Self-Publishing Your Own Photo Book

I have had a number of questions from forum members about the two photo books I have published, so I thought I’d go ahead and do a write up about it. It’s probably way more than most of you want to know, but it’s a long journey and lot of work to put a book together, far more than I would have imagined.

You might want to take a look at my books - both are free to view online or download as PDFs to give some context to this long post:
http://www.magcloud.com/browse/magazine/526793

After picking an idea, one of the hardest parts is selecting the photos. You want to showcase your work, but you also need to fulfill the narrative of the book, which means that you’ll likely have to take more photos or dig through your old photos. In my case, both books were about nature areas that I frequent, so I had many thousands of photos and hundreds of keepers. I started out by narrowing down the keepers to about 300 photos. From there, I further narrowed them down to about 150, mostly by cutting out duplicate photos, picking the best of the two, three, or more shots of the same subject, but also by cutting the work that I didn’t feel was as strong. I kept the discarded photos in another folder. That is important to do as you’ll need to fill in the gaps.

The next, and most difficult part was how I would organize the book. You need some chapters to group the photos and provide some cohesion. That sounds easy, but looking through your photos, it’s not as easy as it sounds. What do they have in common? Color? Shape? Type? Behavior? That’s up to you. I grouped my first book by wildlife and landscapes and then broke up each one. The garden book is broken up by the number of flowers in the photos and the landscapes of the area.

After that, you need to start putting the photos into those chapters. I created folders for each one and soon discovered an imbalance. Some folders had dozens of photos, others had two or three shots. I decided to go back through my discarded photos and was able to find some photos that could be added to some of the smaller chapters, but I still had gaps. I then went back and dug into my archives and found some photos that didn’t seem great at the time, but were a great fit. I knew with a bit of polish (post-processing) theses shots would work well.

I still had some gaps, however, and that was the fun part. I knew I needed photos of certain subjects, so now I returned to these areas on a mission. I wanted very specific shots to complete the story I was trying to tell, so while challenging, I planned and obtained the photos. Well most of them, I still haven’t been able to capture a good photo of Florida’s elusive black bears, but I digress…

Now, I finally had all of the photos and had them organized the way I wanted them, but oops, they were all JPEGs. Now I needed to go through multiple hard drives and folders to get the RAW files & TIFFs, but once I had those, I was ready for the next step – re-processing. Many of the photos were fine, but some of the older shots needed to be re-processed as the advances in my skills and RAW converters made it worthwhile. I ended up with a group of folders containing the CR2 and TIFF files. Now I needed to convert them all to 300dpi as that is what’s required for desktop publishing (VERY IMPORTANT STEP). I ran batch processing on the TIFFs and soon enough, that was done. If you don’t do this, the photos will be displayed too big or too small in the publishing software. Also, make sure they are all same the color space (Adobe RGB is the most practical).

Now I hit the next big challenge – layout. First, you have to pick the book size. I choose 8.25”x10.5” as it’s a good compromise in terms of size & price, but that’s a personal choice. Keep in mind that few sizes will like up well with the 3:2 sensor size. This is also the time to choose a publisher. At the time, MagCloud was the best I found because they offered print-on-demand, had good templates, full color management, and offered printed books and digital files. They only downside was that they didn’t offer hardcover books, so both of my books are printed in softcover. The paper is heavy and very high quality, at least. They use HP Indigo presses and having used these when I was a graphic designer, I knew the color would be great. This is also a good time to point out that you MUST have a calibrated monitor. If you don’t use a hardware calibration tool, your color won’t be right, guaranteed. MagCloud is now owned by Blurb, so that would be my recommendation, particularly because they have a partnership with Amazon to sell your books, and they still use these great printing presses.

Next, the software. Your choices are MS Publisher (not recommended), QuarkXPress, or Adobe PhotoShop or Illustrator (not good for multi-page layouts as you have to do them one spread at a time) or InDesign (best tool). If you can use InDesign, I highly recommend it.

With the photos themselves, you can do one photo per page or portrait (orientation) shots on each page and landscape shots as double-page spreads, but that’s boring and doesn’t always work. It’s better to have some variety and it makes the book look a lot more professional. The gutter (center of the two pages) is a killer and you have to make sure you don’t put anything important in that area. Also, if you want a full bleed (ink all the way to the edge of the page), you’ll have to crop. The bad news is when you crop, you’ll need to do it in PhotoShop (or whatever you use), otherwise you’ll screw up the DPI and such. That means you have to crop it to the correct size and then put it (back) into the layout. With InDesign, you can use the Adobe “round-trip” feature to go back & forth, which makes it a lot easier.

At this point, you will have a lot of work to put photos together on facing pages or in groups, or in sequence of pages to tell the story and create your chapters. This isn’t easy, and you may find that photos don’t work. Like me, you might even need to go out and take more photos…

Once you have the photos together, you need to decide if you want to caption them. For my first book, this was pretty easy, but for my garden book, it was a long, long journey. I didn’t realize how hard it was to identify flowers and how many of them are hybrids or interbred. I spent weeks trying to find the flowers, mostly using Google Images with the drag & drop feature. This was futile at best. I ended up asking the park rangers for assistance, which they graciously provided, but even then there were still about 20 they weren’t sure about. I turned to some Internet forums and got some great help. This was a 6-month process!

Now you need to design the covers and pick a title. I checked Amazon to make sure I picked a unique title and then found an appropriate photo for the cover that highlighted the book but had room for the words. For one book the front & back cover are one continuous photo, and for the other, it’s two different photos, but more on that in a moment.

For the back cover, you need to write a blurb about yourself, which is one of my least favorite things… And a brief intro to the book. Now, you need to add the title pages, copyright notices, and if you’re ambitious, ISBN number. Getting an ISBN number is expensive unless you’re publishing a lot of books or have a publisher. Blurb may provide these, but I’m not sure. You will also need to design the book spine, which (once uploaded) will be sized precisely in x by y pixels. This is really tedious if you’re trying to match a photo on the front and back, but can be done.

Now the book is done, but it still needs to be proofed. Save a low-res PDF and send it to friends and family. Make sure it’s as perfect as possible.

The final layout step is to prepare the PDF for publication. This involves downloading the publishers PDF export settings, and tweaking them. With MagCloud, they were using too much compression, and it crushed my blacks and caused banding. I tweaked them extensively, frequently going over their 300MB (I think) file size limit. I finally got it right and uploaded it.

Now for the surprise. The book is going to be quite expensive and unless you want to charge a high price, your profit is going to be quite low. For my books, I have the profit (which you set) at around $1. I could charge more, but the book was really for me and my friends and family, not to make money. Unfortunately, it means that books you buy for yourself are rather expensive. This is the biggest downside of self-publishing. They give you a break on volume purchases 25% of 20+, but that can be a lot to pay upfront. I also decided to give away the digital copy for free, but this is the place to make money if you want as the margins are much higher.

When it’s all said and done, holding your own book in your hands is a thrill and worth the hard work!


Now you need to promote the book, but that's a subject for another post. You might want to create a gallery of the (uncropped) photos from your book as well on your website so you can sell prints as well. That's what I did:
http://www.ianandersonphotography.com/Books-1

If anyone has questions, let me know.
 

lion rock

EOS 5D Mark IV
Jan 1, 2013
1,920
38
Mackguyver,
Congrats on a job well done! I'm sure you went through a tremendous amount of work to get them to this point.
I'm not doing such a detailed book, but I had more than eight photo books done with Shutterfly, all for my personal or friends collection, except one I did for my workplace on senior graduate class photos in the college, which I hope can be a source of donation from alums.
The work is getting the photos together, sifting the less than optimal ones out, and then look for best ones. I don't want to have way too many images in the photo book, no one has enough patience to go through a hundred photos, so a small representation of my collection can be in the book, just a taste of my adventures.
Working on line using something like JAVA to arrange the layout is testing at best, so making fewer pages saves hair. Arranging how it looks, adding text/narratives and forward are the next step. Even a small book takes a lot of effort.
Once again, you did a fine job, I like.
-r
 

Famateur

EOS R
Oct 9, 2012
846
239
Yes, well done, indeed. Thanks so much for sharing. I've gotta stop saying, "Some day..." and get out there and DO it. Thanks for the inspiration!
 
lion rock, it is really involved and time-consuming to do your own book, and you're right, just doing one on Shutterfly or similar sites is a lot of work.

Famateur, the best way to get started is to decide the idea for the book and start going through your photos. Once you start that, it sort of fuels itself. Also, don't try to caption a floral book if you're not a master gardener/horticulturist/botanist. I'll never do that one again!
 

lion rock

EOS 5D Mark IV
Jan 1, 2013
1,920
38
Mackguyver,
Indeed, very true.
I did a Shutterfly book on orchids for myself and show it to my orchid grower/supplier (I buy from him in northern VA.) He was not impressed because he said both the common names and Latin nomenclature are required to accompany the flowers. Down crested is not enough for the description for how I felt, :'(.
Something learnt.
-r
 

setterguy

EOS M50
Mar 28, 2013
29
0
This is a great summary of how to publish great books and it provides a great guide on the logic of doing so. I have found great satisfaction in capturing many of my vacation trips to different parts of the world. Most people favor putting a book in their hand and reliving the adventure of a trip especially if it is supplemented with narrative. I have been using primarily Aperture which I have found so much user friendly than Lightroom and more detailed than iPhoto. However Apple has now thrown both products under the bus and is about to offer a Beta in Photos. Personally I find Photos in IOS to be a disaster and will be looking to see if they have really put some of the Aperture logic into this new forthcoming product. I am not very optimistic that they will be coming out with a world class product that allows you to produce books, etc. Since Aperture will no longer be supported, I too will be looking for a robust, user friendly publishing software to use. I looked earlier at the Blurb products and was turned off by its lack of integrated capability. I have not lost my appetite for publishing, but I just have to find a better product.
 

Zeidora

EOS RP
Feb 15, 2015
667
10
One important part is black. Sounds trivial, but is actually quite complicated. Most presses are CMYK, but black is K plus some C/M/Y, and that affects the tone (warm/cool/"neutral") of the black. Think about it, discuss it with the printer. I used a further option, adding so-called dense-black for higher Dmax so that images pop, as many of my images were B&W. In order for B&W black to match the color black, I had the printer add dense black as a spot color to CMYK. Worked like a charm.

Contrast is strongly affected by paper chosen. The white of glossy paper is brighter than off matt paper, but there are issues of possible glare with glossy surface. I went with glossy paper to maximize contrast and image pop.

Re proofing, with larger outfits, you get hard copy proofs, so called digital blue lines or DBLs. There is a difference between soft-proofing on screen and hard copy proofing. It is absolutely appalling what gets by even with most diligence and multiple soft-proofers on screen. I ordered a second round of DBLs, well worth few hundred bucks. If you get "only" pdf-proof, print it out. Sounds very retro, but is critical.

Re page size, also consider shipping. My last book (2 vol set, >1000 pages, >1000 figures, 11.6 lb in slip case, 12 years) was designed so that the shipping box with 1" bumpers (= hollow cardboard cushion all around outside of book), fits into a US postal system medium size flat-rate box.

Print-file submission is usually in pdf with images as jpeg. I would strongly suggest to use maximum quality of jpegs to avoid artifacts. If the file gets big, so be it. If you need to upload in sections, fine. A competent printer can deal with multiple files for one publication without any problems. With both of my last books, files were well over 1GB. Sending it from the US to the printer in the Czech republic was a bit scary, but worked even on a home DSL line overnight. On T1 in US, piece of cake.

For photobooks with text, spend a good amount of time on learning about typography. As Mackguyver pointed out, MS Office is a no-no. I used Quark in the late 90's, then switched to InDesign, now back in Quark because I can't stand the Adobe CC model. Layout programs are a very different beast from Word. It's like iPhoto vs Photoshop Extended. It's a steep learning curve. I liked Real World Print Production with Adobe Creative Suite (Claudia McCue), The Non-Designer's Design and Type Book (Robin Williams), The Elements of Typographic Style (Robert Bringhurst), plus the Chicago Style Manual. For Color management (absolutely CRITICAL): Real World Color Management (Fraser, Murphy & Bunting), and Color Management for Photographers (Andrew Rodney).

Re master-files vs. printer files, it is no problem placing high-resolution master files into InDesign/Quark, so that you can still modify the masters as your project evolves. You just define the physical size of the image file. Many of mine are composite plates (in multi-layer .tif/psd), so resolution at target size was typically 1200-1500 dpi; individual files can easily top 500 MB. Then at the very end, do a Photoshop action with flattening file and reducing to 300 dpi, while maintaining physical size. This avoids a lot of back and forth between master and print-files. Last but not least, think about output sharpening (or rather un-sharp mask). I like NikSharpener for that, and spent a couple of days just finetuning USM on each of the >1000 figs.

Nature books seem to be quite popular (e.g., Mackguyver). From a professional biologist's perspective, please spend some time familiarizing yourself with conventions of how to write names: what is in italics, what not, when are there parentheses, when not, plural of genus is genera (not genuses), how to indicate uncertainty (cf., aff., sp. vs. spp. vs ssp.) etc. I see it so often wrong and it leaves a poor impression.

Re identifications of nature shots, yep, nature does not come with labels. There are some good web sources, but also a whole lot of misinformation. In California we are lucky with CalFlora, linked to CalPhoto. Find reliable/quality sources, and do not forget either building your personal library, or visiting a public library.

A few random cents, not terribly well organized.
 

DominoDude

EOS R
Feb 7, 2013
959
2
::1
Good write up, Ian!
You cover a lot of important issues, and things that are easy to miss. This thread, with all of its contributions, should be a good guide for those who are considering a journey into the land of printed books.

I can think of a few things to add, but, sadly, I don't have the proper English vocabulary for it. Many, many years ago that I last dabbled in typesetting and PageMaker, and then the jargon was in Swedish. I will have to bruise my brain a little to see if I can find a way around it to a working terminology.
 
Zeidora, thank you for adding those additional thoughts to this post. Obviously my post just scratched the surface in terms of the work that goes into preparing the book for publishing! The information you shared is for people taking their publishing to the next level that goes beyond the big but basic self-publishing companies online.

I'm probably guilty of making a lot of assumptions as well given that I have been involved in graphic design & desktop publishing for over 20 years. The RGB to CMYK conversion process and choice of paper has a large impact on blacks and the overall brightness, as you say. There are a lot of factors that go into the publishing and I'll try to add more detail to this post in the future.
 

Zeidora

EOS RP
Feb 15, 2015
667
10
Mackguyver: I have not the slightest intention of criticizing your post. It is spot on! I just added a few points that I learned the hard/protracted way; I'm a scientist/photographer and learned all the DTP-stuff on my own. E.g., I had to suggest the dense-black spot color to the printer after protracted discussions on matching black tones. As photographers we care about image reproduction, and dense black really makes a difference. Not sure that option is available with the more canned solution from Blurb et al.

Some aspects can be applied to Blurb et al., particularly in the typography department. E.g., it is popular belief that ALLCAPS make something more prominent, but they are actually more difficult to read. The serif/sans-serif font question requires a bit of pondering, particularly if you plan on having both hard-copy (serif for readability) and digital (sans-serif generally considered more readable) products. With this, I just want to indicated, there is always a choice, so make an informed choice, don't blindly accept the default. In areas where you don't know what the options are, or why one would prefer one over the other, you have to learn about it.

For those interested in a full feature printer in the USA, I used Four Color Print Group, and was quite happy with them.
 
Zeidora said:
Mackguyver: I have not the slightest intention of criticizing your post.
Zeidora, please know that I didn't take any offense whatsoever to your post and appreciate the additional information you added there and here as well. Mistakes in printing are very expensive, so it's definitely a good idea to learn as much as you can so the more people add to this post, the better.
 

distant.star

EOS 5D Mark IV
Jan 19, 2011
1,813
0
USA
wetracy.smugmug.com
.
Having worked in book publishing I had to smile at the realization of how much work is involved -- at least if you're doing it well. And I compliment you on doing it well. I've done a couple of cheap and easy photo books, and even that can be a lot of time consuming work.

I strongly encourage everyone to get some of your visual art together and put it in book form. Mass publishers like Shutterfly make it pretty easy. Friends of mine (a couple) once asked me to shoot a surprise birthday party for them. The online images were nice, but I also put together a book for them -- and that blew them away. Twenty years from now, when they're in their seventies, the online stuff will be forgotten, but they'll still be pulling that book off the shelf and reliving a wonderful evening together.

A couple of thoughts on process...

1. Being your own editor is one of the hardest things to do, and almost no one can be truly successful at it. Once you've put together the pictures you want to use, in the culling process so aptly described by the OP, consider having other people help. I give a thumb drive to people and tell them to pick the images they like best (maybe 100 out of 300). I have them copy their picks into a separate folder. You don't have to accept anyone's choices, but it helps to know what will appeal to people. I like to use people who are not photographers/artists because then I'm getting a visceral rather than artistic/technical response. I know once I've worked so much with particular set of pictures I lose a sense of their impact. Fresh eyes help.

2. Start small. Pick something with maybe 20 or so images. You'll go through the process easily (and without much expense), you'll learn a lot -- and in the end you'll have a book! Some of the mass publishers will provide a coupon for a free book or some steep discount -- go with that just to try it out. Once you do, you'll probably progress to wanting to do more.

3. Be modest. As lion rock said, "I don't want to have way too many images in the photo book, no one has enough patience to go through a hundred photos, so a small representation of my collection can be in the book, just a taste of my adventures." Unless you're a master of your material, people aren't going to spend a lot of time going through a book. After 10 pages or so, you'll see them start randomly picking pages until they get to the end, then they put it down. The attention deficit disorder generation is out in force now!

4. Spend some time picking the printing company. There are lots of them out there, and it seems new ones all the time. Compare what each does, read reviews, comparisons, etc. Pay attention to what has been said here about press types, ink, color space, etc.

Most important, just do a book and see how you like it!!

Thanks OP for your work in creating this post -- and your attention to detail in your work.
 
Last summer I self published my first book, which contains both writing and photography. It was the culmination of a self-assignment over several years visiting the zoos of the desert southwest (USA). I do not have it in an online version, but here is the cover and description on my website: http://www.hoodfineart.com/page76.html .

Here are a few observations which I hope are helpful.

For a very small run (say ten or less), then an online service like Shutterfly or Blurb is ideal. However the price per book will be high.

For a better price per book, you need to create a PDF and use a traditional print shop. Even these are quite pricey, the main printer in my city wanted to charge almost seven thousand dollars to print two hundred books. And my book is only half photos and the other half black and white text. Through a Google search I found a great printer in Washington called Gorham Printing that did the same job for just over two thousand dollars.

To get this low price, I had to go with standard (non photo grade) paper. So no, the photos do not pop like a glossy art book, but not one single person who bought the book has mentioned it. Honestly, if the recipients are not photographers they do not know the difference and do not care.

Selling the book is exceedingly more difficult than I imagined. Retail stores want a huge profit margin and only one of the 17 zoos featured in the book agreed to buy some for their gift shop. The others (which are run by national companies) wanted me to sell them to them at my cost. I have given some away, have some on consignment, sold quite a few to friends, and still have at least 100 of the original 200 left. Bottom line, do not print a large quantity unless you have interested buyers.

Finally, I have it listed on Amazon and have sold exactly zero copies through them. A book is a great tool for self promotion and for personal satisfaction, but unless you are famous or have tons of friends, you will likely not make any money or may not even break even.
 

Zeidora

EOS RP
Feb 15, 2015
667
10
MrFotoFool said:
only one of the 17 zoos featured in the book agreed to buy some for their gift shop. The others (which are run by national companies) wanted me to sell them to them at my cost.

You are aware that most zoos etc. specifically prohibit the commercial use of images taken on their property. Unless you have written permission from all 17 zoos, I would be very careful with broadcasting that, as they may send you a bill. In some places, you can purchase a photo-pass; I think I did that at the Prague museum of natural history.

In case it eases your pain, my museum does not have my books (= staff publications) on display.

Books in general are on the way out. For vanity projects such as photo books, I would not plan on any income. For distributors/resellers, 40% discount is standard. I paid $35K for 1K >1200 pp. >1000 figs. 2 vols books. After 2 years, still sitting on ~800, with giving 100 away, and pricing at $80 (dirt cheap for such a work). And that is a scientific volume with 17 new species described, so you cannot get info anywhere else. Great critical acclaim, but complete commercial bust. Storage is a huge issue. For next book, I will do it by pre-paid pre-orders only. It will become an instant rarity, so be it.
 

Marsu42

Canon Pride.
Feb 7, 2012
6,314
0
Berlin
der-tierfotograf.de
Zeidora said:
MrFotoFool said:
only one of the 17 zoos featured in the book agreed to buy some for their gift shop. The others (which are run by national companies) wanted me to sell them to them at my cost.
You are aware that most zoos etc. specifically prohibit the commercial use of images taken on their property. Unless you have written permission from all 17 zoos, I would be very careful with broadcasting that, as they may send you a bill.

That's the same for my hometown zoos (Berlin) - but did anyone ever actually get sued for breaking this policy? I imagine it's there to prevent people making a living off buying a decent camera, then standing 24/7 with a monopod in front of the main attractions.

I imagine your shots have to be very high-profile *and* top iq to be even noticed, and then it has to be clearly visible which zoo they're taken in - which isn't case with the link quoted above. Though $35 for a 11x14 print qualifies as "commercial", it's mis-labeled as "wildlife" and for example the elephant baby here isn't hard to trace: http://www.hoodfineart.com/page11.html ... but then again he contacted the zoos himself.

Personally, I wouldn't take the risk, but I know people who sell stock photography from zooms. If his clients get sued, the blame would be even more on him as if he would sell prints/sells himself.
 

sanj

EOS R5
Jan 22, 2012
4,034
904
Brilliant post. Brilliant thread.
Questions:
1. Did you make the photos any brighter than they were on your monitor?
2. Did you add any extra sharpening for the book?
3. Why do you prefer Indesign more than others?

Thank you so much.

Great photos in your book, wish there was more text.
 
Catching up on this thread...yes, the promotion part is tough. The reception for my first book by the people who I thought would care was, well monumentally disappointing to say the least. Keeping in mind that I am giving away the eBook for free, I sent it to the rangers who run the park and received no response. I took it into the visitor center and left a copy for their review. I picked it up two weeks later, with a note to contact the Volunteer group who runs the bookstore. I was ignored for two more weeks, so I contacted the president. She finally wrote me saying my price point was too high, which is a lie as it was no more than the other books and I even offered to sell it at cost so they could raise money. I don't want to sound arrogant, but I can only guess that they were envious of my work/book. I can't think of any other reason that they were so rude, and I am still quite angry with them. Fortunately friends, family, and others have enjoyed my book.

Fortunately my second book has had a much better reception. The local gardening stores ordered a few copies without my promotion and have begun selling it as well. Their Volunteer group ignored me at first, but has since been very supportive.

So my results have been pretty mixed, but to be perfectly honest these books are for me. I wanted a goal and a way to summarize my work and I am happy with both books. If others enjoy them, that's just a bonus, and if I make a few dollars from them, that's great, too.

sanj said:
Brilliant post. Brilliant thread.
Questions:
1. Did you make the photos any brighter than they were on your monitor?
2. Did you add any extra sharpening for the book?
3. Why do you prefer Indesign more than others?

Thank you so much.

Great photos in your book, wish there was more text.
Sanj, thank you for the nice comments and I went back & forth on adding more text, but ultimately wanted the photos to speak for themselves. I'm considering another book which would feature more text, however. As for the questions:

1. Did you make the photos any brighter than they were on your monitor?
No, I did not, but I profiled with a combination of soft-proofing in PS, InDesign, PDF, and a PostScript printer.

2. Did you add any extra sharpening for the book?
Yes, all of the photos are sharpened more than they would be for on-screen. I ran a batch process in PS to do it, so it would be consistent. The extra sharpening was slight because high quality presses are actually pretty good at details.

3. Why do you prefer Indesign more than others?
I have been using it since it was in beta and at the time it was so much better than Quark Express it wasn't funny. It still has the best typography and page handling of any layout program and the round-trip editing with PS makes it ideal. It requires a pretty high-end PC, but never lags. You can use Illustrator or PS, but that only allows one page at a time and then you have to combine them all with Acrobat Pro or a similar program. Adobe PageMaker is for manuals and documents, not books. Quark is better, but IMHO, still no match for InDesign.
 
For my zoo book, YES I did contact the staff at all of the zoos and get permission to publish photos before going to print. In fact I had prepared 18 zoos (not the final 17 I used) but had to drop one that is run by a state parks department because they would not give permission unless a paid a ridiculous commercial filming fee. After I wrote a letter to the editor of their town newspaper, a higher up in state parks left me a voice mail saying they were wrong and I could use the photos, but at that point the book was at the printer and it was too late.

In the early stages, as I just starting writing, I mailed a survey to the directors of all 18 zoos which included a statement about them agreeing to photo usage. I only received 8 surveys back (even though all 18 had self addressed and stamped return envelopes). That left me with 10 zoos whom I had to contact, so I looked up their media relations people. It was extraordinarily difficult to get hold of these people or get a response. I was shocked that very few of them responded to my initial email query and it took multiple attempts via email and phone messages to finally get answers. Once I did get hold, they easily agreed except for the above mentioned state parks department (which is in the state capitol and a couple hundred miles away from the actual zoo in question).

I have had the same difficulty trying to get responses from gift shop buyers, both at zoos and at other tourist gift shops. This was a learning experience, but I am somewhat disheartened at the unprofessional attitude of so called business people. I wonder how these people (both gift shop buyers and the media relations people I referenced) can keep their jobs when they are to my mind incompetent?