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A Brief Guide to Photographic Markets 2: Books and Stock Libraries

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Number 2 in the series of market outlines, here's info on the Books and Publishing market, as well as Stock Libraries. Enjoy.


The internet seems not to have dented the sales of books, as many feared it would. In fact, some would argue that extra sales outlets such as Amazon have only increased the sales potential for a new title. Photographs used in books rather obviously can cover a huge range, with everything from technical illustration for a Haynes manual through to abstract artistic work for a romantic novel book cover being required. There is no typical "book" or publishing photographer, and it's more likely that the editors and designers of books will pick specific snappers for the job in hand, much like in the editorial world. There are a host of small, bespoke publishers around, but the market is dominated by large companies such as Random House, Hachette, Penguin and Harper Collins.

Fees in the publishing world are on average higher than those in editorial, and in the case of bestsellers with the accompanying publicity material and advertising can go very high indeed. At the other end of the scale, the content required to fill say, a fitness instruction boo, would be shot to a set budget with the emphasis very much on quantity rather than elaborate quality. The commissioners of photography within publishing are usually designers or art directors, although it's not uncommon for Editors and authors themselves to have either a say in the choice of photographer or even some direction on the shoot.

Licensing book and publishing work is very similar to other markets, with a basic fee being paid for the agreed first use, and then a syndication or repeat fee if the images are used beyond this initial agreement. What this first use entails will of course vary from job to job, but it's fairly common to see terms such as: 18 months, English Language, Hardback and Paperback Editions, Advertising and Promotional materials. Usage beyond this initial agreement would then result in an extra fee. There will almost certainly be an exclusivity clause as well, which prevents the photographer from selling the work that was commissioned on to another party, even a stock library.

Given the huge range of subject matters in book publishing, there is obviously no such thing as an average shoot, and in keeping with editorial and advertising photography it's common to pick and choose photographers according to their suitability for the job in question.

Stock Library

Stock libraries are collections of photographs from a wide range of photographers which the library sell on to anyone who needs them. This can cover designers, advertising agencies and magazines, as well as direct commercial clients. The range of images themselves is also often very diverse, with the exception of smaller specialist libraries which focus on things such as science or wildlife.

Each stock library operates slightly differently, but broadly speaking they all expect an initial submission from a photographer, which will be assessed for quality as well as other factors such as subject matter, marketability and so on. Once accepted the photographer's work will then be visible in the library's catalogue and can be purchased by any customer searching the database. Some libraries insist on a minimum regular submission as well, often a certain number of images per month or year, in order to keep the library fresh. Libraries make their money by taking a percentage of the sale value of the images, and passing the rest on to the photographer. The percentage varies from library to library.

For freelance photographers stock libraries can be a useful source of extra income, and it's very important to retain as many rights to your work as possible so that it can be resold as required. Many photographers use stock as a “dumping ground” for spare images, leftovers or outtakes, and whilst this can bring in some money, it's never as lucrative as shooting things specifically for the library. Libraries sometimes even commission photographers to create a selection of work, usually after they themselves have identified a market niche that needs filling. In this instance the production costs are often shared between the photographer and the library, and the photographer tends to take a slightly higher than normal percentage of the resale fees.

Some of the larger stock libraries and picture agencies, such as Getty and PA, have full time staff photographers working for them. There will be many similarities to In House photographers (see below) in this field as regards wages, rights and so on. Such photographers are often quite specialised, for example Getty have a pool of photographers who cover premiership football games, and another pool who follow the European Golf Tour.

The two main ways of reselling images via a library are Royalty Free and Licensed. With the former the price is based on the file size or image size required, irregardless of the actual usage. The latter is much more akin to the licensing common with editorial and advertising markets, the price will vary with media, time and territory usage. A ¼ page in a magazine, for sale in 1 country for 1 month will net a much smaller fee than a billboard poster to be used across Europe for 6 months. There is also something called microstock. However, this is pointless – don't get involved.

Other Markets: Editorial, Advertising, Design and PR, Social, Commercial, Event and In-House.


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