When I first started researching how to print the book, I originally wanted to do print-on-demand such as CreateSpace, Lulu or Blurb as I knew the upfront cost was minimal and I would not need to be concerned with storing massive quantities of books. However, print-on-demand uses digital printing, which has a much higher cost per unit than offset printing. Offset printing is a method of mass-production printing in which the images on metal plates are transferred (offset) to rubber blankets or rollers and then to the paper. In addition to having a lower cost per unit, offset printing also consistently yields higher quality images, which is crucial for books like mine that have full color photography. Finally, many of the better print-on-demand companies didn’t offer hardback binding or work with the type of paper required for color photography.
Once I decided what type of printing I wanted to do, I had to decide where to print. Initially, I was set on having it printed in the United States. I had heard that I could get much better pricing if I printed it in Asia. But I envisioned myself getting lost in translation or, worse yet, my books getting lost at sea! So my initial searched focused solely on printers stateside.
As I obtained quotes from American printers, I was having difficulty getting the numbers to work to make this a financially viable project. While I wasn't looking at this book as something that would make a ton of money, I wanted to make sure that I didn't lose money along the way! So against my will, I decided to look into Asian printers. Even when I incorporated shipping costs into their quotes, the pricing of Asian printers was significantly better, easily 30-40% lower. In addition, when I received samples of their work, I found the quality to be superior to that of American printers. The only drawback of working with an Asian printer was that I would add about 5-6 weeks to the process due to the shipping time. But I had already spent so much time working on this book that 5-6 additional weeks was really nothing!
I got about a dozen quotes and ultimately decided to go with C and C Offset Printing based in Hong Kong. I chose them for a variety of reasons:
- First and foremost, they were the actual printers rather than a print broker. Many Asian printers work with brokers here in the United States adding a middleman (and costs) to the process.
- They actually have offices in New York, which gave me peace of mind knowing that if something went wrong, I had someone here in the United States that could help me sort things out.
- They were the first Asian printer I spoke to and thus they were the ones that I first bombarded with my slew of questions. They really educated me in the process of getting my book printed in Asia and promptly sent me samples of everything I asked for… books, paper, bindings, etc. They were also incredibly patient with me, revising the quote as often as I revised my needs.
- Finally, they are one of the printers the big American publishers frequently use. This in itself spoke volumes about them!
Off the bat, C and C sent me a dummy of what my book would look like… basically it was a blank book with the paper, trim size, binding and cover I had chosen. They also provided me with detailed information as to how the electronic files needed to be formatted so my designer could upload the files properly.
In terms of pricing, there seem to be huge price break once you printed 2,000 copies or more. Initially I had planned on only printing 1000 copies. But the incremental cost of printing 2,000 was marginal and I went with the higher quantity.
Once C and C received the files, they reviewed them to ensure the resolution of the images, the bleeds of the pages, and the margins were all correct. If they found anything that needed to be addressed, the designer corrected and resubmitted the file. This process took a few days mainly because the printer, the designer and I were in three different continents and thus we dealt with different time zones. Sometimes that was to our benefit but other times it was not. Once the files were perfect, the pre-production process began.
In the following month and half, I received various different set of proofs:
- About two weeks after determining the electronic files seemed fine, I received two different sets of proofs in the mail. One, the blueline proof, was to verify the layout and content. The other set of proofs, the Epsom proofs, was to verify the colors. In reality, if you have done proper proofing of files prior to submitting to the printer, there should be no changes to the content. However, color is a bit more delicate as I’ve seen color of files change in transmission. Once I approved these proofs, they moved on to the actual printing of the book.
- About three weeks later, all the pages for the 2000 books I was planning on ordering had been printed. Before they proceeded to bind the book, they sent the F & G (Fold and Gathered) proof. Basically, this is a printout of the book that has already been trimmed, folded and put together but not bound. The thought is that if there is a mistake at this stage, it will be way less costly to fix if the book has not yet been bound. Once the F&G’s were approved, they proceeded to bind the book.
- Once the book is bound, they sent me a few advance copies. This served as a final seal of approval before they put the books in pallets and sent them to the port of Hong Kong to be shipped to the US.
For the next six weeks, I twirled my thumbs while I waited for the books to arrive at the Port of Miami… Not really! While I waited for the book to arrive, I prepared for the launch, which I will discuss in more detail in the next post.