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Writer’s Digest Award

PhotoSecrets San Diego wins the Grand Prize in the 1999
Writer’s Digest National Self-Published Book Award

The Best Self-Published
Book of the Year

An excerpt from Writer’s Digest magazine, August 1999, announcing the winners of Writer’s Digest’s National Self-Published Book Award, 1998. PhotoSecrets San Diego received first place in the Reference category and won the Grand Prize overall. This article was written by Amanda Boyd, Managing Editor of Writer’s Digest magazine. Reproduced with permission.


Pick up PhotoSecrets San Diego, and you’d never guess that this Grand-Prize winner was put together in its author’s spare bedroom. This ambitious project — a guidebook that focuses on showing you how to photograph the best San Diego sites — packs more than 400 color photos into its pages. The text gives you instructions on when to visit the sites, how to get there, where to stand once you get there, equipment and film tips, even historical information on the sites themselves. That’s a lot of information for one book. And Andrew Hudson did it all himself.

Doing it all himself wasn’t part of the original plan. In 1996, Hudson, an amateur photographer, was thinking of a more traditional road to publication for his first book, PhotoSecrets San Francisco and Northern California, so he put together a book proposal and sent it around. “I was impressed at how friendly [the publishers] were. They received it well and discussed it with me, and liked the idea, but … they turned it down. I had to make a decision whether to go with it myself or just drop the whole thing.”

So Hudson decided to devote himself to PhotoSecrets full-time. “My girlfriend went out and bought Dan Poynter’s book, The Self-Publishing Manual, and we sat down and read that just to see that self-publishing was actually possible and that other people had done it.”

Getting the book done involved lots of concepting for the PhotoSecrets series itself. “I was very particular. I wanted to have a good mix, a good balance of photographs and text and tips. [I wanted to] make sure that you could pretty much open the book at any point, and find something of interest.” The final mix includes maps, photography tips, resource lists and on and on. And then there are the photographs themselves.

"I was keen to make it a color book because with photography I thought that was the only way to make it work. There were various challenges; learning how to print photographs and maps was a big challenge for me.” Technology eased some of those challenges — Quark XPress for laying out the book and Photo CD scans for the photos. “Most of the images in the book are Photo CD scans, which [cost somewhere around] a dollar [apiece]. I just ran them through Photoshop to tidy them up a bit and placed them in the document and sent the whole file [to the printer]. Traditional scanning might have been $20-$50 per image.”

As for future plans, Hudson’s taking the work he’s done and spinning it into smaller projects. “I’ve spilled [the content from the San Diego book] into two other books. One is a small book about Balboa Park [PhotoSecrets Balboa Park], and I’ve taken my favorite pictures from the book and put them into a large-format coffee table book called A Photo Tour of San Diego. I’m going to try and do that in the future, make one project actually produce a whole bunch of books.”

With a whole line of books to promote, Hudson has taken advantage of the Internet. “I have a pretty big Web site…. At the back of the book, there’s a general introduction to photography, and I’ve put that on my Web site. I get lots of positive comments about the article and I think that generates good will, respect and interest in the books — and makes my Web site a bit more of a resource as well.”

Asked if he had any advice to offer aspiring self-publishers, Hudson said, “Like any business, [self-publishing] seems to be all about marketing — as soon as you let your foot off the pedal, sales dip, so all the time you have to keep marketing and finding new ways to keep the book alive.”

Written by Amanda Boyd, Managing Editor for Writer’s Digest.


The Grand-Prize Winner

Whether you’re an amateur weekend snapper or a successful professional, You’ll find loads of great details in PhotoSecrets San Diego: sunrise/sunset charts, where to stand to get great shots, photography law, photo tips, film and camera details, and much much more.

What separates a good reference book from a great one is its back matter, and this book has it all: a clear, helpful index; Web site details; sample itineraries; San Diego festivals and events; lists of camera stores and professional developing labs.

Its beautiful layout, strong style, helpful information and handy portable size make PhotoSecrets San Diego one of the best travel photography books on the market.

Reference category judge Carol A. Turkington is the author of Stress Management for Busy People (McGraw-Hill), The Brain Encyclopedia (Facts on File) and Handle Your Money. The Lazy Way (Macmillan General Reference).

About the Award

As the grand prize winner in the 1998 Writer’s Digest National Self-Published Book Awards, Andrew Hudson will receive $1,000 plus promotion for PhotoSecrets San Diego. Hudson’s entry in the Reference category was rated the best of more than 600 books submitted for consideration.

In addition to the $1,000 prize, PhotoSecrets San Diego will be advertised in Writer’s Digest and in Publishers Weekly, the international news magazine of book publishing and bookselling. Copies will also be sent to major review publications. First-place winners in the contests other seven categories will each receive $300 and promotion on the WD Web site.

The 1998 competition was open to books published or reprinted in that year for which the author paid the full cost of publication. The editors of Writer’s Digest selected the finalists in each category; expert writers and editors selected the individual category winners. WD’s editors then chose the grand-prize winner from the eight first place winners.

Article © copyright F&W Publications (Writer’s Digest). Excerpted from the August 1999 issue of Writer’s Digest. Reproduced with permission.


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