Meet The Phooks

From The Editor: Max Zhiltsov

This world goes digital, we spend our lives online, we strive to leave our footprint in a form of code, to spread the information about what we do, think and believe across the internet and have already used to think that this is enough. But sometimes that itchy feeling comes: we miss real things, we’re hungry for material forms of being, interacting with this world and people around.

The need to keep meaningful things in the form of a physical, sensible object is still here, with us. The importance of being able to touch, sense and physically interact with the outcome of human creativity won’t ever go. On the contrary, it becomes more and more critical.

“People still have a huge desire for the book,
for the printed object that they can hold.”

— Olivia Arthur for Magnum Photos

Such feelings and thoughts accompany me for the last ten years. They drive my film photography addiction with a clear focus on “the real-life photography” and any forms of documentary. I was pretty effective at looking for physical forms of my photographic art outcomes. It led me to set up a “pop-up” bedroom based darkroom, and, finally, made me publish my first photo book last year.

At the same time, I was lost in the search for an exact direction where I can combine this interest with what I do best — marketing strategy, digital product development. So yes, I see myself as a proof of the concept mentioned above — a digital person, who strives to the world of physical things.

Based On Personal Experience

My first attempt with self-publishing kicked me off to start this project and gave me an overall, but very practical research on how this kind of publishing works. I went through everything myself: from the concept, book design, pre-print preparation, remote printing, and shipping books from the UK to Cyprus to a website and store development, social media, paid digital marketing, orders shipping. I’ve learned how complicated it could be, to publish a book. But to have books printed is only the beginning of a long journey.

The most laborious and complex things come
when you start looking for your customer.

It is expensive and time-consuming if you’re still not a star and don’t want to spend the whole life in social networks by bombarding people with your posts.

The Value For Everyone

I started to seek for an answer to the question: where’s the win-win solution for both Artists and Collectors lies? There were two points of focus:

  • Artists look for the confidence they’ll sell what they have printed and to increase the size of editions if there’s a demand — how to achieve that?
  • Collectors want these unique self- and indie-published books, but not always able to buy — why this happens and how to help them?

The community knows — most of the books are sold inside the community. So most of the members could play both roles: Artists or Sellers and Collectors.

“Photobooks are having a golden era
but the concern is that we are making
them for each other„

— Fred Ritchin said for the article on Magnum Photos from 2017.

This looks a bit sad from the first sight but also represents how strong the community is and that the demand is there. What if we will give this community a tool to see more artists from all over the world and make them able to buy with ease? What if we will help new artists to reach the community? What if we will help artists and publishers find the new audience, beyond the established community?

Exposure Means A Lot. And Costs More

The times when social media was an unlimited tool for reaching the audience have gone. We all know how Facebook and Instagram limit the reach of our posts and make us see the content they want in our algorithmized feeds.

The artists who invest all their efforts into the creative process often lack time, energy and free money to reach the right audience who are willing to buy. But building the awareness of your titles is critical for success and sales. And the awareness should be “targeted” — you need to reach those people who are likely willing to buy.

Who wants to buy? How and where to find them? How to attract their attention?

Is It Easy To Buy When You Want To Buy?

It seems like yes in the age of e-commerce, social networks, and worldwide affordable shipping. But no. By no means.

If, for example, an average indie edition size for a single title is about 300-500 copies a publisher isn’t able to spend a lot of time and money to spread the world with his announces and at the same time to keep an adequate price.

It means that “work” to learn about a new release falls on the shoulders of a buyer. Collectors are happy to do so, but their energy and capabilities are limited so they’ll choose from what they discover, but will probably miss a chance to buy a copy they’d like until it’s gone.

What if we will give collectors a tool which will allow them to spend more time on making their choice between a variety of titles, instead of seeking on the internet?

What if we will deliver to collectors a regular snapshot on new and upcoming releases from the whole world?

What if collector will have a single window to buy from any indie- or self-publisher in the world?

The Meeting Point

I’ve gone through many articles, discussions, and researches before decided to give this project a chance. The idea is simple.

The Phooks helps both sides to achieve what they want:

We create a place for Publishers to present and sell their books to Collectors who are looking for books to buy.

A meeting point, a marketplace or an online photo book fair — any of these fits to describe the format in general, but we will stick to a few unique and critical things to keep up with the initial idea:

No fee for the catalog placement

Any self- and indie publisher is welcomed to add their books to the library and the store if they meet submission guidelines. Always for free. And for the lifetime.

Extended and enhanced placement options will be paid and always marked accordingly.

Equal product representation

It doesn’t matter how big or famous the publisher or artist is — every title will be represented in the store, in social networks feeds and included to the weekly newsletter on general terms.

With the growth of the library, the number of customers on the platform and subscribers in social networks will grow. Supported by our marketing efforts, this will give publishers access to a permanently growing audience.

The same commissions for everyone

The Phooks doesn’t charge Publishers for the catalog placement, but we will charge a sales commission of the same the size for everyone.

Seller to Buyer shipping

To keep The Phooks alive, prices and sales commissions low we will avoid stock-keeping, order fulfillment and shipping expenses at least on the first phases. Thus, every order will be paid via The Phooks but shipped from a Publisher or Artists directly to Collectors.

Read more about how this works on the page for publishers.

Public access to the Library

Everyone can see the books, buy them and subscribe for the newsletter. For the Collectors with high interest, there will be a Paid Membership with The Right To Buy First and many more.

A role of The Phooks is to attract both Publishers and Collectors, to build the best possible user experience within the platform, to provide the customer service and audience growth via marketing initiatives.

We also reserve the right to run any kind of “Editor choice” sections, “Guest’s Reviews” and etc., but all the submitted and published books pretend to be selected by default.

A Huge Amount Of Work Is Ahead

There were a lot of things done to launch The Phooks, but there is much more work ahead. People are both enthusiastic and pessimistic about the project feature, but we will never know if we don’t try.

I clearly see The Phooks is going to bring the real value to the community and publishing culture which is more than enough for me to invest my time and money, to make a try.

Will it be profitable? I see that yes, it could and should be profitable to survive — I’m not a billionaire. We’ll see all together. Stay tuned and involved — your support and advice are priceless!

Max Zhiltsov

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