A Starter Guide for Printing Your First Book

By on May 2nd, 2012 in How to

The world of digital printing and book publishing can seem daunting to those producing their first book.  To help make sense of it all, we compiled six quick tips from our customer service and pre-press departments to help guide you through the complexities of the process.

Tip #1:   Let’s start with the basics: what software program should you make your book in?  Several common programs can be used for your files, including Word (for text), Publisher, Photoshop (for covers), Quark, and Adobe InDesign.  Which software generally doesn’t work?  Designing in Power Point is not a good option for book production as it is not a very flexible program to manipulate and make changes in.

Tip #2:  Now that you’ve completed your files, you’ll need to convert them to PDF (Portable Document Format) files.  PDF files have become the industry-standard for printing books, and virtually all book printers require them today. You can create (or convert to) your own PDF files using popular programs such as Adobe Acrobat Writer.

Make certain that the editing of your book is completed before either the PDF conversion process or the printing and physical proof process are initiated otherwise significant additional charges may be incurred.

Tip #3:  Two separate files are needed—one file for the cover and one for the interior (text pages) of the book.  The page size should be the final trim size of the book, so for example:  a 6 x 9 book will have a  6 x 9 page size.   Proper pagination (page order and layout) is vital to a professional looking book. To ensure the best quality for your book, make sure odd pages fall on the right. Page 1 should be on the first odd numbered after the front matter. Make sure your odd page numbers are on the right, evens on the left, or centered at the bottom of the page.

Tip #4:  Cover artwork is generally where most challenges arise in the book production process and so we’ve included a simplified cover layout:

Cover layout for a softcover book

The cover file should include only the front and back covers of the book with the back cover on left side and the front cover on the right side.   A spine must also be included in the artwork, and it must be wide enough to hold the page count of the book.   The spine width will vary depending on the number of pages in the book and the weight and caliper of the paper selected for the job.  It is calculated using PPI, which stands for “pages per inch.”  Every printer has their own preferred house sheets, so PPI will vary from printer to printer and from paper to paper.

There’s a simple formula which determines that width:  Simply take the number of pages in your book and divide that figure by your text paper’s PPI (pages per inch). Where do you get the PPI?  It depends on what kind of paper you’re using.  Here’s an example using one our most common sheets: Let’s say your book has 250 pages and you are printing it on a 50# natural uncoated paper which has a PPI of 500. Then the width of your book’s spine will be 250 ÷ 500 = .50 or half an inch.  That’s for a paperback.  For a hard cover book, you have to add the thickness of the boards.   Once you know the PPI of the paper, you can use our templates to plug in your book dimensions.  Both soft-cover and hard-cover templates along with a dust jacket version are available on our website.

Tip #5:  When your design features a mix of photography and text, make sure your images are 300 DPI (dots per inch).  Remember large, high-quality JPEGs will produce the best results for photography. Also be sure you’ve accounted for the ‘bleed’ in your design, filling this area with any background colors or image.   Allow for an additional ¼” around your image to ensure all important parts of your design are kept within the safe area.

Tip #6:  One last step remains before submitting your files:  Pre-flighting.  This important step verifies that all files are complete, fonts are not corrupt, and all image files are in the correct format.   When pre-flighting a document make sure to embed all fonts into the file. This includes even common fonts (Tahoma, Times New Roman, etc.).   In some programs (Microsoft Word 2010 comes to mind) there is a box that is checked by default “Do not Embed Common Fonts” which can sometimes cause problems with printing.

Lastly, be sure to call us if you have any questions and talk with either our pre-press or customer service departments!   A little time spent on the front end will save you hours of time later!

Please visit pubgraphics.com for more information.