While I’ve been down on POD sites recently (well, always…) I do think they’re useful for a couple things. First, for offering something to one particular customer who has bought from you a lot. It’s nice to be able to either give them a product for free or offer them something else they can buy that’s just fun – like a cell phone case. Second, for seeing how your work looks on products (though you could also create digital mockups instead) so you can decide which products to pursue for manufacturing or licensing. And third, the one I’ll be talking about today, for your own personal use.
Never approach POD expecting you’ll make money.
But you can certainly use it as a tool to do those three things. One great way to use POD for something you might need is creating a physical portfolio of your art. You can use a physical portfolio when you’re going to galleries or will be meeting new people or visiting a new place.
Where You Can Print One
Tons of sites offer “book design” which is basically what you’re looking for – something sturdy enough to travel with but not necessarily luxurious. If I remember correctly, one of the first out there was Blurb. And they’re still going strong. But also check out The Book Patch, Lulu, Espresso Book Machine, DiggyPOD, and BookPrinting.
What You Should Put in It
A physical portfolio needs to be pared down. You don’t want everything you’ve ever made to be in it. It doesn’t have to be very long and you want it to represent your very best work. I recommend between 8 and 15 pieces and then a bio or artist statement page with a nice picture of you (in case you decide to give the book away, which can sometimes be appropriate if someone’s particularly interested in you).
Try to keep the pages pretty clean. Make the image of your art pretty big and then have the title, medium, and year on the page too. Depending on the minimum number of pages you can have for your chosen POD printer, you may need to put the information for the piece on the opposite page of the spread or to include detail shots for each piece just to have more content. Also, if your portfolio is going to be of just one series, you could have the first page be an artist statement about the series.
How Big to Make It
You actually want the portfolio to be fairly small. It’s best if it can fit in your purse. That way it’s easy to take around town, on trips, and to leave with a gallerist or a potential wholesaler or licensee if need be. While it can be tempting to get a really large portfolio, it’s hard to carry around so you won’t use it much and it can also look a bit pretentious as if you’re trying to hard. And don’t forget to order it hardcover for a professional look and the sturdiness you need to take it with you everywhere.
If you carry a purse, I recommend ordering 2 books to start with and popping one into your purse so it’s always there if you need it. The other book can be your backup in case you need to give the first one away or if it gets torn or spilled on.
Another great thing about having a portfolio like this is that you can easily and inexpensively update it with new work and print a new copy.
Let me know in the comments if you already use a physical portfolio and how you got it made! I’d love to hear your tips!