A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Publish a Coffee Table Book

publish a coffee table book

A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Publish a Coffee Table Book

Are you an author, artist, or photographer? Perhaps you’re in another industry, and you’d love to share your experience as a visually-appealing story?

Have you considered whether you should publish a coffee table book?

Olga Tokarczuk, a Nobel prize-winning author, believes that picture books are “a powerful, primeval way of telling a story.” Rather than writing another 1,000-page historical epic, she decided to  create a coffee table book instead. Olga praises the power of this medium to “get through to anyone, regardless of age.”

If you need some tips for publishing a coffee table book, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to explain what they are, as well as how to write, publish, and print them. Read on!

What Is a Coffee Table Book?

A coffee table book (sometimes known as a cocktail table book) is a large book that usually has a hardback cover.

These are normally exclusive to the printed format since a digital version cannot sit on a coffee table. The whole purpose of these books does not suit eBook distribution. This is especially true since a coffee table book is popular as a gifted physical item.

The pictorial-nature is often behind the appeal of leaving these books out for friends to enjoy. The artwork is often the main component.

As beautiful objects of art, these books are often created as conversation-starters. They are designed to inspire and are typically meant to be absorbed casually. On the inner-pages, you wouldn’t expect to see deep dives but rather smaller descriptive copy blocks.

Topics that authors choose for a coffee table book usually lend themselves to this visually-oriented approach. The subject matter is mostly non-fiction, and some are exclusively photo-books.

While references to the concept of a “display book” date back to the late 1500s, the first coffee table books may have been introduced in the late 1940s. It was the swiss art-book publisher Albert Skira who started to experiment with a format that resembles the coffee table book.

The big-size of these books gives great power and weight to the visual nature of the pages. The large images cause our eyes to move around more than usual and take the scene in slowly, similarly to how we process a real environment.

How to Write a Coffee Table Book

Some professionals publish a coffee table book as a launching off point for their careers. Businesses may choose to create one to generate publicity that will enhance their credibility in the eyes of their customers.

Are you thinking of creating a coffee table book that is specific to your career industry? Ideally, you need a good amount of experience under your belt in your chosen field. You want your ideas to feel natural, not forced in any way.

Your focus needs to be personal and fit you like a glove to work. Also, the idea needs to be marketable to a wider public. That said, you can still plug an unmet niche as long as there is a valid audience.

At the ideas stage for an artist, it might be easy. For a coffee book that indulges a side passion, your focus might be to contribute to a specific community.

You need to match images to the concepts in your book. Images are a large part of the appeal of a coffee table book but are costly to license. You’ll need to collect images, sort, assemble, and pick strong visual artwork that resonates with your goal.

Copy deepens the experience and enriches the artwork, but remember that it’s a secondary element. The text will help with the narrative and tie things together, but it’s not the focus.

Arrange your pages so that images and text work well in harmony. You may need a graphic designer to help take your ideas to a professional level. A visual designer will make life easier by helping you avoid pitfalls.

Keep things moving within a reasonable timeframe – likely a year minimum, but don’t let it impact your main career.

How to Publish a Coffee Table Book

Publishers usually want to affiliate with industry leaders. If you aren’t self-publishing, you might need some magazine features or other accolades, like public speaking, to garner attention.

If you want to pitch to editors and publishers, an agent may be beneficial or a necessity. Keep your pitch brief but memorable – just a single side of paper detailing your idea, with a bio, visuals, and any media coverage. Research the submission guidelines of publishers before you mail out your pitch.

Drawing on the experience of traditional publishers will take a lot of weight off your shoulders regarding many decisions. That’s because they already have relationships with many parties involved in the process.

Publishers know how to distribute and market a coffee table book. They have Bookseller relationships and other retailer connections. The downside to this avenue is that sometimes, your advance may be the only funds you ever get.

You may have to self-fund some aspects of the project, like hiring a photographer, researcher, or commissioning illustrations. You might also need to work with a ghostwriter to raise the editorial standards.

An Independent publisher may be appropriate if you have a diverse topic with limited interest. You can often be more involved, but they don’t have as much clout with marketing and distribution as big publishers.

Traditional coffee table book publishing may not be the goal for a one-off run for family, friends, and colleagues. Printing on-demand is a viable alternative for the self-publishing route. Self-publishing may end up being a cheaper route, where you have total control when it comes to coffee table book printing.

Publish a Coffee Table Book

We’ve shown that if you want to publish a coffee table book, you’ll benefit from taking an unusual angle on a popular topic. Don’t let a lack of interest from editors put your project on the backburner.

We are a book printing service, and we specialize in coffee table books. Why settle for “good” when “fantastic” is what you want and deserve?

Contact us today to request a quote.


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