investment.

While every publishing deal is different, a designer-author should expect to handle some expenses out of pocket. Photography, writers, fact-checkers, and other services are unlikely to be covered by a publisher.

These costs, in addition to advances and royalties, “are negotiated on a project-by-project basis,” explains Jacqueline Decter, an editor at Vendome Press, “depending on our appraisal of the commercial merits of the project, such as originality, quality of materials, advertising, and marketing.”

Photography, of course, is typically one of the biggest associated costs, and even firms with solid archives will frequently return to projects “to capture moments that had never been seen before,” says Achille Salvagni, whose monograph, Achille Salvagni (Rizzoli), arrived on shelves this fall. Many designers suggest including these expenses as part of a firm’s public relations and marketing budget.

Consider the copy.

While some designers are comfortable putting pen to paper, others prefer to leave it to a professional, hiring either a ghostwriter, author, journalist, or critic with whom they work closely. For Varney, for example, who spent years writing a syndicated news column, “Writing comes very naturally to me, and I tend to do it every day.”

Hoerr, on the other hand, hired Douglas Brenner, an author who was “already fluent in architectural language,” which was critical to the process, he says. Likewise, Salvagni worked with design writer Pilar Viladas in several rounds of interviews to produce the text for his take on him. “That teamwork is what really made this book a successful and satisfying endeavor,” he explains.

When it comes to photography, think ahead. Way ahead.

As noted, photography is typically a major expense in producing a book, and all of the AD PRO designers spoke with, along with Jayes, stressed just how important it is for designers to capture their projects as a matter of course. “Invest in photography from the very beginning. I’m constantly shocked at how few people spend money on great photography until they want to do a book,” advises Hoerr. “It would be very hard to come up with a book without great photography.”

“Our office generally has a large inventory of projects and images,” explains Varney. “I have all of our projects photographed for our use, and the Grand Hotel is a project we have been photographing for years. With each new introduction, refresh, or renovation, we captured it all.”


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