Black Tie Book: The Last Word


As I reported in the last update on a potential book version of the Black Tie Guide, I was taking a final kick at the can by investigating self publishing.  Specifically, I was determining what it would cost for a self-publishing company to provide all the services of a traditional publisher with an eye to paying that cost through crowdfunding.

Well it turns out there is no such thing a full-service self-publishing company, only ones that provide printing and rudimentary layout services.  Nevertheless, I continued my research if only to satisfy my curiosity about the cost and process of  hiring a separate editor, layout designer, photography team, copyright and researcher in addition to a printing company.

As I began to calculate the book’s primary parameters such as page count and paper stock I soon realized that every detail centred around the most fundamental question of all: what would distinguish this book from the web site?  If the book’s written content was already available for free on the site what reason would consumers have to pay for the book?  The answer soon became clear: its visual content.  The photographs in the book would have to be largely original and entirely stunning which meant working with an experienced fashion photographer and presenting the final results on oversized, heavy paper stock, much of it printed in colour. Not surprisingly, this kind of quality doesn’t come cheap.  The total estimate for creating the book adds up to approximately $125,000 and the cost of printing 500 copies would be an additional $28,000.  And that doesn’t take into account the wages I would lose by taking at least two months off work to to write the manuscript and manage  publication.

Ultimately, the cost is largely irrelevant because I have no intention of taking off the time required to act as my own publisher.  The pride in seeing the book become a reality just isn’t worth the enormous amount of work required and the significant inconvenience it would cause to my employer.  So barring an unforeseen offer from a traditional publisher, I am closing out the year by laying this project to rest.  I will instead use 2014 to focus on improving the Guide for its next edition in 2015 and expanding the role of the blog.  Perhaps these improvements will include a spin-off of much more modest ambition such as an app or an eBook.  We shall see . . .


  1. Cygnus

    A sad but understandable decision. I do hope that a traditional publisher eventually comes around.

    And have a happy new year!

  2. Roy R. Platt

    You might want to consider ePublishing your book.

    1. Peter Marshall

      Actually, all that would do is save the cost of printing. I would still have to raise $125,000 and give up at least two months salary in order to create the book.

      I may very well create an eBook with the next site update but it would be on a much more modest scale i.e. just text and a few original photos that I take myself.

  3. Christine Turbitt

    I am a faculty member in the School of Design and Production, one of five Arts Schools within the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. I found your blog for the first time today while I was fact checking a description of an Edwardian man’s formal shirt for an upcoming lecture on Victorian/Edwardian menswear for my Costume History class — a very quick gallop through western clothing from ancient Egypt to the end of the 20th century. I said to myself: this stuff would make a really, REALLY great book for theatrical and film costume designers. Sad to hear that it is not in the cards.

    I plan to give your blog address to my students when classes start up next week so that they can consult it for vast amounts of additional information not available in my lectures. Formal wear is a foreign language for most people born after 1990, and some before then. The information in the blog is pretty much exactly what they need to know to keep them from making tragic errors in their current studies and future careers as designers. Your “voice” makes it easy to understand and, hopefully, apply. Would you allow me to include Word versions of some of your posts on vintage formalwear on our school’s internal “Blackboard”? They would, of course, be attributed to you, with your blog’s address in boldface print.

    Thank you, and I look forward to updates.

    1. Peter Marshall

      Thanks for your support, Christine. Feel free to distribute my blog posts as you wish. My site (The Black Tie Guide) is actually the best starting point for an introduction to formal wear as it lays out the history, etiquette and sartorial details in a linear progression much like a printed textbook. This blog is best considered as a supplement to the site, randomly delving further into specific historical details and reviewing up-to-the minute trends.


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