Choosing a printer
There is a lot of choice. Printers who are overseas, interstate, local, large or small will vary widely in their pricing but it’s not just a matter of choosing the least expensive. Even if the printer will be doing just that – printing – and not also doing any design or typesetting for you, make sure they meet all your requirements. Quotes may vary considerably and it won’t just be because some printers are more expensive than others so look carefully at what each quote includes. It’s best to get a few quotes from different printers, and talk to them, before you’re informed enough yourself to be able to decide who will do the best job for your own requirements, including the services they can provide and the quality they can offer at their quoted price. For example, some printers will automatically include delivery within a reasonable distance, and a printer’s proof copy, in their price but others won’t.
When you’re ready to start asking for quotations, try to be as informed as possible about the things that will cause the price to vary. Ask for quotes for different print runs, according to your needs and budget. Give as much detail as possible: what stock (paper) you want to use for pages and for the cover (stiff cover or flexible), method of binding, the approximate number of pages and dimensions.
Some will be able to do the whole job for you, including design and typesetting, with an additional cost. Find out in what form they need to receive the copy from you.
We did the main design ourselves then supplied our printer with the complete layout in PDF format rather than a commercial publishing software package which would be more usual. Our graphic designer who did the cover art liaised directly with the printer on the technical details we would not have understood. The printer we chose was within driving distance and that turned out to be very beneficial. It meant we could meet with the person doing the pre-print and he could show us samples of their work, different paper types, colours and qualities. Our printer helped a lot with final decisions about the way the book came together. For example, he looked at the logistics of page numbers and paper printing/cutting and saw that we’d end up with some odd pages that might not be as securely bound as others. He asked if we could lose three pages which we did. If you look at the endnotes, you’ll see how we achieved it. The font is rather small!
If your own computer is not colour-balanced, you can’t be sure the colour you see on your screen will be the same as the printed colour and this will be an important detail to check for the cover art and other colour images. The printer will tell you the format they require to receive colour images from you.
Having a printer we could meet with was helpful in several ways. In a book about botany, the colour of flower images was very important. After investing in the cost of the cover art, I wanted it to be exactly right in the final product, not too pale and not too strong. I was able to sit with the printer and look at a colour-balanced screen as well as hard copies to check the actual colours as they would be on the printed pages.
The type of paper you choose for the pages and the cover has a big impact so think about how it will match the look you’re going for. Choosing either stock paper or something your printer does not usually use will affect price. These are difficult and confusing decisions if paper options are new to you so find a few book examples you like and find out from your printer what the paper is.
Tip: rougher, natural looking paper is not necessarily the most environmentally friendly, depending on the way it has been produced.
Another possibly confusing area is the book binding because there are different ways to hold the book together. Your own choices will probably involve different ways of gluing the pages to the spine because stitched bindings are much more costly. Your printer will explain the different types of binding they can offer and the prices. Roughly speaking, the higher the cost, the stronger the binding.
When the printer gives you a final quote make sure the agreement includes a copy of a final proof for you to check before the book goes to press.
The printer’s proof is your last chance to find any errors before all those books you’re paying for are printed off. Even though the pages are loose and the cover is attached with something like a giant bulldog clip, it’s a thrilling moment, holding the book in your hands for the first time. Bear in mind that, if you do want to change something, the printer may have to reset their system and it will add to the cost. I needed to change the spelling of one word but, with the printer’s help, we managed to edit the file without any problems by changing one small section.
If you’re doing all or some of your own distribution, ask for delivery to be included when you receive a printer’s quote or add your own collection costs to the budget calculations.
Our first print run was 1500 books and we collected the first few boxes in the car but when the rest arrived at our local depot, on four pallets, it required several trips with our sturdy ute to get them home.