Is My Head in the Right Place?


Canyon Magic by Gary Fillmore Kindle
Canyon Magic-Grand Canyon Artists of the Early 20th Century. Published as the catalog for an exhibition at the Kolb Studio in spring 2010, it includes works by Gunnar Widforss, W.R. Leigh, Edgar Payne and many others. Now available via Amazon Kindle.


“Quitting a paying job to write books is the act of a madman.”
Win Blevins

Last summer I was fortunate to attend the Western Writers of America Conference in Sacramento, California. One of the more entertaining and informative speakers was Winfred (Win) Blevins, an accomplished novelist and historian. At one point during his speech he proclaimed the digital revolution to be the most profound change in publishing since “Gutenberg invented his printing press.” Recognizing some those present may have found his analogy a bit exaggerated, he then made a “polite” suggestion to anyone who didn’t concur with his assessment: “Please remove your head from wherever it is now and put it somewhere else.”

The room erupted in laughter. I can’t say how many agreed wholeheartedly with Mr. Blevins, but I know I was definitely one. (At the time I was also laughing as hard as anyone. As someone once said, “great humor is always based on a modicum of the truth.”)

There is no doubt we live in truly momentous times for the publishing industry. Like many I have found myself constantly challenged by an industry which changes daily. The topic is the source of a minor disagreement I have with Schiffer Books, the publisher of two of my major titles, All Aboard-The Life and Work of Marjorie Reed and Shadows on the Mesa-Artists of the Painted Desert and Beyond.

payne Grand Canyon 1918 10 x 8 ob
Grand Canyon by Edgar Payne. 8″ x 10″ Oil on Canvas.

Schiffer is of the opinion devices such as Kindle do not lend themselves well to Schiffer’s niche, which is large books with lots of color photographs on subjects ranging from “antiques and collectibles, arts and crafts, and military history” to “… architecture and design; food and entertaining; the metaphysical, paranormal and folklore; and pop and fringe culture, as well as books for children.” Or in the late 20th century vernacular, “picture books” and “coffee table books”.

On one hand I understand Schiffer’s perspective. It’s hard to fully appreciate a beautiful painting while viewing the image on an iphone. Or as one of my largest clients once screamed after I had emailed him an image of insufficient size, “How in the hell can I tell if I want to buy this painting? The photo you sent was the size of a postage stamp!”

Yet on the other hand this viewpoint holds an erroneous assumption: everyone interested in the content of such books wants to see all or most of the images in vivid detail, brilliant contrast and stunning color. This is not always the case, at least not in my admittedly narrow experience.

Puthuff grand canyon painting Colorado River 21x17 OB
 Colorado River by Hanson Puthuff. 21″ x 17″ Oil on board.

True, I presume the majority of buyers want a large, well produced book which comprehensively covers the subject matter. But many purchases are driven by the desire for a cursory glance, to obtain a small piece of information, or because “one of Grandpa’s paintings is in the book and I wanted to show my kids.”

I believe it likely that for every single person who purchases one of my books for the aforementioned or similar reasons there are at least a dozen other lost potential buyers who would have bought the book if the price point had been much lower, or if “the dang thing didn’t take up so much space.”

sheets grand canyon
Grand Canyon by Millard Sheets. 21″ x 26″ Watercolor

It is with the latter group in mind I am happy to announce my book Canyon Magic-Grand Canyon Artists of the Early 20th Century is now available on Kindle.

We’ll see what happens. Could this be yet one more act of a “madman”? I would predict with a price point of $2.99, no one could possibly complain. However knowing human nature I fully expect at least one or two reviews similar to my art client’s tirade about postage stamp size images, followed by a suggestion that my head is in the same place as those who disagree with Mr. Blevin’s digital revolution analogy.

But I can take it, primarily because it will only prove my point that “coffee table” books can indeed be sold via electronic media.

Note: All of the images featured in this post are courtesy of the Picerne Collection, and are also featured in the book along with forty more artistic interpretations of the great “Chasm of the Colorado.”


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