Blurb: Self-Publishing Catalogs with Patience & Precision

I just had the opportunity to publish my own art exhibition catalog for Beauties Behaving Badly. While I am happy with the overall product I have had numerous frustrations along the way. So I have written this post to help other artists navigate this process.

1. BookSmart is Not So Smart

BookSmart is the software you download from Blurb to create your book. Sounds simple. Type in a few things and upload your images. However, the images auto size. You definitely need a photo editing software to alter the dimensions of the images to fit the exact pixels of the image box so as not to zoom in or distort your art image. Right click and left click the image box and a window with the dimensions of pixels that best fits will pop up. Use those and you will be golden and your images will fit perfect.

2. Beware of Captions and Headings

Captions are great for titles of the art work. But once you insert something into a caption, the software loves to change what you have typed. Including switching the order of the letters of the words you are correctly entering in, changing the font and changing the font size. Do not and I repeat do not click add page numbers unless you are 100% clear and certain you want page numbers. Its almost impossible to get rid of them and they magically return when you least want them. The headings do similar things such as telling you the font is too big in the heading on one page so you have inconsistently sized headings on your pages. You’ve been warned.

3. Spell Check and Edit Like a Boss

Blurb does not have built in spell check until you click to order your book and a spell check box pops up. Its not a great spell checker either. Read your book out loud and have someone else read it too.

4. Choose Standard Options

When you start checking out to purchase your book or catalog, Blurb likes to pick your paper type. Don’t let the webpage fool you. Double check everything otherwise you will be paying for premium paper.

5. Bulk discount takes a Minute or Two and a Few Additional Clicks

When you order a certain number of books, there is a bulk discount rate. It takes a few pages and a few NEXT clicks to get the discount to apply. With my grant budget I realized I could only afford 120 books, until I clicked and clicked and clicked and realized with the eventual bulk discount that popped up I could buy 50 more catalogs.

6. Choose Mark Up Prices

Once you order your book, you can sell it with a mark up through Blurb. So when you family, friends and fans want to order another edition of your book or catalog, you can get a bit of cash from the sale. So mark it up and make a dollar!

7. One Hour Cancel Window

There is a one hour cancel order window. This is so you can make an edit when you find a rogue page number in you book….like I did. Use that one hour. Read your book again!

8. Program Auto Save

The BookSmart product auto saves. This is great but you can’t save the book to your computer or desktop. You can’t make a PDF or send anyone a rough draft of a book in progress. That’s it.

9. Make a Test Book

Yep, I had to shell out about $20 for a test book and a test PDF. Its totally worth it if you are buying a lot of books in bulk. If you are just buying a few copies of your book, then this is not necessary.

10. !

Exclamation points pop up when your text has exceeded the limits of the text box. One character too many and it jams up and a box pops up with warning. This gets annoying when you try to reformat a specific page.

In My Professional Opinion…

All in all, I have a great exhibition catalog. Would I do it again? Well, only with caution, patience, persistence and maybe a glass of wine or two. And that only until a better product is created. A Blurb book is not something you can just slap together in an evening but it does give you a quality and custom product….along with some frustration.


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