Writing And Publishing A High Quality Photo Book With Jeremy Bassetti

How can you create a high-quality photo book and publish it on Kickstarter? How do you market a beautiful, high-value book? Jeremy Bassetti talks about his photo book project, Hill of the Skull.

In the intro, Slow release book strategies [ALLi]; Seth Godin on how he is using ChatGPT; Consultants using AI worked faster and produced higher quality results [Ethan Mollick]; DALL-E includes text and consistent characters [OpenAI, Examples on X]; More authors suing OpenAI [The Verge].

Plus, Writing the Shadow Kickstarter; Gold cover video; Wing of an Angel Kickstarter; Pics of Norway on Instagram @jfpennauthor


Today’s show is sponsored by Ingram Spark, which I use to print and distribute my print-on-demand books to 40,000 retailers including independent bookstores, schools and universities, libraries, and more. It’s your content—do more with it through IngramSpark.com.

Jeremy Bassetti is a travel writer, editor, teacher, and author of historical fiction, as well as the host of the Travel Writing World Podcast. His latest project is The Hill of the Skull: A Photobook Memoir, launching on Kickstarter.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below. 

Show Notes

  • Tips for capturing travel experiences for later reference
  • Legal and ethical concerns in publishing photos of people
  • The multilayered editing process of a photo book
  • Sourcing a printer for high-quality books
  • Adding different levels and products to a Kickstarter campaign
  • Why Kickstarter vs. other publishing methods
  • The importance of marketing

You can find Jeremy at JeremyBassetti.com, his podcast at TravelWritingWorld.com, and his Kickstarter here.

Transcript of Interview with Jeremy Bassetti

Joanna: Jeremy Bassetti is a travel writer, editor, teacher, and author of historical fiction, as well as the host of the Travel Writing World Podcast.

His latest project is The Hill of the Skull: A Photobook Memoir, launching on Kickstarter. So welcome back to the show, Jeremy.

Jeremy: Thanks for having me. It’s good to hear your voice again.

Joanna: Absolutely. Now, you were on the show talking about the wider aspects of travel writing in September 2021. So we’re gonna just jump straight into your new project today.

The tagline for The Hill of the Skull is —

“A professor visits a sacred mountain in Bolivia and gets pulled into a world of ritual”

— which sounds super cool.

Tell us about the trip that inspired the book.

Jeremy: So in, I guess, the fall of 2022, I went on sabbatical from my work, I’m a professor by day. Part of the mission for me during my sabbatical was to do research on mountain cultures, and you know, how people around the world think about mountains.

Leading up to that trip, I read from Victoria Preston, somebody who I know you’ve spoken to before about pilgrimages. I read in her book many years before that something about a community and a pilgrimage in the Bolivian Andes, in some kind of remote region in a town that many people haven’t heard of. So I made it kind of my mission to go to this town during this pilgrimage to see what was going on there and to do research.

The name of the town is called Quillacollo, and it’s not a small town, but it’s a town that many people haven’t heard of.  There’s this kind of incredible festival there every August.

On the surface, it’s to celebrate the ascension of the Virgin Mary, but when you see what’s going on, in terms of the rituals and the ceremonies around this kind of sacred hill, you can see that there’s this incredible fusion of native Andean ideas and traditions and rituals blended and fused with Catholic.

So you have this kind of fusion of pagan and Catholic practices happening during this pilgrimage. It’s quite incredible. So that was the motivation for me to go to this corner of the world.

Joanna: I mean, it sounds very cool. But Bolivia, what’s your attraction to South America? Have you traveled there before? Because, obviously, there are pagan and Catholic rituals all over the world.

Why Bolivia?

Jeremy: Well, frankly, I had never been to South America. I’d studied about colonial Latin America and Bolivia in grad school, especially around silver, and Bolivia is the place when you’re talking about silver during the colonial era. So it’s always kind of been on my radar.

This place in particular was just so fascinating to me because, well, frankly, I’d never heard of it. There’s this big celebration, there’s a lot going on, there was just something that was kind of magical that pulled me in that direction. I wanted to go far field.

It was my sabbatical, so I wanted to go someplace that would be challenging for me to visit and something that would kind of tie into my larger research interests, which involves looking at the ideas of mountains around the world. So, Bolivia, of course, is like a mountainous region, right?

The city that I visited, Quillacollo, by no stretch is a low-lying city. It’s like 1500 feet. I come from Florida, right? It’s like zero feet, it’s like sea level. By Bolivian standards, 8,500 feet, I don’t know what that is in meters, maybe 2500 or something, that’s quite low. But for us, I mean, we really feel it. So Bolivia was a place that was on my radar, someplace that I just had to go, because mountains are so central and so important to this place. It’s a keystone to the research that I was doing, really.

Joanna: It’s interesting that you mentioned the silver there because on my Books and Travel Podcast, I had Shafik Meghji. I think you might have had him on your podcast talking about his book about Bolivia. And again, I learned all this stuff.

Like the silver that people might have, or certainly in their local museum, probably came from Bolivia. I mean, you’ve learned an awful lot about places, so I think that’s really interesting. But you’re not on the travel podcast today, you’re on the publishing podcast. So let’s get into that. So when you went on this sabbatical, and you went to this town—

Did you intend always to write a book or did the book emerge from the trip later?

Jeremy: Well, as I mentioned, this was part of my larger research goal and my larger research agenda. So I always imagined that this research would kind of factor into this work that I’m doing, this kind of writing this larger project that I’m working on, which I’m a bit hesitant to talk about. So it’s always been like a part of that work.

While I was there, this new story, this new quest, unfolded while I was there. So the product of this book that I’m releasing today, that I’m crowdfunding and Kickstarting, really just came out of out of being there. It wasn’t something that I had planned on doing.

Now, before I went, I did a pop-up newsletter that I called 30 Days in the Andes. This was just like a forcing function for me to think about, and to take photos, and to work while I was traveling, so I wouldn’t confuse Bolivia as like a holiday or something.

This would force me to stay rigorous, to stay on schedule, to produce work every night, to take photographs, to remind myself that this is why I’m here to do this kind of work.

I had like a couple of side quests for research while I was there, but really, the book that emerged was completely different, and it was completely unexpected. That’s probably why it’s been so hard, and it’s taken me over a year to put this book together because it really came out of the thin Andean air while I was there.

Joanna: Sounds fascinating.

Jeremy: I’m trying to sell it!

Joanna: Absolutely. What is interesting, I mean, obviously you don’t have to talk about that bigger work, but you have this research focus, almost like this great work that you have in mind, which is a future project, but this photo book came out of being there.

I mean, my Pilgrimage memoir was kind of similar in that I went with one intention, and the book—well, I guess the first book, let’s call it—comes out of something else and can be a bit of a surprise.

You mentioned there, this pop up newsletter, which I love the idea of, 30 Days in the Andes. You were taking photos and writing things at the time. For people who want to do something like this—

What are your tips for capturing the experience as it happens?

Jeremy: Well, I mean, what I was doing might be a little bit different from kind of just trying to capture the experience for personal use.

I was taking photographs and kind of writing things with the intention that possibly I would throw this out into the world in the pop up newsletter. That was a lot different from the personal notes and all the personal kind of data that I was collecting. So I mean, of course, I took photos. Like that was one of the kind of side quests of this trip, taking photos.

Photos from Instagram @jeremybassetti

Photos by Jeremy Bassetti

You’re asking, how do we make sure that we capture everything? Well, you know, every possible way. Photos, handwritten notes, I was using my iPhone.

So I don’t know if you use the Notes app on your iPhone, but if anybody has iPhones, you have a Notes app, but you also this app called Shortcuts, and you can set this button on your home screen, this little widget, that when you press it, it’ll automatically create a new note in your notes app, date it, and it will put all of like the geo-coordinates information, append that to the note, and then open up this dictation dialog so you can just start talking, and it’s speech to text.

It’s incredible how many words you can get down just by dictating what you’re seeing, what you’re feeling, and what you’re experiencing.

So in short, I mean, I was like a madman taking photographs, writing things down in a pocket book, taking notes, dictating into my phone. I was doing whatever it took to capture things.

Now one of the things that I regret not doing now is I didn’t take a lot of video, but I wished I had turned my phone sideways and captured more video. Yeah, notes, dictations, photographs, handwritten notes. It was intense for me.

Joanna: I was gonna say, it sounds quite busy for a sabbatical.

Jeremy: Yeah, sabbatical and rest and all of that. But I mean, this was a type of work that’s energizing. It’s not a type of work that feels like work.

Joanna: I agree with you. It’s interesting, you went with the sort of audio and you wish you had done video. I never do either.

I think there’s definitely something about speaking and sound that is different from writing, because when you’re writing, it’s much slower than your spoken word, so you almost think about what you’re writing before you write it down.

You weren’t even like dictating as such, you weren’t dictating what you’d written down, you were talking basically, right? You were just talking about what you were feeling. So I do like that. I mean, presumably, you went on your own and you had a room where you could do this alone. You weren’t wandering around doing it in public, right?

Jeremy: No, no, I was wandering around doing it in public. So there were occasions where I whipped out my field notes book, and I was taking notes by hand, and I would get these sideways classes. People were asking me, what are you doing? Like, are you a writer? It was kind of suspicious.

Very quickly, I realized that I didn’t want to draw that kind of attention. Not that I was doing anything wrong, like I wasn’t a spy or anything, right, but I just didn’t want to call that attention to myself

I realized very quickly that typing into a phone or speaking into the phone, nobody bats an eye at that. That’s what everyone is doing everywhere. So yeah, walking around in public, speaking into the phone, typing, yah, that was kind of this strange thing that I was gathering. 

With the audio, you mentioned, the good thing about audio is it’s not just recording the voice that you can later transcribe, but it’s also capturing the inflections in the voice, and the sounds that are going on in the background, and the voice, and the frustrations in your voice, and the high altitude panting.

All of this stuff like comes through in the audio that we’re not thinking about at the time, but that’s kind of key emotional. I hate to talk about it in such a cold way, but that’s like emotional data that we aren’t aware of that we can kind of draw on later as we’re putting the book together or writing about that.

Joanna: It’s a really good point. I mean, even doing the transcript for my interviews on this show, I’m aware sometimes that the text on the page does not reflect the emotion that we talked about. It’s so difficult, like, you’re completely correct there. It is really interesting.

One thing about taking photos, and especially publishing photos, is about photos of people. Now, could you talk a bit about that? Because people might feel like, well—

How can you take a photo of a Bolivian person in their village doing something religious and publish it in a book?

So what are your thoughts around that?

Jeremy: Well, I would just say that it’s country-dependent.

In terms of the law, it depends on what country you are in, every country and community has a different law around it. There are also ethical questions involved, and everyone that appears in this book, I spoke to, I talked to, I asked them if I can take pictures.

I got their phone numbers, and I got their names, and I told them that I’d send these photos to them. They asked me what I was doing, and I was honest and open with them about everything. So this wasn’t me kind of like going on a photo safari, snapping pictures and collecting trophies, so to speak. There was this kind of open communication between me and everyone I was shooting. I do see how this could kind of approach some, I don’t know, tricky gray areas in terms of ethics.

Joanna: Yes, I mean, my brother’s a photographer, and he says that there’s a lot of discussion around what counts as sort of modern colonialism when it comes to taking photos in more sort of indigenous settings.

Language is difficult around this, but I love what you did there. I think that’s actually a great way to do it. Although I think in most places, if somebody is out in public, doing something in public, then there aren’t any problems.

Jeremy: Right. There’s also this documentary aspect of it that is ultimately part of the conversation. This gets wrapped into the ethics as well, but this idea of documenting the world.

I know that there is that kind of colonial language and undertone to that idea, but there’s something interesting about documenting this world before these traditions and these things disappear. It’s tricky, it’s complicated, and it’s a case-by-case thing.

I know there’s like a lot of people that are interested in street photography, especially in the UK and in the United States.

If you’re out in public, there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy there, but you need to be, I think, respectful and treat people with dignity.

If you’re open, and you’re forthcoming, and you’re not trying to represent people in ways that might embarrass them or might get them into trouble, then I think that’s a good place to start.

Joanna: Absolutely. Okay, so you’ve got an absolute ton of material. You’ve got photos, and audio, and text, and just a whole load of stuff. So how did you wrestle that into submission to turn it into a book?

What was your editing process?

Because I know how much work that is. I mean, it’s even more work with images because, of course, with digital images, we take so many more than we would have done with normal film, and so you have a lot more to go through. So tell us about that process.

Photos from Instagram @jeremy.bassetti

Jeremy: It was a long process.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been working on this thing for a year, and it’s not a very big book. I mean, it’s a memoir, which was really difficult for me to get through because it’s so personal, but that’s only 7000 words.

It was 15,000 words, and I trimmed it back to 7000, but that took a long time. The images, as you mentioned, I walked away with thousands of images, and I had to kind of whittle that down to hundreds of images, and then whittle that down to tens of images.

These are two separate but kind of related processes, right, the writing and then the photo aspect.

This project is, by far, the most complicated project that I’ve ever done because of these two different parts of the project.

In terms of the photos, I mean, that was quite difficult because I pull all my images into the computer, and from the thousands, I had to just literally look at every single image and make a decision. Yes or no, yes or no, yes or no, going down several passes to like a long list, and then a shortlist.

When I had my short list of images, which was like 100-200 images, I printed all of those out on these small index card-sized work prints, you know, like a pack of cards, but my images, and I would tape them to the wall, I would carry them with me, shuffle them around.

I was trying to think about which set of images works best for the project, or the idea, or the concept of my book. That idea, that concept of the book, ultimately was the north star of my project. That was the thing that was guiding me, and was telling me to reject or keep.

So what’s the process?

It was just kind of getting honest with myself about what is this book about? What is the story here that I’m trying to tell?

Then I was making the tough decision.

Which image, or which part of the text, which part of the story, further advances that narrative and that story?

And if it doesn’t, axe it, delete it, get rid of it.

Joanna: That is so hard. I mean, obviously, I’m really interested in this.

I want to do a photo book, or maybe more than one photo book, and it’s so hard with images. I’m also like you, I have tens of thousands of photos from various travels.

I like that you’ve chosen one particular trip, whereas I’m really thinking about, for example, a gothic cathedral book or memento mori type book, so it would be multiple trips with maybe different essays, or I don’t even know.

I like what you’ve done, but I also think that just sounds like so much work, which is kind of crazy. So as we’re recording this—

Are you finished with your decision of what everything is? Is the book finished?

Jeremy: The book is 99% done. Yeah, yeah, the book is finished. You know how it is, like there’s always like this thing in the back of my mind. Like, I’m thinking about taking out an image or two or rearranging them, but this project is done, which is to say it’s done enough up until this point.

Joanna: That’s what it has to be. We’ll come to the deadline of a Kickstarter. But did you design it yourself then? Did you format it all yourself?

Jeremy: Yes, and that’s another kind of layer here of complication here because I’m inputting everything, I’m designing everything in InDesign.

I’m doing the typeface design, the book design, all of that I’m doing myself. Of course, I’m bringing in help as I need it, in terms of formatting or double-checking everything and editing, those types of things.

But yeah, all the heavy lifting, I’m doing. You know, I would love to just like put something through Vellum and do the print thing for me, but this is such a strange, unusual project that those tools aren’t cut out for, so to speak. I need to do it in InDesign because that’s the only way that I can do it, basically.

Joanna: I agree. Vellum is not for this kind of book. That’s not what it is for. So I totally agree with you.

Tell us a bit more about the physical product, the high-quality hardback book, and some of the book design choices. I mean, you’ve self-published books before and most listeners will have done basic paperbacks. I mean, I’ve done one special edition hardback, but I know we have to make a lot more decisions.

Tell us about this beautiful premium hardback book.

Jeremy: So I guess the star of the Kickstarter show, the star of the show, is this hardcover, special edition, executive size 7 by 10 inches. I don’t know that would be in metric, but it’s this nice-sized hardcover book with this kind of premium cloth covering to it.

There’s a hand silk-screened cover. The inside, the paper quality, it’s going to be this fine matte art paper.

It’s going to be printed, not digitally, but offset printed. So it’s a little bit better quality than digital prints. I’m going to have these beautiful endpapers, I’m going to have a map, it’s going to be a premium product.

The print run is going to be quite low just because of the costs associated with it, but I’m pulling out as many steps as I can to make this truly beautiful object, in and of itself, based on its materials.

Then hopefully, you know, the contents match the container. Hopefully, the story and the images are as compelling as the materials and the materiality of the project, as well.

Joanna: How did you find the printer that you’re using?

Because I feel like many people are like, oh, yeah, I’d love to do that, but how do I find someone to work with?

Jeremy: Just internet searching, really. Also, you would find that many of the kind of art books and the photo books now, if you look at the colophons and the credit pages of these books, they’ll reveal a lot of information about where the book was printed, who printed it, what typefaces were used, what kind of papers were used, like, there’s so much interesting information in the back of the books. So that was one of the sources that I tapped in order to find the printers.

I’ve sent emails all over the world to different manufacturers and suppliers, trying to price out this book and trying to find a fit.

So that’s yet another issue, you’ve got to communicate with the printers and the binderies for them to send you samples and get book dummies. There’s a lot of moving parts here.

This process started for me in September 2022 when I came back, when I knew I had something that I wanted to make. I began sending those emails out as early as possible. That’s kind of what I had to do, and that’s what I recommend everyone does to produce a book like this.

Joanna: And then you have to do some test printing. Like I’ve actually got right here, I’ve got the cover of Writing the Shadow, which is the next book I’ll be putting out.

I’m doing gold foil on the Kickstarter hardback, I’ve never done gold foil before, so I actually have here a sample of the gold foil on the cover. It’s awesome because it like reflects the sun and everything, but in order to do a gold foil on the cover, you have to send separate print files.

So this is a test print, I haven’t even finished the book yet as we’re recording. Like you said, when you’re doing a print product or a physical product of any kind, you have to do these kinds of samples. And we’re just really not used to doing that, are we, with digital or like basic print-on-demand. We kind of order one after it’s done.

Jeremy: Right, just to make sure everything looks good. Even, I know I do, and I’m sure many people do this too, like even if you do the POD print books, I don’t know, for me, I like always want to get an early copy, just a test copy, a proof, just to make sure that everything is dialed in and there aren’t any kind of surprises in the printing. I’m sure, like you, like you’ve done this enough, you don’t necessarily need to do that verification.

But on a book project, like the one that you’re working on, and I’m sure with your Pilgrimage book, and this book that I’m working on, like you can’t overlook that part of the process. You need to do that. There are too many moving parts, the stakes are way too high. You need to have that proof copy, or that dummy or that sample come in.

Joanna: Yes, I feel like this is all about us becoming better publishers. Like we spend a lot of time on the craft side and the marketing side, which we’ll talk about, but—

This is about being a better publisher and putting out a beautiful print book.

Jeremy: Putting out something cool, you know, something beautiful, something cool, something that feels good in the hand, something that’s this amazing material thing.

I’m sure we can do that print-on-demand, but this is raising the stakes. This is making, as you mentioned, a beautiful object. That is cool that we have within our reach the capabilities of doing those things.

Joanna: Yeah, it is cool. All right. So tell us—

Why Kickstarter for this project? What have been the challenges with it?

Jeremy: Oh, there’s so many. But why Kickstarter? Well, frankly, you know, the print-on-demand industry, I guess if you want to call it, it’s not really cut out to be able to produce a book of this quality.

You know, offset printed this bespoke fabric on the hardcover, this matte art paper, all of these kind of nuances, you don’t really have that sort of flexibility with print on demand companies. Now, it’s getting there. It’s approaching that with BookVault.app. They have a lot of interesting options, many of which aren’t available in the US, I might add, but it’s approaching that, but it’s not quite there yet, in terms of what I want to do.

The only route that I can go is to produce this myself, and to produce a book like this myself is expensive. I don’t have that money. I’m a teacher, I’m poor. So I need to crowdfund and Kickstarter to help offset those expenses, to help publish and produce this beautiful object according to the vision. So that’s kind of why Kickstarter is the only option for me.

That’s one of the benefits, but that’s also one of the challenges, too. It’s like to be beholden to only one publishing path or one vision, that’s a struggle. That’s something that’s been bothering me, I guess.

What are the challenges of Kickstarter? It’s a lot more difficult to do this launch, and to set a launch date, and then to do all of the marketing stuff in service of that launch date.

There’s high pressure, high stakes to meet your goal, and to meet all the stretch goals if you have them.

And of course, when we get to the end of the Kickstarter, if it’s successful, then we have to fulfill all the promises that we made. So there are so many challenges, from design, to marketing, to inventory, to setup, to calculating the costs and doing the shipping, and getting everything right and dialed in. You know, this is not for the weak, right?

Joanna: It is a challenge, for sure.

Jeremy: You know how it is.

Joanna: Oh, I do, and I’m about to do it again.

Kickstarter lessons learned

So I mean, I do feel like it’s worthwhile because, like you said, you had a vision of this project, and you can’t achieve that vision without doing it in some way. I mean, you have to get the funding somehow. I mean, you could have for example, you could have, I don’t know whether you did—

Did you pitch this to a traditional publisher? Did you even consider that?

Jeremy: No, no, I did not. This is kind of a hybrid project. This is a hybrid book. There are photobook publishers out there, and there are kind of traditional memoir publishers out there, and to put those together, it’s just such a weird thing. This hybrid monster beast that I know no one would touch, right, to produce it the way that I want to do it.

Yeah, not only is everything weird on the inside, but it’s like, okay, what is the vision to produce this high-quality book? You know, what do the profits look like for a book publisher for a book like this? You know, those numbers don’t look good. It’s too risky.

Joanna: Yes, I mean, I feel the same way about Pilgrimage. It’s half memoir, half travel book, with some photos. And like you say, it doesn’t necessarily fit.

Also, I feel like many memoir writers now choose to self-publish because it’s so personal, and if you license the rights to your own very personal writing and it doesn’t go the way you want it to, that can be pretty hardcore, you know, difficult.

So there’s pros and cons with doing a Kickstarter. Tell us, because you’ve mentioned this wonderful hardback edition, but I was the one, I think, who prompted you. I was like, hey, what about the fact that there’s an international market out there? In fact, I don’t even think you’re selling it in every country in the world.

Talk about the various other levels that you added to the project.

Jeremy: Okay, so I am selling it globally. I’m just not setting up the shipping for every country yet. I mean, that’s another challenge with Kickstarter, you need to figure out shipping stuff, and for me to dial in shipping for 200 countries would be just crazy.

But you looked at my preview page, and you’re like, hey, what about some other options? And thanks to you, I’ve included an audiobook version, an eBook and an audiobook version, and cheaper paperback book that’s leveraging the POD route that we spoke about with black and white photos. I’d say it’s an inexpensive reader copy, right?

If you just want to like read the story, you’re not that crazy about having this premium kind of tactile book in your hand, the paperback book is the route to go down.

Not only are these kind of set up to be delivered digitally, except for the paperback, the eBook and the audiobook are a lot cheaper, a lot more affordable than the premium limited edition hardback.

So there are multiple price points, which I think is a good Kickstarter strategy, multiple price points and multiple options for people to get involved to help support the larger vision of having this awesome, beautiful book.

Joanna: I think that’s great. You’ve mentioned the memoir section, which I know is gonna be personal. Some people are gonna be like, I want to listen too. Are you going to narrate that?

Jeremy: I am.

Joanna: Great. So to me, that’s almost a completely different product to a photo art book.

Jeremy: I will just say here that the book has a 7000-word very personal travel memoir. It’s not just about me, it’s also kind of describing and bringing you to this remote part of the Andes.

There’s these 50 or so beautiful images of the people and the pilgrims and the environment and the landscapes of this remote region.

There’s an afterword written by Pico Iyer in the book, and there’s a printed dialogue that I had with an award-winning British photographer, someone by the name of Alys Tomlinson, who’s produced beautiful photographic books on her own. So there’s a lot of stuff packed into this book, but the audiobook version is just going to be the memoir section, me reading that memoir only. It’s not gonna include the images because it’s an mp3, basically.

Joanna: I think this is the way with the Kickstarter. And I mean, as we record this, you don’t know what people are going to buy.

I think it’s fascinating to see at the end. I mean, you might sell a lot more volume of, say, eBooks, but you might still make more money on the big print book. So it’s a really interesting project for figuring out the different things that people actually want to buy.

Maybe I’ll have to give people an update. They can come to your blog, right, and you’ll probably do an after campaign thing about it.

Jeremy: And I must say, I’ve been kind of poking around your Pilgrimage campaign to see the rewards and how many contributors they are, just to get a sense of what might be the Goldilocks area in terms of rewards and pricing, and just trying to figure out all of those moving parts.

I mean, at the end of the day, the point of this Kickstarter is to produce this beautiful book, so I need to make that math work. So every project is going to be different, but I’ve been looking at your campaign, other people’s campaigns, seeing if there’s any kind of Goldilocks area in terms of volume of contributors and backers, but also, what price point is that?

Joanna: It’s tough. It’s really tough.

Jeremy: We’re not good at math. Give me words, not math.

Joanna: Exactly. I do think the shipping is the biggest thing that can definitely bankrupt you. So that’s the thing to get right, for sure, with these heavy books.

Before we finish, we’re almost out of time, but just also tell us a bit more about the marketing because, again, most authors are marketing after a book has come out, but—

With Kickstarter, we’re marketing beforehand. So how have you been doing this?

Jeremy: I’ve sent an email to my friend, Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn!

In all seriousness, like, just like this. Sending email pitches to podcasts, sending emails to friends and bloggers and people who have newsletters, sending emails to media contacts, posting stuff on my own newsletters and on social media.

There’s just so many people to contact and so many things to dial in here in terms of the marketing.

If I’m honest, it’s, for me, probably the hardest part of this all. I guess this is a common sentiment among writers, that the marketing and the promotional thing is the one that feels the weirdest to do. So I’m currently kind of struggling with that, but I just need to suck it up and send these emails out.

So yeah, podcasters, newsletters, bloggers, anyone, just begging people to help me spread the word, basically.

I’ve been also reaching out some of my writer friends, and I’ve been asking them to, if they read the book and liked the book, to offer me like blurbs and endorsements, so those have been coming in, which is nice to have. I don’t know if I’m going to do this yet, but Kickstarter allows you to place a Facebook pixel and kind of like the Google Analytics stuff. So I’m thinking whether or not I will dive into like Facebook ads for promotions, but I don’t have money, and the prospect of spending money is kind of scary.

Joanna: And time, remember? It takes time. I did notice you put a video, was it on Instagram?

Jeremy: Oh, yeah. Yesterday.

Joanna: So I mean, you are using those images, which I think is really good. Also, I mean, you have your podcast. I think putting out chapters of the audiobook during the campaign definitely worked for me, and I’ll be doing that again as well.

Jeremy: I saw you did that on SoundCloud, right?

Joanna: I did a sample on SoundCloud for the campaign itself, but also on this podcast and on my Books and Travel Podcast, I had chapters of the audiobook that went out to the audience because there are lots of people listening to this right now who do not subscribe to my email list, and who don’t follow me on social media, and don’t follow you on social media. So a lot of people listening, this is the way they hear about what we’re doing. So make sure you tap into your audio audience as well.

Jeremy: Another good idea. I don’t have all this time, Jo. But yeah, yeah, definitely, that sounds like a wonderful idea.

Joanna: Well, especially because you will have already recorded it. So it’s like, look, here’s a chapter. But yeah, the call to action stuff, even during the campaign as well, because of course, pre-campaign, we’re sending people to the pre-launch page, and then during the campaign, we want people to actually sign up.

Jeremy: What do you think was the single most important promotional marketing thing that you did for Pilgrimage?

Joanna: I can’t say what one thing was, to be honest. I mean, I do think that —

Having the pre-launch page up beforehand and getting as many people to sign up as possible is really important.

That’s because what happens when you click that button is Kickstarter tells everyone on that list that the campaign’s there, and that’s the point where if you have a reasonable goal and you exceed that goal quickly, so I exceeded it within like 10 minutes or something ridiculous because I put such a low number. That velocity, I got that Books We Love thing within 24 hours because of the velocity of the campaign.

I think doing as much as possible before it starts to get people to sign up is really important.

Then it’s literally doing something every day, or let’s say every two days, because you and I are hardly marketing fans, but every two days in the campaign period, putting something out. You have to plan that beforehand because it’s knackering.

I essentially had a little spreadsheet and most of it I scheduled. So I’d already recorded some videos, I scheduled social media stuff, and email. You have to email more than once, Jeremy! You have to email multiple times.

Jeremy: Taking notes here.

Joanna: Yes, and I mean, we hate that, right? I hate doing that, but it’s like, well, look, if you only have a two-week campaign, you have to do as much as you can. Otherwise, then what happens? It’s finished, and people are like, oh, well, I only just heard about this, what’s going on? So yeah, it is tough.

Also, I almost feel like we’re so used to marketing a book once it’s out, there’s an emotional difference between marketing something that’s already out, and marketing something that people can’t even see yet.

There’s no social proof, as in, there’s no reviews on it, or all of that kind of thing. Then I also think that’s part of the joy of Kickstarter is helping fund all these weird projects. So I know you’re busy with the semester and everything, but the weeks of the campaign, you do have to put in quite a lot of marketing effort then, too.

Jeremy: Thank you for that. That’s going to be helpful for me in these next days.

Joanna: And just so people know, I did an episode back in, I guess it would have been March or something like that, which was my Lessons Learned From the Kickstarter. People might find that useful, so I’ll link to that in the show notes.

More and more authors are doing this, and again, that benefits us all. I mean, selfishly, having you on a couple of weeks before my Kickstarter goes out means that I get a chance to talk about mine.

So we have more of an ecosystem of these beautiful print products and talking about each other’s products and each other’s campaigns. So I guess all that remains is to—

Tell people where they can find you, and the Kickstarter, and everything else you do online?

Jeremy: Well, the main place is my homepage, my website, which is JeremyBassetti.com. And if you go to JeremyBassetti.com/skull, as it’s spelled, that will take you directly to the Kickstarter campaign page.

I also have the podcast, Travel Writing World, and you can check some of that stuff out at TravelWritingWorld.com. I also have this 40-page guide to writing travel books, which is absolutely free, and you can sign up to receive that. I have newsletters and just everything at JeremyBassetti.com.

Joanna: Brilliant. Thanks so much for your time, Jeremy. That was great.

Jeremy: Thank you, Jo.

The post Writing And Publishing A High Quality Photo Book With Jeremy Bassetti first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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Author: Joanna Penn

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  • September 27, 2023