Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Having your book printed; how to avoid mistakes...

Okay, your book is written, copyright in place, layout/design is finished, cover art is done, ISBN number and bar code secured, format decided (book size; A4, A5, etc.) and you're editor says you can take it to the printers. Your editor is your boss and a good one is most valuable. This completes steps #1 – #7. The next step, #8, properly done will ensure you have a sellable book; if it's improperly done, you may end up with a printing disaster. I'll discuss that at the end of this post.

I'd like to expand on the subject of ones editor. After your book is finished the single most important person is the editor. I had gone through my first book 4 - 5 times and declared it ready for printing. My wife offered to edit my book. When she was finished with her first edit I was shocked at the number of mistakes I had missed; never edit your own book. My book went to the presses after 4 more edits including 2 hand made copies (by the printer) of my book. This is why I say your editor is your boss; editors are VIP's.

First rule; assume nothing and question everything. Since my experience is limited to Thailand there may be some differences in the number of smaller, independent printers and book binders available. This is to say that there are probably fewer choices in the U.S. for instance; however the process will be the same, the questions will be the same and the potential problems will be the same as those fundamental to printing with offset presses.

That said, find a printer. Unless you know of one by reputation you will need to see many examples of their work. Especially important are samples that are the same as your book. If you have a coffee table book you need to look at samples of coffee table books. Like for like; my book is a fable, sized at A5, and with 8 full color illustrations. The printer I chose had many samples because they have been in business for many years. My illustrator's family has used them for brochures and catalogs for their business. I have seen these, and they were very good quality. As I want only #1 quality I was also pleased to see a couple of coffee table books on Buddhist Temples of Thailand and tourist places on the Andaman Sea; they were gorgeous and flawless. It appeared this printer was capable of doing the job. But to be sure, check the front pages to make sure they actually printed the book.

Once you've found a printer you'll need to have:

Cover; art/design and weight of paper. Bring a book to the printer that represents the qualities you want in your book. They will know the paper weights.

Pages; choose the weight of paper for the body of the book(mine is 120gm). It should be heavy enough to avoid seeing print on the other side of the page.

Illustrations; glossy paper for color plates (if any), again, heavy enough to avoid “bleed through” on the opposite side.

Quality of printing; this is where one must be very clear on what is expected. This and all of the previous decisions, coupled with the quantity of books printed, will determine the price you will pay per book.

The quality issue is where a printing meltdown can occur. Even though you specifically say you need to have #1 quality, it is important to go through a list of potential problems that will be unacceptable. Examples; ink smears, spots, bleed throughs (both text and illustrations), soiled pages, spots on color plates, fuzzy/blurry illustrations and text and anything else that would hurt the potential marketing/sales of your book. Number one quality is number 1, not 2, 3, or 4. I cannot over emphasize the importance of communicating quality concerns and their importance. This may not be that much of a problem in the west, but here in emerging markets it can be a stretch; but it can be gotten.

In summary; these problems are not entirely unique to Thailand, but some are. Life and business here are far more relaxed than in the west and it can be difficult to impart a sense of urgency when trying to get things done. This can be very frustrating at times. I had to reject the 1st printing of 500 books because I failed to detail to the printer just what #1 quality was for me. Unknown to me, because he didn't say, his idea of #1 quality was 92% (he is the one who said this after the fact). Fortunately (as it turns out) he didn't even achieve that. Every copy had many errors of QC (not editing). The pressman didn't maintain clean presses. Western standards of quality are possible and attainable but may take more effort to achieve. This chapter isn't over yet, so I'll be updating as things progress. As it now stands; the reprinting is scheduled to be completed about May 25th.

There is no place to rest...

1 comment:

  1. I am a photographer and want to get a coffee table style book of my photographs printed while in thailand, i may want a quantity of about 1000. can you suggest any printers that may be suitable for me in Bangkok?