producing documentary books

Producing Documentary Books: Getting Approvals

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A remnant pasture just behind the Fantasy Island Beach Resort, Dive and Marina, a 21-acre private island off the coast of Roatán, Honduras. The Caribbean island offers first rate scuba diving and is surrounded by the world’s second largest coral reef. (Jain Lemos, Roatán, Honduras; 2014.)
A remnant pasture just behind the Fantasy Island Beach Resort, Dive and Marina, a 21-acre private island off the coast of Roatán, Honduras. The Caribbean island offers first rate scuba diving and is surrounded by the world’s second largest coral reef. (Jain Lemos, Roatán, Honduras; 2014.)

Continuing with my blog series, The Ultimate Guide to Producing Documentary Books, getting approvals at this final layout stage can require sign-offs from the authors of the book and other backers and sponsors.

The opportunity to approve the book prior to publishing (not to be unreasonably withheld) needs to be specified in the stakeholder’s contract. This could be several people, depending on the project. Give them plenty of warning that their attention is required on a tight turnaround and make them commit to the schedule. Obtaining approvals in writing is in your best interest. Just include a simple memo to the effect:

I, the undersigned, have read and examined this manuscript and certify the text, illustrations and layout structure as presented to be acceptable in scope and quality. I approve the content for processing and publishing.

The reason the approval process can become dicey rests on the fact that you won’t want to present a preview of the book before finalization yet you might like the authors to have a fair idea of what the book looks like so it’s not a total surprise. Ideally, they have seen marketing materials, possibly signing off on those as well. Providing select book spreads during the design and proofing stages can also make the final approval time less stressful. Along the way, email sample PDFs and ask for feedback in a reply so you have their statements on record.

What you want to avoid is push-back on the text, layout or picture selections. At this stage, it’s too late to make any substantive changes. This is why constant communication with the people who have veto power is critical. What can happen is a new person is inserted into the mix unpredictably; someone who comes very late to the party. This might be a new head of publishing or an interim CEO from your investor’s company. If it’s the first time they’ve heard of the project, upon seeing the book, they might feel an obligation to get involved and insert their own fabulous ideas.

To get through this stage, practice diplomacy, accommodation and patience. When presented with a reasonable suggestion that makes a significant contribution to the book, try to make it happen. But if someone is excessively objecting or standing in the way, point to the hard work you and your team have done to produce a work of the highest caliber. If that is truly the case, then approvals should be instantaneous.

We are now up to Submitting Mechanicals in my next post. Speaking of patience, what do you think of Eric Kim’s recent thoughts On Patience and Street Photography? Should photographers only strive to make one really solid body of work in their entire lifetime?

1 Comment

  1. Hello ma’am
    my name is Blamah Moore i m the author of the book called faith of a third world soldier,
    I would like to talk to you on somethings regarding my books and two my next documentary work I am trying to put up which is on a Ebola victim survival,
    will like to be safe guarded and i am honestly looking for people to work with in those two mentions project.
    hope to hear from you soon
    with hope
    Blamah Moore

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