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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: The Romance of Printed Tip-Ons

My fiancee recently found a print book at the thrift store replete with “tip-ons.” It was an art book with avant garde photos and such, but it also included maps, fold-out posters, and even envelopes with inserts attached to various pages. I found it rather intriguing.

What it also did was to bring me back to the 1990s, when I first received copies of several Griffin and Sabine books (by Nick Bantock), which traced a romance (perhaps either real or a fantasy of the characters in the books) based on epistles between two characters in hand-written notes and postcards attached to the print book pages.

It was very intimate and romantic, in part because you had to open the envelopes and unfold the letters before reading them. (That is, the reader’s subconscious presumably registers these letters as “real”: perhaps as though they had been sent to the reader rather than to the characters.) These envelopes and cards were interspersed with pages of printed collages of all sorts, mostly with a romantic and classical ambiance. It was one of the first times I had seen that many items affixed to pages in a print book, and I knew that it had involved both creativity and a large budget to achieve such a compelling narrative.

So what does all of this mean to a print book designer or marketer in the present decade? Here are some thoughts:

Why They Work

I have heard the term “reader involvement device” in marketing venues. Basically, readers of promotional material (and I would extend this to fiction in the case of the Griffin and Sabine books) want to participate in what they are reading. It makes reading a print book more of a tactile experience and a more immersive experience as well. In a marketing piece, this may involve tearing out a business reply card to request further information on a product. When I was growing up, it involved putting a dime in a slot and sending back the mailer to request “something further.” All of this creates a relationship between either the marketer or the print book’s author and the reader.

In fact, I would argue that (within reason) if the reader involvement device is a little more challenging, the reader likes it even more. For instance, I’ve seen similar print books that have treasure maps affixed to the interior pages, or even puzzles or other intellectual challenges you have to successfully complete before moving onward in the book. This concept of reader involvement has also been big online in the past two decades, with interactive fiction, which changes the progress of the narrative as you make different decisions during the “game.”

But in this case, what has become a staple of the online gaming world is equally effective in involving the reader in either a fictional work (a story) or an interactive marketing piece (still a story).

Options to Consider

Here are some thoughts as to how you can include extra printed items in your print books or even your marketing materials:

  1. You can “tip on” (add to the outside of a printed press signature, usually with something like fugitive glue) a transparent pouch for a CD or DVD. Given the advances in music recording (i.e., digital music files), this might be more appropriate for a computer software premium for your print book (maybe the entire book on CD, allowing readers to search content automatically by subject matter). You could also include video files or supplemental computer programs. The key is, you produce the CDs or DVDs separately and have the book printer glue the little vinyl pouches to the interior back covers of the books. Or you can include what’s called a “hanger,” a separate piece of card stock bound between book press signatures and onto which the plastic CD holder can be glued.
  2. You can fold up printed material, such as a map produced on a thicker commercial printing stock, and then glue it to a book page with a removable fugitive glue dot. What’s good about this is that the glue holds the map in place, but it can be easily removed without damaging the print book page or the additional printed map. Keep in mind that when you add something like this within the text block of a book, it makes the text block fatter (sometimes in an uneven way). As I recall from my experience back in the 1990s with the Griffin and Sabine books, the inserts were single-page letters folded and inserted into the envelopes that had been tipped onto pages in such a way that they were reasonably flat. The postcard tip-ons in the books were even flatter.
  3. If you are including a full-page addition on a different commercial printing stock, you can bind this between two press signatures (printers usually call this an insert rather than a tip-on). For instance, I used to receive promotional graphic arts magazines in the mail that included ads for various custom printing papers. The publisher of the magazine just bound these full-page inserts into the perfect-bound magazines, albeit between signatures.

Custom Printing Considerations

Tip-ons and inserts can be a powerful tool because they involve the reader. Even a single-page advertisement on a stock that differs from the main paper in a magazine will affect the reader’s subconscious. After all, her or his fingers can tell the difference even before the intellect registers this change. That said, this can be an expensive addition to your magazine, print book, or marketing piece.

To keep costs down, here are some suggestions:

  1. If you add a tip-on within a printed press signature, the addition has to be done manually. (The printer has to pay workers to add the tip-ons one at a time by hand.) Hand-work takes time, slows down production, and costs money. However, in some cases you can include an addition (like a separate sheet of paper on a different printing stock) by placing it in a different unit of the binder (just as a separate press signature occupies a separate pocket in the bindery equipment). As the binding process progresses, the press signature–or the additional, separate sheet of paper–is fed into the stack of signatures that eventually comprise the print book’s text block.
  2. If you need to position an additional insert, or tip-on, or hanger, in a particular place and it doesn’t fall conveniently between press signatures, consider breaking a larger signature into smaller ones. For example, you could break a 32-page press signature into two 16-page signatures and include the insert between the two. Keep in mind that if you break a press signature in two like this, you will have two signatures to print, and extra press runs drive up the cost of a job.
  3. Finally, ask your print provider about automated work vs. hand-work. Make a mock-up or prototype of the kind of insert you want to include. For instance, make a little plastic envelope, insert a CD, and hot-melt glue this to the inside back cover of a sample (prototype) book. (You may even want to request a printer’s paper dummy that you can modify to show him what you’re looking for.) If you can stay away from hand-work and instead modify your design to involve more automated production work, you will save money.

End Thoughts

Adding tip-ons and inserts (whether you use fugitive glue–which is like rubber cement–or regular, hot-melt spot glue), or even using hangers to add these little extras to your catalogs, magazines, and promotional pieces, can be very exciting to the reader, and it can especially add value to a graphic novel or gaming product. In fact, one of the tip-ons I found in a booklet I received about five years ago was a small video player. A short video explained a cross between an interactive computer game and a graphic novel. By pairing the sound and visual impact of the video with the printed images on the page, this particular marketing premium set itself apart from other sales tools. Such a promotional piece may be expensive, but it can also be worth the price (i.e., an investment in future product sales).

Regardless, make sure you involve your book printer early with any of these products. Ask about budgets and ways to minimize costs, but also ask for samples of what has been successful in the past. (That is, always use physical samples to communicate your goals.)

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