Friday, May 6, 2011

Bird lovers strike it rich with Craig & Joy Johnson’s fourth photo book

Just when I had given up hope there would be any more books of wild bird photography from Craig and Joy Johnson, they sprang a surprise.

About half the photographs were taken on Whidbey.
Our Pacific Northwest Birds and Habitat: Featuring the Puget Sound Area rolled off the press last week at Printing Control in Tukwila. The 100-page, landscape-style volume depicts 196 species. That's 16 more than their previous book. Craig photographed at least half of them on Whidbey Island. 

First copies will start showing up in island shops this weekend, and within days the handsome book will be on sale for $24.95 throughout the Puget Sound area. But you can request an autographed copy now by ordering it right from their website,

At home in their backyard bird sanctuary. Pedersen photo
As with all of Craig and Joy's books, this one will be sold exclusively in independent bookstores, gift shops and wild bird stores -- not box stores, cookie-cutter chains or discount websites. The dollars and sales taxes it generates will go to work directly in the local economy where they are most needed, benefiting the authors, printers and shopkeepers of our island community and Western Washington. Craig and Joy printed just 2,000 copies and I predict they will disappear fast.

The Freeland couple's goal for this book was to make it educational and inspirational, with more emphasis than ever on the habitats in which different species live, eat, hunt and nest.

Craig visits with Dennis Paulson in April. Pedersen photo
To make sure of that, Craig asked a renowned bird expert and biologist, Dennis Paulson, to review the text and photography. Paulson offered many helpful suggestions, which they incorporated into the final version. 

Craig admits he and Joy had not expected to publish this book because they're broke from medical bills and lost income. But they've sown a lot of goodwill in the community through their generosity over the years. Some of it flowed back to them when a friend, Coupeville businessman Karl King of Kingfisher Books, offered to loan them the money to print the book. 

Karl King
As always, the Johnsons hope readers will buy the book from local bookstores and shops. In  case you’d like get to your copy from Karl King himself, his shop, Kingfisher Books on Coupeville’s Front Street, is open from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. six days a week, but closed Thursdays.

Craig and Joy also hope many people will order autographed copies directly from their website.  The price to the buyer is the same either way. But, by skipping the extra step of wholesaling, the Johnsons can recoup their up-front costs much faster when people purchase the book directly from them.

Now, a bit about what it took to print this book.

“It was an insane amount of work,” Johnson freely admits. No one who hasn’t done it can imagine the planning and hours of computer time it takes to design such a project, let alone take thousands of extraordinary photographs of birds, all hand-held with a heavy, zoom lens, at exceptionally close range.
At the printing plant while the press was rolling.
Then there is the actual printing -- the crucial part no one ever mentions and everyone takes for granted. Printing Control, in Tukwila, Wash., deserves some big compliments.

Clearly, this book is gorgeous and the color is flawless. That doesn’t happen by accident. Craig is a graphic designer, photographer, artist and former print salesman for the commercial printing industry, which means he pushed the limits all the way. Printing Control measured up to the challenge.

"Rufous" features Craig's watercolors.
For a printing job even to be satisfactory, everything must go right including the binding. This is a landscape-format book, which puts extra stress on the spine. 

Building greater strength into the spine added significant cost to the job and Printing Control simply ate it to stay within Craig’s budget. That says a lot about the printer’s commitment to the job and to the client. Printing companies, like every other business, are struggling hard with the economic downturn.

I am proud that Printing Control is the same company that produced my book, Whidbey Island’s Special Places. Last year Craig chose them to print a children’s book he and Joy wrote that features his watercolor art, The Amazing Hummingbird Story of Red Rufous. It is on sale right now in many Puget Sound area shops.

The big Heidelberg press at Printing Control.
I am also proud that the president of Printing Control, Bob Bracht, is a friend from my past life when I managed a magazine and other publications for Safeco Corporation. At that time Bob was a sales representative for a large, Portland printer and won our annual report business several years in a row. Between then and now, Bob’s career apparently prospered, with him coming to Seattle and becoming president of Printing Control.

Bob is not only smart, likable and knowledgeable, but fun-loving and enthusiastic. And he loves the Northwest, which may have something to do with Printing Control being the greenest, most environmentally-conscious printer in the Greater Seattle area and the first to win the top, five-star rating from EnviroStars. That’s one of the reasons Printing Control was the right company to print my book and also a brilliant choice for Our Pacific Northwest Birds and Habitat.