Publishing Photo Books: Success Tips from Brad Mangin

Publishing Photo Books: Success Tips from Brad Mangin

bradmurphwrigley for blog

Sports photographer Brad Mangin and co-author Brian Murphy at Wrigley Field

As the 2015 baseball season starts winding to a close, we caught up with Brad Mangin, accomplished sports photographer and longtime friend of PhotoShelter. Brad has now published four wonderful photography books — one titled Instant Baseball featuring his unique style of up-close and personal, all access Instagrams with professional ballplayers, plus three commemorative books covering championship seasons for the San Francisco Giants (Worth The Wait (2010), Never Say Die (2012), and Championship Blood (2014) as a freelancer for Major League Baseball, Sports Illustrated, and other leading editorial publications.

We asked Brad to share his book publishing experiences with the PhotoShelter community. Having experienced the process of compiling, editing, producing, and marketing photography books (now four times) affords Brad some amazing insights. We asked Brad to dig into everything from choosing a publisher to contract terms and design intentions – his responses are candid and very helpful.

Championship Blood book, 2014 World Series Champion Giants

What prompted you to first start publishing books?

First and foremost I got lucky when the baseball team I have followed since childhood, the San Francisco Giants, won the World Series in 2010. It was the first time they had won the title since they moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958 so it was a huge deal in the Bay Area. Once I got home from shooting the clinching game in Arlington, Texas I knew I had the pictures that would make a great book. I had photographed close to 50 games including spring training, regular season, and post-season. I called my good friend and terrific writer Brian Murphy and told him we had to do a book. I told him, “You have the words, I have a pictures.” Murph is a Bay Area kid like myself who has followed the team since childhood and had moved from sportswriting to becoming the host of the morning radio show from 5-9am on the Giants 50,000 watt flagship radio station in San Francisco KNBR 680.

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Photo by Chris Gruener/Cameron + Company

I called a literary agent I knew, Amy Rennert, and pitched my idea. Since Amy is a Giants fan and understands the local market she loved the idea and knew that having Murph be a part of the book would be a huge plus. Not only is he a fabulous writer, but his ability to promote the book daily on his morning radio show to Giants fans all over was a huge bonus. I quickly learned that publishing a book about a team that wins a title in a local market is a million times easier than publishing a general interest book that does not have a concentrated fan base. A publisher needs to know that they will be able to sell books if they are going to invest in publishing your idea. Printing big and expensive photo books is not cheap. When a local team wins a World Series like the Giants you instantly have a huge market of enthusiastic fans who are excited to buy many collectibles to help them remember the special season.

When we started doing book signings we quickly realized all of this. Our book events were like Giants pep rallies with fans lined up outside waiting for us, dressed in Giants colors. They couldn’t wait to get in and have us sign their books. They all wanted to tell us who their favorite players were (in 2010 it was Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum) and what games they went to during the postseason.

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Can you describe the basic financial arrangements for the Giants books?

My co-author and I Brian Murphy are equal partners on all three of the Giants books we have done. This means that the contract our agent Amy negotiates for us calls for the traditional authors’ royalties to be cut in half into equal 50/50 shares between the two of us. Our agent also gets a share for all of the hard work she does for us. Like many contracts, we get a typical advance divided into three equal parts: upon signing the contract, upon accepting the manuscript, and upon publication. This advance goes against royalties that are paid to us based upon total retail sales. We get a percentage of sales up until we hit a certain number. Once we sell more, our percentage goes up. We also have a bonus coming to us if we hit a certain number.

This contract is pretty typical for someone like me having a book published the old school way where the publisher pays for everything and I assume none of the risk. My publisher makes all of the initial investment of putting the book together and having it printed in China, then having it shipped back over here to the US on an incredibly tight deadline to hit bookstores in time for opening day. Shipping is expensive! I am not paying anything out of my pocket for this, and since self-publishing would not be possible- at least with high quality- on a tight deadline like this for a book about a team that wins a World Series on October 29, 2014. (Our deadline was making sure the book was out and ready for sale by baseball’s Opening Day, April 5, 2015 – only 5 months to get everything done!)

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How would you describe a “success”? Strictly by the number of books sold?

I think there are many ways to describe a “success”. For me each book has been a huge success, but in different ways. My first Giants book on the 2010 team (Worth the Wait) was my first so it will always be special. Yet I really didn’t know what I was doing so there were so many things I would have done differently. We sold a bunch of books 17,000- the entire print run) mostly because it was the Giants official book and it was the club’s first title. The fans were just crazy for anything related to the team. My new book on the 2014 team (Championship Blood) is my favorite book to date because after doing several earlier I learned so many things. This time I was going to do what I wanted and my awesome publisher Cameron + Company agreed with everything I wanted. I asked for a large, oversized art book. I wanted nice paper, an expensive cover price and a small print run. I told my publisher Chris Gruener that I didn’t really care how many we sold- I just wanted to finally have my dream book. We printed 5,000, and thanks to Chris and our incredible creative director Iain Morris, I have my dream book.

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When the Giants won the 2014 World Series, their third in the current dynasty, was there any question that another book would be produced?

There was no question we would do a book after they won. The funny thing is the team barely made it into the playoffs, so when my publisher started texting Murph and me in early October about doing a book, I didn’t want to jinx their chances so I refused to discuss it! From there, the Giants run was pretty miraculous. They won Game 7 of the World Series in Kansas City on October 29, 2014. The parade was on Halloween in San Francisco. We met with the publisher at the Marin Brewing Company on Monday, November 3, 2014. That is the date we agreed to do a book. We had to work fast. In order to have a book by opening day 2015 we would have to have the files of the finished book delivered to China by December 19. This meant we had six weeks to edit pictures, lay out the book, do all the pre-press, etc. And oh yeah- Murph had to write player profiles on a dozen guys and we had to get a foreward and afterward and a million other details taken care of. Six weeks is not much time!

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Each book has taken on a new format and the latest is distinctly a “coffee table book” – can you describe the considerations that went into these decisions?

The first book we really didn’t have a choice as the Giants chose the publisher and he had a format in mind. It was totally fine for our first book and the price point was good to move books at $25. By the time this third book came around I did not want to do anything like we had in the past. What would be the point? I brought a big a beautiful book “Athlete” by Walter Iooss to our meeting on November 3 with me. The book had many huge, full bleed images. It was clean and simple and it was BIG. I told everyone I was not messing around and I wanted big and bold. I wanted heavy and expensive. Our creative director Iain Morris was on the same page with me and was ready. One great change he made was to take my original idea of doing a book in portrait form (vertical) and doing it landscape  (horizontal) instead. He said this would give him more creative design options and man, was he right. It also allowed us to run some of my pictures 28 inches across a two page spread (the book is 14 x 11 inches).

Iain pulled out all the stops on this one. The dust jacket on our cover has french folds, which is very classy and rarely seen these days. The hard cover surface of our book also has a completely different cover on it, so if you were to take off the dust jacket you would see another cover!

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Can you explain how you’ve promoted the book?

My partner Murph talked about it every day on 50,000 watts of morning drive time radio on the Giants flagship radio station 🙂 We have been tweeting a bunch. I set up a website (www.championshipbloodbook.com) that talks about the book and listed all of our bookstore events. This works great for twitter and radio — if people ask when and where we will be next we just tell them to go to the website. We had 100 review copies of the book air freighted in during the month of February to get out early to various people to help create a buzz. Murph I hand delivered many copies to many writers at spring training in Arizona. We also gave copies to everyone on the Giants broadcast crew.

We also made an appearance on the local nightly sports talkshow in San Francisco, Yahoo Sports Talk Live, produced by Comcast. We were live in-studio promoting the book and it went really well. Once the season started, I did a number of radio appearances on some of the shows on the Giants station KNBR, and lots of book signings.

Have the books led to additional work opportunities?

That is a great question and really hard to say directly. I would like to think so!

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Any bumps in the road you can share as watchouts for other photographers?

No one cares as much about the book as you do. No one will want to promote the book as much as you do. It is up to you to get off your ass and do all you can to promote the book via social media, friends in the print and electronic media, etc. Don’t be bashful and know your market. My market is easy- San Francisco Giants fans and I know how to reach them.

Don’t try and design your own book- it will look awful. Working with a world-class designer like I have in Iain Morris has really opened my eyes. Taking my traditional sports pictures shot with 35mm cameras and my Instagrams show with my iPhone and combining them into my newest book the way Iain did is just incredible. People pay me to take pictures- they don’t pay me to design books.

Any other lessons learned?

It really helps to have some good friends who are great writers. I am incredibly lucky to have a partner like Murph. I have known him for over 20 years and I could not have a better co-author. Never settle for someone who you are not comfortable with. Make sure your partner is as enthusiastic about the subject as you are. Murph and I are nuts for Giants baseball and could talk to you for hours about Mike Ivie and the 1978 team. We are not frauds. We are legit – and the fans can tell – it helps us sell books.

Where do you go from here?

The book publishing experience was incredible and I would certainly look to do more if the right situation came up.

Now, I am focused on broadening my career opportunities. The industry continues to change for freelance sports photographers. At the moment, I’m exploring some opportunities with sports related brands who like my Instagram approach and want to bring that authenticity to the way they present their brand in social media with my photography. Even at this stage in my career, I’m learning that everything I do is a new foundation. Constant reinvention is so important based on how the market is changing and where great photography is in high demand. I’m always looking for ways to do things differently. This has been very exciting for me, given my career has always been about editorial photography, so it’s a whole new experience to bridge the gap to work both on the brand side and for exciting new media outlets.

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There are 2 comments for this article
  1. Mario at 2:32 am

    I had a photo book consisting of memories when our team won its first world cup back in 1992 (Cricket world cup). Still gives me goose-bumps whenever I go through the images. And I have had the pleasure of going through “Championship Blood” some time ago, and I loved it (despite the fact that I don’t follow baseball)
    Really enjoyed this guide. I was planning to publish some of my travel photos in form of a book, but wasn’t sure about the promotions and sales part. This guide explains it quite well.

  2. Pingback: Captions & Keywords: Tips from Pro Sports Photographer Brad Mangin's Photo Library | Libris Blog

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