A Book Brief

mickyatesBooks, Cambodia, Coursework, Critical Research Journal, ICWeek1, Ideas, Informing Contexts, Photography, Unfinished Stories 3 Comments

In 2019, I plan to publish a book in Cambodia, about Sarath and family’s ‘Unfinished Stories’. Printing capability is competent but not sophisticated in the country, and there is a limited range of quality papers. To date, the local industry has also focused on paperbacks, as, for reasons unknown, hard back binding, whilst available, is not of a high quality.

Still, inspired by Lukas Birk’s approach, I feel printing locally is the best way to start to reach my audiences, whilst keeping costs down and doing justice to Sarath. I have already met possible printers, and the largest bookstore group in Cambodia. Monument Books can offer distribution agreements against sales targets.

There are essentially 4 types of books published in areas similar to mine:

First, travel and history books, all illustrated, targeting tourists, and in English. These are often but not always written by non-Cambodians, and usually, but not always, printed outside the country. Jim Mizerski’s books are a notable exception – good quality ‘art’ books printed exclusively in Cambodia.

Second, serious history books, almost all text, and almost exclusively written by European, Australian or US academics, also in English. These are invariably printed somewhere else in Asia.

Third, personal stories of Khmer Rouge times – ranging from Loung Ung’s bestseller ‘First they Killed My Father’ (which became a movie, directed by Angelina Jolie), to generally small books by Cambodians who, for example, escaped Tuol Sleng, such as Chum Mey. These may or may not be printed locally.

Fourth, books in Khmer, intended to cover a range of similar subjects, but solely targeted to a local audience.

On my next visit, I will follow up to start to nail down a timeline. The goal is to publish ‘in high season’, November 2019, to market the book most effectively. Our youngest daughter, Victoria, has book design experience, and we will be working together on the project.

I have noted elsewhere that I am particularly inspired by books from Moises Saman and Judy Glickman Lauder. Beyond the obvious book and paper quality, these points:

Saman combines black and white and colour in the same book, with great success. He also punctuates the work with personal stories of people he met during his coverage of the Arab Spring. And, at the end of the book, he has a visual appendix covering the details of every image in the book.

Glickman Lauder’s book is all in black and white. She combines different image types, some almost abstract using infrared, to tell the story of the Danish Exception during the Holocaust. The second half of the book carries formal portraits of people involved in the story and accompanying text.

For Surfaces and Strategies, I produced a book dummy which combined negative images in black and white on semi-transparent paper, interleaved with regular colour images. Whilst  design needs some serious attention, the concept is a very interesting one. Sadly, whilst I will explore this, the capability of printing this is Cambodia is a major challenge.

Book dummy for Surfaces & Strategies

Whilst I am prepared to self-publish, I will also explore possible funding, including crowd-funding.

So, what are the key elements of the brief?

Working Title:

Unfinished Stories of Cambodia


English-speaking, with emphasis on catching the interest of serious tourists who want to know more about Cambodia and its people.


  • Forward
  • A short history of the Khmer Rouge years
  • Personal Stories from Sarath and family
  • The schools program, which defines Sarath’s career and also our personal connection
  • Illustrated throughout with my photography – both negatives and colour
  • A visual appendix
  • Index and short bibliography


Target retail price around $16.

Physical dimensions;

A book of 17.5cm by 25cm, with approximately 100 pages

  • Forward/Intro – 6 pages
  • History – 6 pages
  • Stories – 70 pages illustrated
  • Education – 10 pages illustrated
  • Visual appendix – 6 pages
  • Bibliography / contents – 6 pages


  • Explore funding – ongoing
  • Explore distribution agreements – February 2019
  • Content finalised: July 2019
  • Book to printers: End July 2019
  • Publication: Late September / October 2019


BIRK, Lukas. 2018. One Year in Yangon 1978. Lukas Birk: Austria.

CHUM, Mey. 2010. Survivor. Phnom Penh: Documentation Center of Cambodia.

GLICKMAN LAUDER, Judy. 2018. Beyond the Shadows: The Holocaust and the Danish Exception. New York: Aperture.

MIZERSKI, Jim. 2016. Cambodia Captured: Angkor’s First Photographers in 1860s Colonial Intrigues. Phnom Penh: Jasmin Image Machine.

SAMAN, Moises. 2016. Discordia. Treviso: Grafiche Antiga.

UNG, Loung. 2000. First they Killed my Father. New York: Harper Collins.

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