+2y

It's Listmas, so the lists of the "best" photobooks have been pouring in. Photo-Eye published their collection of lists again, presenting 26 different ones. I thought I'd use the Photo-Eye lists to compile some statistics (I don't know what I was thinking, it took me hours to do this). The Photo-Eye lists might be somewhat representatively standing for the whole collection of lists, given there are the usual suspects (ParrSchadenGossage…), people selling books, plus other people who for whatever reason made a list. So here are the numbers (please keep in mind that even though I double counted everything, errors might still have crept in).

On the 26 lists, there are 177 different books.

Of those, 43 are included in more than one list (24.3%).

One book is included in seven lists (seven lists corresponds to 26.9% of all lists). One book can be found on six lists, two books on five, and two others on four.

The 177 books were published by a large variety of publishers. If I treat "self-published" as its own category (publisher), there are 98 different publishers (if books were co-published, I've treated the publishers as separate).

Note that some books are listed as "self-published," whereas some others are listed as whatever self-publishers call their own publishing house. The number of books listed as "self-published" is 22 (12.4% of the total). To those one would have to add those publishing houses that are, well, also self-publishing (think Stephen Gill's Nobody).

Ignoring self-publishing, the publishers with the largest number of books on any list is Steidl with eight books (that's 4.5%).

Of the 177 books, I've seen in person and/or have in my collection 48 (27.1%). I've heard of a bunch more of the books, but certainly well more than half the books on those lists I've never heard of before.

I noted this before, but this is a very heavily fragmented market that even people like me who spend a lot of time looking at photobooks can't keep track of. I suppose I could travel to each and every photobook festival to become aware of more books, but I'd have to win the lottery first.

So there's the challenge for photobook makers: how do you get your book noticed/seen on a market like this?

Even if your book makes it into a "best of" list, there's a roughly 75% chance that it won't be on any other list. Statistically speaking, the likelihood that it will be on more than five lists is incredibly small (you can do the math). And those five lists then amount to a very small fraction of all lists.