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Getting Ready to Print

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If you’re new to the production process, five main steps will help you get through it smoothly.


Step #1. Getting Print Bids

Even before the design step, you should consult with several book printers before choosing one. Start with printers that specialize in books. Then, because pricing is based on what each printer’s presses can do, match your book’s trim size to your printer’s presses for the best pricing and service. Since pages are generally printed in 32-page signatures, it’s best to make your page count evenly divided by 32. Ask printers to quote prices based on the papers they stock in-house. Choosing their recommended paper can save you dollars. Look at paper samples and printed book samples to examine their quality, and remember that all the various paper colors, weights, and degrees of opacity and bulk may not be represented by the few samples a printer may show you. Also, talk to other publishers who have worked with these printers about their service.

Be sure to use the same specifications in each bid, including the title of the book, the quantity to be printed, the final trim size, and the number of colors on the cover. Also, specify the page count, stock (paper for cover and text pages), cover finish (UV coating or lamination), hard cover or soft cover, type of binding, packaging, and delivery destination. Let the printer know if you will provide files on disk or camera-ready art.

Your printer is likely to ask you to complete a customer account form and/or credit application.


Step #2. Designing the Cover

Since people really do judge a book by its cover, a professional cover adds credibility to your work. Especially if your name is not well known, you will have to rely on striking design, eye-catching graphics, vibrant colors, and testimonials from VIPs to grab the book buyer’s attention.

An attention-getting title is part of creative cover design. Make sure the one you want it is not already in use; two ways to check are by scanning through Books In Print (at your library) and visiting Amazon.com. You may want to enlist several colleagues in a brainstorming session to come up with titles that fit your book’s content and its marketing focus.

Be sure to request an ISBN from R.R. Bowker. Then obtain a bar code from a specialty firm to put on the back cover. This bar code allows bookstores to scan information about the book into their inventory system and to track sales. Most bookstores will not accept books without an ISBN and corresponding bar code.

Put some thought into visualizing your cover. Then work with a designer who can represent your idea and make your title come alive with color, typography, and graphics. Professional designers have the experience, skills, and software to make your book look great. Choose one whose style and ways of working agree with yours.


Step #3. Designing Text Pages

If you plan to lay out the book yourself, ask the printer you’ve selected for its electronic file guidelines outlining specifications. Use a professional page layout program such as Adobe PageMaker or Quark Xpress to format your pages. Scan drawings, clip art, and B&W photos and place them directly into the page layout. Combine all chapters into one file. Then copy all graphics, scans, and fonts onto a disk for the printer. Some printers accept Adobe Acrobat pdf files so ask about that option.


Step #4. Preparing Files

Be aware that many technical specifications go into preparing files for printing. These pertain to registration, trapping, dot gain, ink names, bleeds, fonts, graphic file formats, width of spine, line screen and resolution.

It’s essential to proofread your book carefully in its final layout format before you send the disk to the printer. In addition to fixing typos, make sure you’ve eliminated all widows (single words on a line) and orphans (a single line at the top of a page). Making corrections and changes after the file is transferred to printing plates gets expensive.


Step #5. Proofing & Printing

Get a color proof of the cover and a “blueline” proof of the text pages to catch any mistakes before your book goes on the press. Examine these proofs, sign off on them, and return them to the printer. If all goes well, finished books will be at your doorstep about five weeks later.


Karen Saunders owns MacGraphics Services, a graphic design firm specializing in book covers, page layout, logos, advertising, and marketing materials. Saunders can answer your questions about artistic and technical aspects of book design and press preparation. Contact her via www.macgraphics.net or 303/680-2330.

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