Tag Archives: book cover

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.










Filed under Book Printing, Self Publishing Author

Will people judge my book by the cover?

Hell yes they will!   I hate to say it, but we all do it.  Every day we see things and immediately know if it is pleasing or makes us feel good, bad, ugly…whatever.  You don’t want to brush over the cover design and if you have someone helping or doing the cover for you – be sure to communicate as much as possible with them.

I did a lot of thinking first with my cover.  That sounds kind of silly but I just thought about what kind of elements I want on the cover.  Do I want an image? What kind of image?  Random person? Typical sky or book scene?  What colors or fonts do I want?  Hmmm…there is infinite options which is kind of scary.  I looked on my bookshelves and searched through similar books on Amazon and just did some good old fashioned brainstorming. I often refer people to www.istockphoto.com and have them put some key words relating to their book in the search box.  You can get some great ideas doing that too.

I have a background in design so I did the layout myself.  I graduated from Art School in 2002 so this was right before more fancy programs came out like Adobe InDesign.  I just used Illustrator – probably about 4 versions old – but it got the job done.  If at all possible, DO NOT use Word to layout the cover and definitely do not use clip art.  If you learn anything from my blog, let that be it!

First things first – what is the right trim size (height and width of finished book)?  Well, most books are perfect bound so they will require a spine.  The spine is that little piece connecting the front and back.  This is what people will see when the book is sitting on a shelf.  The spine size is figured with number of pages and type of paper.  Click here for a spine width calc: http://dev.mirasmart.com/spinecalc/.  You also want to add bleed to the cover as well when doing the layout.  Most printers will require 1/8″ of bleed.  What is bleed you say?  It is extending the cover outside of the trim mark so the images or color goes to the edge of the page.  My book size if 5.5 x 8.5 so my cover layout will be:

.125 (bleed) + 5.5 (back) + .10 (spine) + 5.5 (front) + .125(bleed) = 11.35″ wide

.125 (bleed) + 8.5 (height) + .125 (bleed) = 8.75″ high

It is a good idea to set guides where the bleed is and where the spine is.  That way you know the exact space you are working within with placing images/text on the front or back cover.  This is pretty confusing for most people – especially if they are unfamiliar with design layout.  So I hope this shed some light.

RESOLUTION!  You know when you are looking at an image and you can see a bunch of dots – that means the resolution of that image sucked.  NEVER pull an image off of the web.  A) you do not own it and can get in big trouble.  Imagine becoming a super famous author and someone coming back to sue you for some little image?  B) the resolution of images on the web are 72 dpi normally.  This is so they can load quickly on your computer.  They are not for printing.   It is ideal to have an image at 300 dpi to scale.  So for instance, if you take a picture with your camera and put it on your computer – you want to keep it at that size or maybe just a little larger.  If you go and blow it up to a poster size, all those pixels or bits of color get stretched out and now the picture isn’t crisp and clear, it is fuzzy and sucky.  I could talk all day about resolution but I think you get the point.

FONTS – stick to what you have on the interior.   Like I said with the manuscript blog – too many fonts, too confusing.  That is all I have to say about that.

Speaking of manuscript blog – be sure and look to your right under ‘recent posts’.   Check out the last couple if you haven’t already.

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

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


Filed under Book Layout