Printers play a relatively small and often quiet role in the self-publishing process. For many authors (and even some small publishers), their first encounter with a printer has a huge learning curve.
The printing industry is still in a state of flux. Book manufacturers are still evolving from a time when their customers were primarily large publishers who were well-educated about manufacturing processes and routinely purchasing runs of books numbering in the thousands.
Book manufacturing has traditionally been a Business to Business (B2B) enterprise. Buyers within a publishing organization who are knowledgeable about the printing process are typically the people printers are used to dealing with.
Publishing customers are still a bulk of the business that many book manufacturers serve however as technology makes it easier to put content into finished form, more content creators are skipping the traditional publishing routes and heading straight for the consumer.
Unfortunately that leaves both writers and printers in the awkward position of dealing with communication barriers for both parties. As far as the print aspect goes, the following tips should help guide you in self-publishing a book.
A guiding light for those in a relationship with a book manufacturing company is a competent customer support staff.
These are often some of the first individuals to have contact with authors and to learn of the barriers that exist.
For example printing industry terms that have been understood by players in the publishing field for decades are like a foreign language to many first time self-publishers and content creators.
Phrases, acronyms and terms like CS-1 (Coated one side or paper that is coated on one side), signature (a grouping of pages), two and four color printing (books that contain two colors on their pages and ones that contain four) as well as trim size, pagination, bleed allowance, ISBN’s, proofs, and a number of other obscure words are often confusing.
For first or even second and third time self-publishers, having a knowledgeable customer support representative is essential to making the book printing process smooth and seamless.
Getting advice from people you know who have self-published a book before is always a plus but don’t think you can do exactly the same things they did.
Each manufacturing job is different. The type of paper, the trim size they used, the amount of copies they ordered; all of their decisions were made based on their specific goals (or at least they should have been).
Making the same choices just because they worked for someone else is not a good idea. Think about what your own goals are for your books then convey that information to your printer. How do you want it to look? Who will be reading it? What will its purpose be?
Don’t Focus on Unit Price
The unit price is the individual price for each book that you order (or the total divided by the number of books). Just like with anything else on the market, usually the more that you buy, the cheaper the individual price of each item is.
The same is true in book manufacturing. Focusing too much on unit cost can actually be more expensive in the long run.
You shouldn’t order slightly more books just to drive down the price because you could end up paying for it down the road when those books don’t sell. You should only order what you think people will buy.
Common methods for making books include offset printing (typically used for higher quantities), digital printing (typically used for smaller print quantities) and inkjet (also used for smaller quantities).
You will hear other terms like POD (Print on Demand) and short-run printing which are terms that refer to a book that’s printed only after its sold and print quantities of less than 500 copies respectively.
As long as the printer that you go with has good overall quality in both digital and offset printing, you shouldn’t worry too much about how the books get made. Digital print quality used to be inferior however in recent years it has advanced greatly.
Self-publishing a book can be an overwhelming process but there is lots of good information online. Be sure to get data from many different sources and try not to trust severely outdated information.
Print technology and the publishing industry are in a state of flux and are changing very rapidly.
You should also look for a print vendor that has a good track record of quality as opposed to one that has the cheapest price. After all, a book is a reflection of you and your work. With that being true, it should be the very best that it can be.
How was your experience in dealing with a printer when self-publishing a book? Was it positive? Negative? Join in the conversation by commenting below.