Printing Companies
  1. About Printing Industry
  2. Printing Services
  3. Print Buyers
  4. Printing Resources
  5. Classified Ads
  6. Printing Glossary
  7. Printing Newsletters
  8. Contact Print Industry
Who We Are

Printing Industry Exchange ( 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.

Need a Printing Quote from multiple printers? click here.

Are you a Printing Company interested in joining our service? click here.

The Printing Industry Exchange (PIE) staff are experienced individuals within the printing industry that are dedicated to helping and maintaining a high standard of ethics in this business. We are a privately owned company with principals in the business having a combined total of 103 years experience in the printing industry.

PIE's staff is here to help the print buyer find competitive pricing and the right printer to do their job, and also to help the printing companies increase their revenues by providing numerous leads they can quote on and potentially get new business.

This is a free service to the print buyer. All you do is find the appropriate bid request form, fill it out, and it is emailed out to the printing companies who do that type of printing work. The printers best qualified to do your job, will email you pricing and if you decide to print your job through one of these print vendors, you contact them directly.

We have kept the PIE system simple -- we get a monthly fee from the commercial printers who belong to our service. Once the bid request is submitted, all interactions are between the print buyers and the printers.

We are here to help, you can contact us by email at

Book Printing: Determining Signature Configurations

Within the last twenty-four hours two print brokering clients of mine made erroneous assumptions about press signatures within print books, and I made one as well. I’d like to share all of these with you so you will be better aware of how to determine press signature configurations.

Adding an Eight-Page Photo Signature to a Book

The first client emailed me to discuss the position of an eight-page photo signature in a 512-page, 5.5” x 8.5” print book. She asked whether it had to go dead center in the book, or whether it could be positioned anywhere else.

First of all, it was a reasonable question. The 512-page book length broke down into sixteen 32-page signatures. Therefore, since the photo signature (being printed on a matte coated sheet) had to be separate from the other book pages (all of which were to be on uncoated text), it would need to be inserted between signatures.

The printer made it clear that the book ideally would be composed of 32-page signatures. So the photo insert signature could go between any of these (32 + insert +32 + 32, etc., or anywhere else between signatures). Actually, if my client wanted to do so, she could put the photo signature between 16-page signatures as well. That is, she could break one of the 32-page signatures into two 16-page signatures. This would not be as efficient (that is, it would be more expensive), but it would be an option.

Where my client made her mistake was to assume that the 8-page photo signature was to be counted in the total length of the print book. It was not.

Here’s how to specify the book parameters: 512 uncoated text pages plus an 8-page coated insert plus the 4-page cover.

To make things more complicated, my client’s book begins with approximately thirty Roman numeral pages. This does not change the book length. My client will begin the front matter with “i” and end with “xxx.” Then she will start the text itself with “1” and paginate the book through “482” because all of these are text pages on the same uncoated stock, equaling 512 pages.

Reconfiguring a Print Book to Add Gatefolds, Inserts, and a Cover

Another print brokering client is producing a graphic novel, a truly fascinating project. The book started as a 160-page plus cover product. It had three gatefolds and two other inserts as well. Over time the book expanded a bit. Recently, the total page count based on a series of thumbnail images had risen to 208 pages.

I looked closely at the thumbnails and accompanying notes since I planned to request a revised estimate from the book printer. The first thing I noticed was that the page count was divisible by 16. Since this book was slated for printing on a heatset web press, I was pleased with the page count (divisible by 16, or thirteen 16-page signatures, or six 32-page signatures plus one 16-page signature).

However, upon closer examination, I saw notes accompanying the thumbnail images suggesting the cover had been incorporated into the total page count. Since the text paper was only 50# gloss text, I was concerned. After all, a self-cover book with 50# text paper throughout would feel like a directory, not a print book. The book really needed a cover. (This cover had initially been specified on 80# cover stock.) So I brought this discrepancy to my client’s attention.

(Once my client adjusts the pagination to add a four-page cover, the book will be 208 pages plus cover–as opposed to 208 pages self-cover.)

However, upon further review, I saw that the two gatefolds (six pages each) had been counted into the 208-page print book length. Since the gatefolds were to be printed on 70# text (so they would stand out from the other text pages), they needed to be considered inserts, not book pages.

Therefore, the most accurate description of the graphic novel will be as a book with a 196-page text block, plus two 6-page gatefolds, plus a four-page cover.

To complicate matters, my client needs to know where to put the two gatefolds and two other inserts (a postcard and a record). To determine this, she will need to know the number of pages in the book printer’s press signatures.

To determine this, I called the printer and made an erroneous assumption. Assuming the 8.5” x 10.875” format would only allow for placement of sixteen pages on a 38” full-heatset web roll, I went on to assume the printer could not produce 32-page signatures. I was wrong.

This book printer’s equipment, according to the sales rep, could run two web rolls parallel to one another in the press (one above the other). These would then be married at the delivery end of the press. So even though only sixteen pages would fit in a signature (eight pages per side), two signatures would be printed simultaneously.

Now this poses a problem for my client. Presumably there will be six 32-page signatures plus a 4-page signature (done expensively with hand-work). Therefore, my client will be able to position the inserts (the two 6-page gatefolds plus the post card and vinyl record) anywhere between the 32-page signatures or between a 32-page signature and the 4-page signature. (She might also break a 32-page signature into two 16-page signatures and insert one of the bind-ins between the 16-pagers.)

The big question is where the 4-page signature will go. My best advice to my client is for her to make a dummy of the print book on the computer (thumbnail images) with all inserts placed as she intends them to be, and then ask the book printer for feedback (and/or corrections).

2 Responses to “Book Printing: Determining Signature Configurations”

  1. Charles Rizzo says:

    After reading this week’s article concerning page counts and inserts I would like to recount an experience I had with a digest book a few years ago.
    The client wanted to add tabs throughout the book after we had received files for the project.The cost of printing and binding the tabs had not been calculated into the original pricing since it was not in the original specifications.
    A tab is the same as an insert so the same considerations that were discussed in the article hold true here.
    The book was of sufficient content to warrant perfect binding. Additionally there were approximately 1,000 extra books ( out of a total run of 12,500) that were to be spiral bound.
    Stock was 70# C2S with a 4 page cover of 12 pt. C2S.
    The entire book was 4 color process.
    I explained to the client that it would be most cost effective if we could place the tabs between 32 or 16 page signatures; per your discussion in the article. However due to content it was impossible to do this. When we printed the book it was necessary in some cases to run some signatures that were 4 pages and in one case a 2 page signature.
    While this is not a problem production wise for any sheet fed factory it created a scenario that increased the print cost by almost double.
    It also created a complex situation for the perfect binding as it increased the amount of stations to be used on the binder. In fact it was necessary to double bind the book so binding costs increased dramatically as well.
    While I explained all this to the client due to the time frame for delivery of the book it was sort of a fly as you go situation with pricing.
    The final product was of the highest quality on all fronts but the costs were extravagant.
    The lesson is that these things must be presented to the client as soon as is possible when they approach you with these specifications. However in the end it is the client’s decision as to what the finished product will look like.

    • admin says:

      First of all, thank you for sending in this comment and case study. I completely understand the situation you describe, and I know that it is easy for the costs to skyrocket in a case like this. Many print buyers will take some time to fully grasp how important the planning of a book can be to avoid excessive costs. This is why I try to educate my clients (as you appear to do as well), and then give them options. But clearly it is, as you note, their final decision. Please keep reading the blog and submitting comments if you feel inclined to do so. I think readers will benefit from your experience.


Recent Posts


Read and subscribe to our newsletter!

Printing Services include all print categories listed below & more!
4-color Catalogs
Affordable Brochures: Pricing
Affordable Flyers
Book Binding Types and Printing Services
Book Print Services
Booklet, Catalog, Window Envelopes
Brochures: Promotional, Marketing
Bumper Stickers
Business Cards
Business Stationery and Envelopes
Catalog Printers
Cheap Brochures
Color, B&W Catalogs
Color Brochure Printers
Color Postcards
Commercial Book Printers
Commercial Catalog Printing
Custom Decals
Custom Labels
Custom Posters Printers
Custom Stickers, Product Labels
Custom T-shirt Prices
Decals, Labels, Stickers: Vinyl, Clear
Digital, On-Demand Books Prices
Digital Poster, Large Format Prints
Discount Brochures, Flyers Vendors
Envelope Printers, Manufacturers
Label, Sticker, Decal Companies
Letterhead, Stationary, Stationery
Magazine Publication Quotes
Monthly Newsletter Pricing
Newsletter, Flyer Printers
Newspaper Printing, Tabloid Printers
Online Book Price Quotes
Paperback Book Printers
Postcard Printers
Post Card Mailing Service
Postcards, Rackcards
Postcard Printers & Mailing Services
Post Card Direct Mail Service
Poster, Large Format Projects
Posters (Maps, Events, Conferences)
Print Custom TShirts
Screen Print Cards, Shirts
Shortrun Book Printers
Tabloid, Newsprint, Newspapers
T-shirts: Custom Printed Shirts
Tshirt Screen Printers
Printing Industry Exchange, LLC, P.O. Box 394, Bluffton, SC 29910
©2019 Printing Industry Exchange, LLC - All rights reserved