Web Growth: A Book Manufacturing Phenomenon

Web growth is a phenomenon that happens during the manufacturing process for books.  We get many inquiries about it from customers who receive books thinking a mistake has been made.  While we do our absolute best to prevent this from occurring, it can still happen.

Video Transcript

A common issue with heat set printing methods is the discrepancy in width between the pages and covers of books due to fluctuations in moisture — a phenomenon known as web growth.  Web growth can occur on any press that uses heat to set ink including some digital printing presses, not just traditional offset presses.  When paper loses moisture and gains it back later, it can appear like the cover of a book was trimmed too short.  Web growth can be visible hours after a book is trimmed to its final size however the full extent of expansion is not realized until days or even weeks have passed.  Web growth is more apparent in soft cover books and some paper stocks are more susceptible to it.

So why does this happen? All paper is hygroscopic, which refers to paper’s tendency to gain or lose moisture based on the surrounding environment.  After ink has been pressed onto paper with a heat-set press, it passes through a dryer at one end of the machine.  Paper can reach between 200 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of seconds causing it to lose moisture.  Paper maintains heat of about 250 degrees upon exiting the press. 

After paper has been printed on a heat set press, it is cut, folded and bundled into logs.  Signatures remain compressed until the moment they are fed into a binder leaving them little time to regain the moisture they have lost.  In contrast, covers or inserts that are printed on a sheet fed press have not been exposed to heat and have not lost moisture.  When covers and pages are combined in the binding process, both are trimmed to the same size.  Pages printed on a heat set press can now potentially gain moisture growing wider than the covers in soft cover books.  Some paper stocks are more susceptible to web growth than others.  For example ground-wood stocks tend to fluctuate in size more than hard white paper stocks. 

While web growth can be minimized to a certain extent, a cost-effective solution to eliminate its occurrence has not yet been developed.  Edwards Brothers Malloy utilizes silicon application systems on many of its heat set presses that help restore some moisture to paper after it has been printed.  Dryer temperatures on heat set presses are optimized to avoid an excess loss of moisture.  Although these measures help prevent web growth it, is a phenomenon that is difficult to control. If you have more questions about web growth and why it occurs, please contact your customer service or sales representative.  

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Selling Your Book by Giving it Away for Free

Email at symbolThere are a variety of ways to sell your books online and an effective approach is through the use of email marketing and free sampling.  Building an opt-in list of people interested in your work enables you to deliver customized messaging right to your audience.  A sure-fire way to get people interested in your book and to build an email list is by offering a portion of your work for free download in exchange for a name and email.

Deciding on Your Content

Obviously you don’t want to give away your whole body of work for free.  Select a portion of your work based on what it is for free download.  For instance you could include the first five chapters of your book.  If you have compiled a collection of short stories you could offer a handful of them for free.  Whatever you choose make sure it’s enough to build interest so subscribers are more likely to buy the book after the download.

PDF logoFormat

You’ll have to put your selected content in PDF form in order to make it available for download.  Usually exporting to PDF from whatever word processing program you’re using will work fine.  If you choose some other file format, make sure it is one that a broad section of users are able to view on their computers, tablets, and mobile devices.

Making Your Landing Page

This part will only work if you have a website to make a landing page for your list-building activities.  You can also use a free service like WordPress.com to make a simple blog/website.  You don’t have to possess any programming knowledge to pull this part off.

Landing PageA great tool to use is Leadpages.net which is a landing page generation tool.  A basic plan is $37/month and it’s worth every penny.  You can design highly effective landing pages that are already built to maximize conversions for whatever your offer is (in this case free content from your book).

With the basic plan, pages are hosted with LeadPages and they integrate with existing self-hosted WordPress sites (with the addition of a free plugin) or free WordPress.com sites.  All styling, building of buttons, forms, writing of content and everything else is completely programming-free.

You can choose from among dozens of different templates which can be further customized to your liking.  If you upgrade to the $67/month plan, you can export an HTML version of your page for use wherever you want.

Building Your Email List

You can create a simple form from within Leadpages to capture name and email information.  You can also set it up to capture more information if you want.  Choose to have information populate within the Leadpages interface or you can integrate with one of many different auto-responder services such as Aweber or MailChimp.

EmailSending an Auto-Response Email

You’ll want to make sure you send at least one email to the people who give their name and email for your content download.  You can do this with one of the services mentioned above.  Include a link to the location where your PDF download is so that your readers can access it.

Now you have an email from someone who has shown interest in your book.  Remember to provide information about where they can purchase a print or full eBook version of your title.

Promoting Your Campaign

You’ll obviously need to promote your free download so you can start building a list with it.  If you have some money to put toward promotion that’s great but most self-publishers are working on a very thin budget.

Social media is a self-publisher’s best friend.  Promote your free download like crazy on your social networks and encourage others to share.  If you have a blog create call to action links at the end of blog posts or in the sidebar leading to the ebook download page.  If you participate in forums online promote your free download there as well.  Be creative and don’t miss an opportunity to tell people about it.  For example you can place a link in the signature of your email.

What strategies do you use to market your book?  Join in the conversation by commenting below.  
What strategies do you use to market your book?  Join in the conversation by commenting below.  

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4 Software Programs to Help You Write

Image of Novel Writing SoftwareMany self-publishers go to the first (and probably only) tool they’ve ever known to start writing their book—Microsoft Word.

While Microsoft’s word processor is a very flexible and useful tool, it really wasn’t built for writing novels and other types of books.  Check out these 4 programs that will make your writing experience that much easier.

Smart Edit

Smart EditIt should be noted that no software program is a substitute for a good editor.  You should still have your work looked at by a copy or other kind of editor.  You can make their job easier though by handing them a more polished manuscript.

Smart Edit  is a first-pass editing tool for novelists and creative writers.  The software scans your work and alerts you to areas where there could be issues.  For example it is common for authors to have misused words in their work.  There could also be repeated phrases and other mistakes missed during the writing process.

Smart Edit also examines sentence structure.  It flags potential incorrect punctuation and inconsistent use of quotations.


This is free novel writing software designed specifically for writing books.  It was put together by Simon Hayes and already has a pretty significant following in the author community.

As mentioned before it’s completely free for download however it’s only available on PC.  It allows writers to drag, drop and position scenes in their book anywhere in the pagination order.  You can search text, keep track of word count and even set writing goals for yourself from within the program.

It has a built in thesaurus and dictionary and allows you to export to html or RTF formats.  If you’re planning on writing an ebook, yWriter integrates well with Calibre (a freeware open source eBook reader and compiler).


Self-publishers inevitably have to wade through the sea of information related to EPUB standards.  Writing a book and then converting it to be compatible is tough and Sigil makes that process easier.

Sigil is an open source and free multi-platform EPUB editor.  It won’t help you write your novel or show you how to build out your characters but it will help you comply with recent EPUB standards for eBooks.

Features include:

  • Ability to edit EPUB syntax in code view (or not)
  • Meta data editor with full support for possible meta data entries
  • Regular expression support with find and replace
  • Validation of documents for EPUB compliance
  • Table of contents generator

This is a pretty advanced tool so you should seek out some help if you have limited experience with EPUB standards.  It’s something you should start learning about as a self-publisher but things can get pretty technical fast.

The Sage English Dictionary and Thesaurus

Even the most basic tools are still very important for writing.  Word and other programs have good dictionaries and thesauruses but it never hurts to check out other programs.

Aside from a complete thesaurus and dictionary, The Sage features 70K+ phonetic transcriptions, a large collection of example sentences, anagram search, clickable cross-referenced words, and support for semantics among other features.  Think of this tool at Microsoft Word’s spell check on steroids.

What software programs do you use to help you write?  Join in the conversation by commenting below.  

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Finding and Working With A Professional Editor

The definition of copy editorOf all the things that make or break a title, the editing is arguably one of the most influential.  Editors can help you dive deeper in the characters in your manuscript, tell you if your plot is plausible and help you decide if that sketchy character needs to be deleted.  If you want your book to have any chance of success on the market, you should seriously think of investing in a good editor.

Who You Shouldn’t Choose As Your Editor

Self-publishing is a hard road.  Authors are using whatever is available to them and for the most part they’re doing a lot of things on their own.  It’s tempting to ask anyone with even a pinch of experience (or none at all) with editing to look at your manuscript.  The people you should avoid editing your title include:

  • Your family (unless they are editors)
  • Your friends (unless they are editors)
  • Yourself (even if you are an editor)
  • Someone you found in a craigslist ad
  • An automated machine

The idea is good editing is an art and it’s rare for just anyone to be good at it.  Invest the time and money in someone who is actually good at editing and you will thank yourself for it.  A good editor can make the foundation your title needs to succeed in the real world.

Types of Editors

It’s worth pointing out that there are different kinds of editors.  Make sure you pick the right kind for your particular stage in the process.

Developmental Editors

This is a person who can carry you through the entire process.  They sit with you from the beginning and help you develop your story, your characters, your plot and all the different elements of your book.  You don’t even need to have anything written for them to start helping you.

Find a developmental editor that you can work well with.  This is the person that will carry you through the tough and frustrating times when you want to give up.  They should be able to help you keep the ball rolling.

Copy Editors

This is more of a technical role.  They will check your manuscript for grammar, spelling, structure and other kinds of errors and issues.  A copy editor will also make sure you don’t look like a fool by missing errors of fact in your writing.

Even the best writers make mistakes and the more time you spend with your manuscript, the greater the chance you’ll miss mistakes.  Copy editors are sort of like the guardian angels of the publishing business.


These are even less involved in the overall process than a copy editor.  Generally this may be the last professional to look at your work once all design pieces are in place.  They serve as the final check that all suggestions by the copy editor are in place and that everything looks good.

For self-publishing authors who may have limited resources, finding a good copy editor is enough to make sure a title is ready for consumers.  But where do you find these professionals if you don’t know someone already.

Finding an Editor

Before you go looking online for someone, try and tap your sphere of influence.  Get referrals from other writers you know.  Ask industry professionals whom you’ve worked with if they have some suggestions.

If those channels don’t work for you, there are a variety of resources online that you can try.

You’ll find methods for contacting these organizations on their sites.  Check out more than one resource when getting advice on your title.  There are also some tips to keep in mind when talking details.

  • Be clear about your goals:  Every book is different.  Every author is different.  There isn’t one process that works for everyone.  Make sure the editor has experience with your genre.
  • Make sure you understand the fee structure:  Some editors charge by the project while others by the page and still others by the hour.  It helps to understand their scope of work so you aren’t asking for things that they really shouldn’t be doing.
  • Be an active participant:  When you find an experienced editor, it’s tempting to feel like your opinion isn’t as valuable as theirs.  Just keep in mind that your book is still yours.  You can choose what direction it takes.  Definitely listen to experience but don’t compromise your vision if you think it’s right.

What tips do you have for finding and working with a professional editor?  Join in the conversation by commenting below. 

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