Coffee table books are not only fun conversation starters to keep in your living room, they can also be interesting and useful bodies of work. If you think you have what it takes to create one of these books, follow this guide for some tips on how to get started.
Pick a subject. Part of the fun of coffee table books is that they focus on one particular area of interest. Even the most specific of interests can find an audience. In fact, the more creative and specialized, the better. Some possible ideas for coffee table books could be: collections of photographs of historical figures, a compendium of knowledge of some sort of art or hobby, collector's guides and original photographs or art.
Think outside of the box when selecting a subject for your coffee table book. In the ideal situation, a reader will see your book on the coffee table of a friend's home and simply have to pick it up and rummage through those pages. Therefore, it is your job to make it look as compelling as possible.
Research your subject. The Internet is a great place to start this research, but you need to consider other sources also. If you want to write a book with a collection of information on a particular subject, you need to become as knowledgeable on that subject as you possibly can. For example, if you were making a coffee table book that was a collection of photographs and facts about vintage lamps, you would need to take pictures of vintage lamps, research the origin of lamps, research the categories of vintage lamps, and interview lamp makers and owners. In other words, you would need to become a walking, talking encyclopedia of vintage lamps.
Work with a professional photographer to get the right pictures to draw your customers in. Even if your book is a collection of old photographs, you should still consult with a photographer for pictures to fill pages in between the classic ones to show that your book has original work as well.
Write the text. Your book will need an introduction, captions for all of the pictures, essays in between photographs, and even indexes, photography credits and a bibliography. For this, you will need to work with an editor before you even begin submitting your book to publishing houses. No publisher will be interested in your coffee table book if the manuscript you submit is not flawless and completely free of grammatical and mechanical errors.
Do not skimp on the quality of the text. Pictures may hook someone in, but you want them to draw information from the photographs, and then read on. Thus, your text cannot be dull. You need to make the reading interesting for your audience and hook them in. Work with an editor who will be brutally honest on how to better your book so you can increase your odds of being published, and most importantly, have a well-written book.
Work with a graphic designer to give your book the right look. The cover and subject will draw your readers in, so you need to make that as unique and compelling as possible. Furthermore, the layout and design within your book are just as important. A lot of publishing houses (should you choose to go to a publishing house) will guide this process, but this does not mean you cannot have an active hand in how your book will look.
Find a publisher (possibly by using the Internet or books like "Writer's Market") that might be interested in printing your book. Get your manuscript and photographs in order, write a query letter, and submit it in a self-addressed stamped envelope. Individual publishers may differ on their submission guidelines, so be sure to take the needs of different publishing houses into consideration.
Consider self-publishing. Using the Internet, you can find all sorts of self-publishing houses that will help you make your book a printed and bound reality. However, then it will be up to you to help your book find its way into the hands of its readers.
Do not be overwhelmed. There are many options to consider when printing your coffee table book. Before the consideration of publishing your book even comes to mind, you have to be sure that what you have to offer is absolutely the best you can give. Research your topic heavily, and be creative with your presentation. Your book may just find its way onto the coffee tables of a living room near you.