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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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Book Printing: End-Game Process for Book Production

A print brokering client of mine is just finishing up an anthology of poetry and prose, getting it ready for the printer. This small business local literary publisher and I are going through a few last minute checks that I think you might find useful and enlightening if you produce print books of any kind.

The Specifications for the Print Book Job

First of all, my client’s literary anthology is one of many publications that came out this year, so keeping the specifications consistent among my client’s various projects is important. This way all products this publisher sells will have an identifiable look.

Like their other projects, this husband and wife team are now producing a 5.5” x 8.5” perfect bound book with French Flaps (gatefold flaps that fold into the book to make it look like it has a dust jacket). In addition to looking sophisticated, this set of cover flaps provides ample space for promotional photos, descriptions of the book, and reviewers’ quotations.

The text of the book will be printed on 55# Sebago Antque text, which has a substantial, rough feel comparable to a 70# uncoated text sheet. Since it has not been overly compressed by the calender rollers in the papermaking process, it feels like a much thicker paper.

There is also a photo insert. I advised my client to print the images on an 80# Somerset Matte text. Normally, I would have suggested a gloss text (to make the photos “pop”), but some of the photos are of snapshot quality, and the matte sheet will be more forgiving than a gloss sheet.

Preparing the Book Pagination

The 464 page book breaks down into fourteen 32-page signatures and one 16-page signature, plus the 8-page photo signature and the cover. I set up the book pagination this way because the optimal signature length for this printer’s heatset web press is a 32-page signature. However, 16-page signatures can be produced for a little more money, but they are not as pricey as an 8-page signature (which would require handwork). In fact, the 8-page photo signature (considered an insert, since it will be printed on an alternate paper stock) will require handwork, but the text itself will not.

The first task, then, was to place both the 16-page signature and the 8-page insert among the 32-page signatures. My client wanted the 8-page insert to fall close to the center of the print book and to be positioned either between poems or within a short story (so as not to be disruptive or confusing). Therefore, I carefully counted out the pages for the first 32-page signature (Roman numerals I to XXVIII) and the first four Arabic numerals (1-4). Successive 32-page signatures went from page 5 through page 36, 37 through 68, and so forth (in 32-page increments).

When I got about halfway through the book, I added the 16-page signature. The first time, it didn’t work. At the halfway point in the book I wound up in the middle of a poem, just where I had wanted to put the 8-page photo signature. So I swapped the 16-page signature with another 32-page signature and tried again. This was all arbitrary, a random process. I got lucky on the second attempt, and I was able to put the 8-page photo insert signature between folios 212 and 213. That is, I stacked seven 32-page signatures side by side, then added a 16-page signature, then added the 8-page photo signature, and then finished with another seven 32-page signatures. The total book length, including Roman numerals I through XXVIII plus Arabic numerals 1 through 436, comprised the 464-page book plus an 8-page insert plus a 4-page cover.

Then, I checked my math (and the page numbers) and had my client and the printer do the same. I wanted to make sure my client liked the aesthetics of the signature placement, and I wanted to make sure the printer approved of the technical aspects of the pagination.

Providing PDF-Creation and InSite Upload Information

I made sure the book cover designer (who was producing the covers in Photoshop, with 4-color on both the inside and outside covers plus a dull film laminate on the outside covers) and the text designer (who was producing the text in InDesign) both understood the book printer’s file preparation requirements. I also collected the printer’s FTP site information (actually an InSite portal that would allow for on-screen proofing) so both designers could upload press-ready art files.

Final Specs from the Client

Tomorrow is the key deadline, set to support a February 15 ship date. It allows for paper purchase, prepress, and post-press within a period containing two major national holidays. All of this had been worked out months prior.

Last week the main deadline was for my client’s transfer of funds to pay for the print book production. This week the major objectives are:

  1. Uploading all art files (text, cover, and photo insert).
  2. Confirming the press run and page count (this deadline is known as the LDC date, or last-date-to-change project specifications).
  3. Buying the paper (early enough so it will be on the pressroom floor, conditioned and ready to go, when the presses are ready).

Next Steps for the Job

This is what will happen next:

  1. I will get a revised printing and delivery price for my client.
  2. The printer will provide physical proofs (Spectrum for the cover, slightly lesser quality inkjet proofs for the black and white photo insert, and position-only proofs for the text). The book printer will also offer on-screen proofs through the InSite portal, and F&Gs (printed but unbound book pages provided for approval prior to the perfect binding step).
  3. My client will provide precise information for all deliveries.

Then we will make sure everything happens as planned.

What You Can Learn from this Case Study

Make sure you negotiate all of these steps with the printer if you’re producing a print book. Give thought to what kinds of proofing you will need (I believe in proofing early and often to catch all errors). Don’t forget to discuss delivery requirements as well as scheduling. Get everything in writing, and keep in close touch with your book printer, discussing all costs, schedule dates, and job progress periodically throughout the book production process. Leave nothing to chance.

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