My Travel Photo Book Was Good Enough To Be A Coffee Table Book


A coffee table book always catches my eye every time I visit a home or enter a bookstore. It seems that authors and publishers make that extra effort to design coffee table books' covers stunningly attractive. These books are meant to be grabbed impulsively and perused while waiting. Titles appeal to personal interests. Many of these books are designed to enhance homes and are placed artfully usually on guest bedside tables and, of course, coffee tables.

I have had the coffee table books in my home for quite some time. I have taken their presence for granted and they are now just mere props in my home until.....

My Travel Photo Book, A Coffee Table Book?

I had the privilege of hosting guests from England and Switzerland recently. My coffee table books caught their eye. The books they were most interested in were books on Orange County, Los Angeles, and California; rightfully so, because they wanted to know more about the area they were visiting. They also were interested in a thick travel photo book that I self-published because they wanted to know more about me and my family. The travel book was carelessly left in the living room and was picked up. My guests' genuine interest in the travel book made me happy. I also had the added satisfaction of hoping that the travel photo book was as attractive as the professionally produced coffee table books!

The photo book I made documented a trip to Italy. It was 150 pages of pictures and I included an itinerary and a post-trip journal. Post-trip journalizing meant that some bits of information were missing due to memory lapses and inadequate documentation. My delightful reward came when my guests said, "You mentioned a restaurant in Rome where you had your best dinner experience but you did not write down the name." I did not have the information. I no longer had the receipt and did not write down the name of the restaurant. The statement, however, confirmed for me that the book was good enough. It was read.

I did not intend to make a travel photo book until I came across publishing software on the Internet. In fact, I was trying to write a book on my family's history. The software I found however did not allow photo editing which was necessary for old family photographs. Because of this inability to photo edit, I decided to try a book that would make use of only good quality pictures that I had on hand. Voila! My family and I just came from a three-week summer vacation in Italy. I had hundreds of pictures, all sequential, and almost all were of good quality.

It took two weeks for me to learn the software, upload the pictures, select pictures for page layouts and click that button ordering a printed book. It was grueling work but really satisfying. Learning the software on how to make two-page spreads without gaps, making sure photos completely fill up image frames, and selecting photographs for image frames that complement each other proved arduous. And there was more to learn. Halfway into the project, I realized that the end product had to be perfect to make it a successful endeavor. I felt that there was no room for even the tiniest error. This realization was humbling and made me focus hours of work every day.

I wish I could write down specific steps to take to publish a photo book, however, instructions by the publishing software companies are a better source of information. What I have are the fruits of my experience which might help. Here they are:

  1. Learning the publishing software is key to be able to efficiently unleash creativity.
  2. Photographs must be of good quality and must be adequate for printing. Web quality pictures will not be good enough.
  3. It takes much more than having the photographs or artwork. Selection and arrangement results in an artistic page. The software can provide templates but what goes into the template is content which will make or break the project.
  4. Diligent scrutinizing of every page for minute details such as page numbering, layout, pictures, text, and color is just part of the work. Colors of photographs and pages must work well together. Are the contents falling on the appropriate pages? Text must be well written. Edit. Edit. Edit. Ask the help of other editors for their critical comments.
  5. A book is made up of pages. Each page must be perfect.
  6. The book's cover, usually a hardcover, must be designed to capture and captivate instantly the interest of someone who had not intended to sit and read.
  7. Do not save pennies on the quality of the cover and the paper for pages. The hard work that went into the book deserves the best
  8. A coffee table book tends to be bigger in size than a regular book. It is tempting to come up with a smaller book with fewer pages. I think to do so would be a mistake. A coffee table book must command a presence with its size, with its content, and with its weight. The book must capture a chunk of surface space as well as air space on a table.

Although I strove for excellence, I know the project was not perfect. The crash course on the publishing software that I took while I worked on the book would not have given me enough knowledge to produce an excellent book. However, I did produce a good travel photo book, good enough for my coffee table.

Pondering on my next self-publishing project, I think that my own story, my own family's story, and our interests could be presented in an attractive and interesting way... just like professionally written coffee table books.

I came across a website that had reviews on nine self-publishing software in an article titled "Make Your Own Coffee Table Book". This useful link is shown here.

There are also a number of books available on self-publishing and design like these books listed below.

It was very hard to make the photo travel book on the "learn as you go" method. However, I am not sure if I have the gumption to pursue formal technical education on publishing. I should try to learn as much as I can from books, from the Internet, and from friends. For most of us who will not be making books for a living, I think taking the time to get to know self-publishing software offered free on the Internet is practical. I would like to assure everyone that it is possible to make a coffee table that is absolutely stunning.

Would you embark on a project to make a coffee table book?

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Comments 27 comments

irvinetraveller profile image

irvinetraveller 4 years ago from California Author

Hi Claudia, making the book required a lot of hours and attention to detail but it was a nice adventure. It seems funny looking back that I got tremendous enjoyment planning the trip and writing about the trip with the trip itself as the rest stop. There are a number of self-publishing software and many are free and available on the internet. Cheers...

Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

Wow! I didn´t know of the existence of self-publishing software before reading this hub. It looks like quite a tremendous amount of work but I would love to make a couple of them with the photos of my travels through southeast Asia, IF I could find a way to sell them.... :D Very useful hub.

irvinetraveller profile image

irvinetraveller 4 years ago from California Author

Theophanes, I did not try to sell the book. I ordered a few copies.

Theophanes profile image

Theophanes 4 years ago from New England

Have you tried selling your book or did you just make one copy for yourself?

irvinetraveller profile image

irvinetraveller 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks, Thelma, for the read. Your hubs also interest me. Cheers.

Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 5 years ago from Germany

Very interesting story. Thanks for sharing and for following me. Have a good day.Welcome to HubPages.

irvinetraveller profile image

irvinetraveller 5 years ago from California Author

PWalker281, self-publishing is very unforgiving. I really felt that there was no room for the tiniest error. Good luck on your next project.

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PWalker281 5 years ago

I tried making a calendar of Windward Oahu (where I live) once at a self-publishing site. Didn't sell any (and I made some egregious errors), but it was an interesting experience. I'm going to bookmark this hub just in case I ever decide to create a coffee table book. Great information, rated up and useful! And congrats on your nomination!

irvinetraveller profile image

irvinetraveller 5 years ago from California Author

It will be a great trip, MobyWho. Keep me updated.

MobyWho profile image

MobyWho 5 years ago from Burlington VT

Thanks for that important info re DPI & Blurb! Now to get all those ships' logs out of storage and get the photos digitalized. Hey, seniors: now you will never be bored, thanks to irvinetraveller!

irvinetraveller profile image

irvinetraveller 5 years ago from California Author

It was quite an experience, Randomcreative, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you for reading.

irvinetraveller profile image

irvinetraveller 5 years ago from California Author

Chrisand, the software I used is offered by Blurb at On your next trip, just a few short lines everyday would really help. Thanks for reading.

irvinetraveller profile image

irvinetraveller 5 years ago from California Author

It is the image resolution or the number of dots per inch (DPI), MobyWho. For a good amount of clarity and detail, color pictures to be printed by a commercial printer should be at least 300 dpi. Web quality pictures, I think, only needs 96 ppi. As for studying, I think you do have to quite a bit. Like you, I did not know the difference between web quality pictures and printer quality pictures when I started. Let me know if you decide to make one.

randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Thanks for sharing your experience! It looks like a gorgeous book.

chrisand profile image

chrisand 5 years ago

What a great idea. I would love to do something like this the next time I travel, so I'd have to be sure to document everything and write in a diary/laptop every night of what was visited that day. I think it's a beautiful way to remember a trip. You didn't mention the publishing software you used so if you can I'd appreciate it. Great Hub.

MobyWho profile image

MobyWho 5 years ago from Burlington VT

Inspiring! Question: what do you consider "web quality pictures" that won't be good enough? Is it the resolution? Or are you referring to the composition, light/dark, focus, etc.? I'd love to try, but I think I have a lot of studying to do first. Thanks for the Hub.

irvinetraveller profile image

irvinetraveller 5 years ago from California Author

I'm quite thrilled to provide some inspiration, tessadoria, but you know where the perspiration will come from. It will be so easy for you though. Thanks for the encouragement.

Tessadoria 5 years ago

Irvinetraveller, you have truly inspired me! I love everything about your book. That cover is impressive! What an 'aha' moment for me. Someday, when I am able to zero-in on this one place in the world that I would like to visit and start my genealogy, I would like to sit down and get more information, inspiration and approbation from start my own little project. I especially love your hub! Do some more!

irvinetraveller profile image

irvinetraveller 5 years ago from California Author

Thank you, Anita, for the vote and I hope to be able to show you the book someday.

irvinetraveller profile image

irvinetraveller 5 years ago from California Author

It does take time, Ripplemaker, but I'm sure you will write your own book. Thanks for the good wishes.

irvinetraveller profile image

irvinetraveller 5 years ago from California Author

Because you have the photos, AIMcolleague, the book is just a step away. Just be ready for some intense work. Would love to show you the book. Thanks for reading.

Anita 5 years ago

Congratulations on your interesting photo book. Would love to see it someday. Certainly a well deserved vote !

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Maybe someday I will write my own book too :D But I have to get through our musical rehearsals at this time! Great tips and thanks for sharing this information.

Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! To read and vote for the Hubnuggets, this link will take you there:

AIMcolleague 5 years ago

Love it!!! Galing mo naman!! Got lots of photos from my travels and wonder ifI can. Great article, very informative and particularly interested because subject is Italy. Hope I get to see your coffee table book someday.

irvinetraveller profile image

irvinetraveller 5 years ago from California Author

Outband Dan and MM Del Rosario, Thank you for reading my hub and for your comments. Irvinetraveller

MM Del Rosario profile image

MM Del Rosario 5 years ago from NSW, Australia

Interesting, i like your photos

Outbound Dan profile image

Outbound Dan 5 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

Great information, thanks!

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