Working with a Printer can Suck

Yes, I work with a printing/publishing company and have for 7 or so years.  I think of all my blogs, this one I can really give my two cents on and feel more like the ‘expert’.  However, I can still empathize for my authors because printers can be tough and very hard to understand.  I get it ….and hopefully you will too once you read my blog.

The very first thing(s) you need to decide are the following:

  1. Budget – how much money do you have to spend and have you really thought about all the expenses (setup, editing, proofing, printing, shipping, marketing materials….)?
  2. Commitment – is this something that you want as a side gig to show a few friends or do you plan to hit it pretty hard with signings, speaking engagements, marketing, etc?
  3. Expertise – how much do you really know about marketing your book?
  4. Motivation – have you had your towels in the washer for 4 days now?

There are different types of printers as well and they all serve different purposes:

  1. POD – This stands for print on demand.  Digital printing equipment is used.  Digital printers are just fancy copiers with way more bells and whistles.   It is awesome that people can print just one book at a time these days – who would of thought.  POD printers are normally all online.  You do not usually get to speak to a live person.  They can often be higher in price and there can be limitations on what you can do.  You will get super frustrated with POD if you are unfamiliar with getting files ready to print and if you are not too computer savvy.  POD is great if you are the type of person who gets things done at 3am and you know what you are doing.
  2. Short Run Digital Printing – POD also uses digital printing equipment but there are companies that specialize in more of the ‘short run’ digital printing.  These are the mid-level market guys and are perfect for first time authors.   Short Run Digital Printers require a minimum order of books like 25 or 50 and will print up to 500 efficiently.  They can usually give you a better price per book since you are ordering more than 1 at a time.  You will have a more personal connection to the company.  They will review the files and come back to you when there are issues and some setup is required.
  3. Offset/Traditional Publishing – this type of printing is only efficient for runs of 1000+ typically.  This is the old timey method where plates are made and the plates ‘stamp’ the paper.  Offset printers use ink.  Digital printers use toner.  Most people don’t care about this but some do.  The presses take time to setup which is why it does not make sense to do a short run.   You will still get a personal connection with the company.  You will receive a much lower cost per book.   They will also review your files and come back with any issues, etc.  This is what authors will graduate too once they are successful in marketing their book.  Just be sure and have space for storage.  A good space that is BIG and not damp or humid – 1000 books can be like 30-40 boxes.  That’s a lot of boxes.

So once you have decided on the above you want to start connecting with that type of printer for estimates.  Printing companies can be intimidating because we have our own language.  We start to throw terms out to you like perfect binding, duplex, trim size, bleed and you start to feel dizzy and want to hang up.  Personally, I can tell instantly if an author is new to the process by the first things they ask or say.  That helps me to steer the conversation in the right direction.  It will be important to connect to the sales person or printer so you fully understand what you are buying and they fully understand your expectations.  This can be difficult.  I would suggest the following:

  1. Review or google print terms you do not understand.  I have put together a list here: Printionary.
  2. Send or give the printer a physical sample of what you want.  This could be on paper type, a design, layout or binding style.
  3. Talk to more than one printer.
  4. Talk to other authors on their experiences.

When I gather information from an author to get an accurate quote, these are the specs I would ask for:

  1. Title of Book:
  2. Quantity to print:
  3. Trim size (height and width of finished book):
  4. Number of pages:
  5. Is the interior b/w or color:
  6. Any paper preference or standard:
  7. Binding style (click here for sample images)
  8. Will you require an ISBN or barcode:
  9. Do you need layout or formatting:

From this information, I can get the most accurate proposal together.  When you go to several printers for estimates, be sure and have the same specs quoted so you can compare apples to apples.  Granted, I do not believe that the lowest price is the best option.   When you buy cheap – you usually get cheap. There are many other things to consider like customer service, turnaround time, additional services available, location etc.

90% of files are sent incorrectly!  Ask the printer how they need files setup to print and what their process is.  Every printer should give you some guidelines on this.  I have attached a sample here: MIRA Preparing Files.   Authors often get annoyed when printers come back with issues and need to have them fixed or charge a small fee.  Unfortunately someone has to do the work and if they are on payroll – we have to charge the customer.   It can get rather expensive to make a lot of changes and send new files throughout the proofing stages.  All files have to be setup a certain way so to avoid extra charges – make sure you are at a stopping point.  The good thing about digital is you can print a small amount, find mistakes and correct them, and then print another small amount.

I hope that you have learned a bit about the ‘Other Side’.  Printers are not so bad I guess.  Check out my previous blogs on prelaunch marketing, cover/manuscript setup and social media.  If you are not following, just click the follow button on the right hand side to be emailed when new blogs are posted.

As always, I appreciate any comments, suggestions or feedback. If you have a blog topic you want me to cover – send it over.

…and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7 Comments

Filed under Book Printing, Self Publishing Author

7 responses to “Working with a Printer can Suck

  1. Jeff Fister

    Great info, Jill! One thing I’d add (and always forget) is whether or not images/graphics will “bleed” off the page. It’s kind of picky, but I’ve been caught by this when I submit files.

  2. Towels in the washer–OMG! Now I wonder if those towels got left behind because the writer was too motivated. It’s probably a focus-related thing. ADHD for laundry but okay for writing/publishing dedication.

  3. Having tried a POD printer to ‘proof’ just a few copies of my book, I can add that even if your book layout and files are done right, and if you are computer literate, the print quality can be all over the map with a POD machine. In my case, the machine was “having troubles” and my 2 day job turned into 3 weeks. When I got them, the spine was not straight, and the cover colors were not consistent from one book to the next. The University Bookstore that did the work couldn’t handle 10 copies, they had multiple students working the shop, and only one guy who knew what was going on, who was never available when I called. Bad service from start to finish.

  4. I wanna thank you for posting this awesome information. Keep up this good work. I’ll subscribe to your weblog also. Thnx!

  5. Matthew Winters

    Thanks Jill. I am sure that will help most writers who do not have the experience as some.

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