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How to Create Great Book Brochures
Part 2: Get the Most from the Printing Process

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Your book brochure is a cornerstone of your marketing program. Last month, we talked about creating its content and layout. Now we’ll discuss illustration and printing techniques that will give your brochure a top-notch professional look.

If you know how to use the latest color-printing services, you can produce a dazzling brochure at minimum cost–and with little additional effort.

 

Pick the Right Printer

The secret to getting high-quality printing at low cost is finding the right printer. Your brochure is not a job for your local stationery firm. You need one of the dozen or so companies scattered throughout the U.S. that specialize in printing inexpensive four-color “brochures,” “catalog sheets,” or “flyers.”

 

To find brochure printers, search the Internet using those keywords. If you have established yourself as a publisher by getting an ISBN prefix, brochure vendors are probably mailing their advertising to you already.

Expect to shop nationally, or at least on your side of the continent. For example, we are located near Washington, D.C., and we got quotes and samples from all the major color catalog-sheet printers east of the Rocky Mountains.

 

There is no need to shop outside the U.S. for color brochures, as there might be for coffee-table books and children’s books in color.

The latest versions of our brochure were printed by U.S. Press, in Valdosta, Georgia (www.uspress.com). We receive consistently superb service from them.

 

Do It Digitally

To get the advantages of modern brochure printing, you have to prepare your brochure entirely in digital form. All brochure printers now use digital processing from start to finish. You send your artwork to the printer on a single CD or Zip disk. Your brochure proceeds through the production process virtually untouched by human hands.

 

To make the process seamless, your artwork must satisfy contemporary digital standards. Printers will send you checklists of their digital formatting requirements. Make sure that your brochure designer is comfortable with them.

 

The good news is that the awkward pioneering phase of digital production is over. Digital is mainstream, and procedures are standardized. Printing companies now have customer service people who speak to you about digital issues in language that you can understand (…well, usually).

 

Your graphic designer will compose your brochure entirely on a computer, using a “page layout” program that is similar to a word processing program. This program will have enhanced capabilities for creating and adjusting graphic elements, and it produces a special output format called PostScript.

 

Make sure that your designer is proficient with one of the two leading programs, Adobe PageMaker or Quark XPress. Both are available in PC and Mac versions. All major printing companies can work with both programs and both formats.

 

Preferably your designer will use the same computer platform–PC or Mac–that you use. Our cover designer uses Mac, while we use PC. It continues to be a pain. In contrast, our brochure designer uses PC, which allows me to work with him easily.

 

If you have a very tight budget, you can use a recent version of Microsoft Word to lay out a brochure. MS Word now has limited graphic layout capability, and it can import digital graphics. But first check that your printer will accept an MS Word file.

 

Use Photographs

Photographs are a powerful way to tell your story, and digital technology makes them the easiest form of illustration. They add nothing to the cost of printing. Page layout programs make it easy for your brochure designer to incorporate photos into your design.

 

Your photographs need to be in digital form. A digital camera makes digital images directly. Even a modestly priced digital camera will produce photos that are sharp enough for brochure-sized illustrations.

 

An inexpensive scanner is adequate to create digital images from any flat art, such as drawings or old photos. You can get good digital images scanned from photographic negatives at a photography store or graphic service for a few dollars per image.

Also, you can purchase digital stock photos. Or, ask for digital images from companies that will provide them in exchange for free publicity.

We use various sources for our photos. The page layout program handles all digital images in exactly the same way, regardless of the source.

 

To get each digital image ready for printing, you or your brochure designer have to make some important digital adjustments using an image processing program, such as Photoshop. For guidance in making these adjustments–called sharpening, tonal balance, brightness, contrast, resolution, and image size–I recommend the book Real World Scanning and Halftones by Blatner, Fleishman, and Roth.

 

Of course, photos don’t work for all genres. To use pictures of fairies and unicorns in a children’s book, you’ll still need a good illustrator. If you must rely on hand-drawn artwork, hire an illustrator who is one of the best. People look at drawings more critically than photographs, and improvements are out of your hands.

 

Make the Most of Color

Brochure printers use presses that are designed specifically for the four-color dot process. The high speed of these presses has made full color cheaper than two-color or black-and-white! For example, we pay about 6 cents apiece for flyers that have full color on both sides.

The four-color process makes it easy to use powerful graphic options, including “screen tints” of background color that you create by using color dots at very low density. Our brochure uses screen tints of different colors to distinguish blocks of text. You can use a faint image of anything as a background, but be careful not to cause visual confusion.

 

“Bleeds” are another design enhancement. A bleed is simply an image that is taken all the way to the edge of the paper. Bleeds work well with photographs and can also be effective with screen tints, provided that the screens have no borders or “keylines.” Your designer should know how to handle them.

Inexpensive four-color printing handles routine colors well, including images of people. However it does have limitations. Don’t use a design that requires precise, unchanging rendition of colors. Also, you can’t get actual solid colors, called “spot colors.” If your artwork has spot colors, the printer will charge extra to convert them to dot process colors, and the colors will lose their solid appearance. And you can’t use special inks.

 

Do Your Own Checking

Don’t expect the printer to check or correct your digital artwork. It’s not their job, and they don’t want the responsibility.

 

Before you send your artwork to the printer, check it yourself with a high-quality glossy proof that gives accurate color rendition. Your graphic designer should know where to get this proof.

 

Check everything on the proof meticulously, including spelling, the ISBN, telephone numbers, and Web information. Don’t leave this to your designer.

 

Then, when you’ve sent your artwork to the printer and received the printer’s proof, it should be perfect. If you have to make corrections at this point, there will be an extra charge.

 

How Many Should You Order? [subhead]

Four-color presses print fast, but it takes a relatively long time to set up a print job. Therefore the price of brochures drops radically with larger quantities, up to a point, and then tapers down more slowly.

 

We purchase our brochures in quantities of 30,000, which gives us a good price point and doesn’t overflow our office’s storage space. That quantity is enough for about six months of PMA coop mailings.

 

Reordering requires only a phone call. The printer will keep all your material on file. The only work on a reorder is reviewing another proof.

 

Arrange with Your Printer to Make Distribution Easy

The coated paper used for color brochures is heavy, making it cumbersome to handle boxes of brochures. Opening and repacking the boxes that we received from our printer was a chore. Also, a fraction of the boxes had burst from their weight.

 

To avoid these problems, we now ask the printer to ship brochures to us in partially filled boxes that are sized for the PMA mailings that we use regularly. This eliminates repacking, and the boxes arrive in better condition.

 

Drop shipment is an option to consider for large mailings, such as PMA’s new Corporate & Institutional Libraries mailing. You can ask your printer to ship a designated quantity of brochures directly to the mailing service. Expect a small charge for this, but remember that it saves the cost and labor of reshipping from your office.

For PMA coop mailings, order your brochures flat. If you need a quantity of brochures folded–for example, for envelope stuffers–you can order a portion to be folded. Or do the folding later. Many local printers have folding machines, and they will fold your brochures for a small charge.

 

The Indispensable Sales Tool

I can’t imagine selling books without brochures. Our brochures were responsible for almost every sale of our book, making it the leading book in its field. Make your brochure excellent, and buyers will assume that your book is excellent too.

 

Donald Wulfinghoff is the Founder of Energy Institute Press. Its flagship publication, the “Energy Efficiency Manual,” is the world’s leading guide to energy conservation in buildings and industry. The book is a winner of two silver Ben Franklin Awards. Visit their Web site at http://www.energybooks.com.

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