A National Geographic photographer’s 4 tips for crowdfunding photo books

“When you become deeply involved with a self-sustainable community, you learn all of their focus and energy revolves around food,” National Geographic photographer Matthieu Paley said.

Before National Geographic sent Paley on an assignment to document the hunt for food around the world for a story called “Evolution of Diet,” Paley developed a 12-year relationship with the Afghan Kyrgyz, a high-altitude community of semi-nomadic herders in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan, where survival hinges on livestock.

“We now live in a world where we can afford to think about other things, but not long ago all we would focus on is our next meal,” Paley said.

Named after your ideal oven temperature and the horizon in front of you, independent publisher 180°C reached out to Paley with a proposal to publish a book on food, history and culture.

“Teaming up with 180°C made sense. People around me kept asking why don’t you publish a book? I ran with it, ” Paley said.

With European crowdfunding platform Ulule, the “Man & Food” project has raised near €19,000.

“Man & Food,” will feature beautiful photo narratives from Afghanistan, Greenland, Bolivia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Crete and Tanzania and will be published in French and English in fall 2015.

Why not take a leaf out of Paley’s book?

Follow these four tips and crowdfund your photography book.

1. Form a team

Two heads are better than one.

Paley and 180°C increased their audience 200% by crowdfunding together.

“Couple up. Try to work with an independent publisher and an editor. You need contacts to enlarge your network. You have a clear advantage in teaming up and that’s power,” Paley said.

2. Write a script for your campaign video

Cut, dissolve, play.

“I wrote a little script that I set next to the camera so I wouldn’t lose myself. I could have re-done the video a 100x, but that’s not really the point. It’s important to be frank and straight up when you’re talking about yourself,” Paley said.

It’s easiest to be upfront and real.

“You have these slick campaign videos, but if you want to do that as an independent photographer, you have to spend weeks editing. It’s a huge headache. If you’re a photographer, let your work speak for itself,” Paley said.

3. Create a social media strategy

Timing is key. Plan every step in the crowdfunding campaign journey.

“First, you reach out to a small circle of friends and family online, until you reach 30 percent of your campaign goal. Then, you expand your circle and reach out to all your contacts, until you reach 60 percent. Go slowly, but use full-force,” Paley said.

Start with your strongest medium.

Share samples from the project. Give people a taste and they may choose to purchase the full meal.

Whether you have 150 followers or 157,000 followers on Instagram like Paley, reach out to your audience and get people excited by sharing images and captions.

4. Reward your contributors

Follow through.

“People are interested when you offer prints,” Paley said. “I’ve contributed to quite a few projects, and I expect at least a thank you. I like to respond to people and thank them personally.”

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Lover of coffee, books, golden hour and plane tickets. Freelance writer, photographer and videographer based in La Paz, Bolivia.

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