book printing tips Based on the daily questions or issues that I get to deal with on a daily basis as a book printer I have distilled the most common into the answers you may seek in order to provide some clarity in dealing with the necessities and choices while producing your finished draft prior to handing off to the book printer of your choice.

These are some of the typical scenarios and the advice I provide to my clients regarding their book publication.

What Are The Optimal Sizes?

Essentially the size for printing books varies a bit press to press based on the size of the rolls they print from, but the basic sizes are 8.5 x 11” for manuals or text books, 6 x 9” standard novel size, 5.5 x 8.5” (5 3/8 x 8 3/8” on web press) digest size and 7 x 10” also text book size. There are two issues that authors should be concerned with: 1- what if any are the requisites of the seller, distributor or publisher? And 2- which size can save me more money? The first is only answerable by your distributer should it even be an issue and the second is answerable by your wallet. In book printing yield is a key word in that the amount of pages you can garner from a roll or press sheet determines the cost of your publication. For example on many presses, especially digital POD ones, 5.25 x 8.25” will allow you to print two books on a sheet so that the final cost is almost half of that of a 6 x 9”. 7 x 10” on a web press in most cases unless custom roll sizes are available, which is a problem in today’s paper industry, the size difference between that and an 8.5 x 11” (or 8 3/8 x 10 7/8” on a web press) is mainly attributable to waste and does not offer much if any cost savings.

Why Do I Need Blank Pages At Rear?

Blank pages are inserted at the rear of all book printing runs as it is more cost effective to round out the signatures to be printed than removing pages at bindery. Most print companies will print on the basis of a minimum 8 page signature if web run and you will find that it is more cost effective on a per page basis to print in rounded 16 or 32 page signatures. Thus in order to keep costs down, you may want to edit prior to the time when you print a book and round down your final page count into a complete signature.  Those few extra pages may be costly.

What If I Only Have An Office Word File?

If you are working in Microsoft Word, Publisher or similar you will be required to convert your files to a PDF for your print company as book printing companies will generally not accept them. Also note that there is a variance from company to company in which type of PDF file they will accept, so be sure to find that out before turning in files.  Before you get to your final PDF you will need to work within the confines of Word to make sure that it is error free. One problem with Word is re-flowing of copy so check your PDF against the Word version carefully.  Another is the text and image boxes. If you must use them understand that the area you do not see is larger than the area you do see when creating with them and they can potentially overlap page copy, causing some to cut off or disappear. Also should you want to change the size of your book in order to take advantage of better pricing due to book printing sizes, and then you would best be served doing that in Word, as if done at press you would lose control of font sizes and if made smaller your text may become unreadable. The first thing is to simply go to the layout tab and reset the page size and then to the margin tab and reset the margins.  Once done your text will reflow and you will then need to tweak that based on your page layout requirements.

What Are The Appropriate Copy Margins?

There are two reasons for appropriate margins: Firstly if type is too close to the edge it just plain looks bad. Secondly you risk cutting into the copy during trimming if the copy is too close to the edge. A rule of thumb for POD is a quarter inch all around and if web press three eighths of an inch all around (top, bottom, left, right).

I Am Producing My Own Cover

The most important thing you need to know about producing covers, especially if in full color is Word generally allows for only low resolution images which will look fuzzy when printed as well as outputting to RGB (Red, Green, Blue) as your computer or home printer does while book printing relies on CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) and as these are two different systems RGB files will shift when defaulted to CMYK in the print RIP for plating. You may or may not be happy with any color changes and the only way to avoid that is not to use Word. In fact do not use any software other than standard book printing software that the print company will also possess as you will risk providing files that are impossible to output and print books with as well as any ability to have your print company “tweak” your files for any minor problems.

What Software Can I Use To Produce A Book Cover?

The acceptable software applications to print a book with are Adobe In Design, Adobe Illustrator, Quark Express and if you must Corel Draw. The problem with Corel is that it is in such limited demand your print company may not have it. Also verify in front which version your print company has as you may need to “dummy down” or “down save” your file. For example if you are working with In Design CS6 and your book printer only has CS5, these being quite expensive suites, just save your file to CS5 to present to the press. Also it is not a good idea to do your cover in Photoshop exclusively as that is not what it is built for. Create all of your images in Photoshop and then import as a single layer to In Design or Illustrator and add the type over it. If your Photoshop file is real big and thus potentially larger than necessary, save it as a vector file to reduce its size.  Also remember the computer acronym, K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) as odds are you may not be dead accurate in your design and you want the cover to “cover” the size of the book as intended and the spine to be where it belongs etc. You are best served by a uniform background color on the front, back and spine which allows for easier adjustment of the cover to the text if you are off.

Do You Want To Know My Word Count For A Quote?

The book printer does not need nor want to know your word count as it is not relevant to a quote or to the production of your product. Always provide the book printing company with an accurate page count inclusive of each side of the page as you turn it.

Print On Demand vs. Ink Press

Here is it is all about money and speed. If you need books yesterday utilize a POD book printing company as digital print will give you the speed necessary. However if it is cost that is important to you, then should your cash flow allow for it an offset web press at 1,000 to 2,000 books depending on size and or page count will be better priced.

Where Do I Find ISBN, Barcode and QR Codes?

Glad you asked! Our website has a help page with book printing information and links to directly click on so you can acquire these. Please visit us there at:

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Amy Freeman