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Preparing to Print Your Book: 4 Useful Planning Tips

By: Chuck Manthey, President, Sentinel Printing

Clear communication between customer and printer is critical during all aspects of the book production cycle to ensure it meets your expectations. From estimating and scheduling, to packaging and shipping, we plan out your project before ink is laid on paper. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when exchanging information about your book with your printer.

1. Getting Back to Basics

It sounds simple, but start by communicating the basics of your book project: page count, quantity and final trim size. This information is needed to begin preparing an estimate. If you’d like price breakdowns for multiple quantities, this is a good time to ask for them.

If your project is a rerun, supply a sample of the original version during the estimating process. This allows your printer to create the most accurate estimate possible. During this stage we may be able to suggest stock or slight format changes that can enhance the value of the book.

Good book planning begins with the delivery date. Once your printer knows the date by which you need your books, they can create a production schedule that meets your deadline. This includes blocking time on appropriate presses and other equipment, and checking availability of paper.

2. Building Your Book

Book pages are printed as signatures, or multiple pages laid out on a single sheet of paper. The number of pages that can fit on each side of a sheet is determined based on the final trim size of your book. Since common trim sizes are designed to fit 8, 12, 16, or 32 pages on each sheet, the page count of your book plays an important role in how much paper is used and how efficiently the book will be produced.

The format of your book should also be considered; oblong layouts can be less economical to produce. Be sure to let your printer know if your book will be bound in portrait or landscape format.

Page Counts vs. Sheet Counts
One important note: “Page counts” differ from “sheet counts”. In the printing world, page refers to one side of a sheet. Therefore, a book with 120 pages would require 60 sheets. This can cause confusion between designers and printers, so be sure that your book’s page count refers to the number of pages that will be printed, not the number of sheets.

Paper Stock
The cost of paper is often a large percentage of the total price of a book project. There are also hundreds of types of papers, and they vary based on weight, color, brightness, finish and a host of other factors. Therefore it is important that you consult your printer when selecting papers for both the text pages and cover of your book. Most printers maintain an inventory of “house stocks”, or commonly used paper selections that are bought in volume, and therefore often can be offered at a discount.

Planning Tip
Paper availability fluctuates, so give your printer plenty of time to order the exact paper you require. If you choose to purchase your own paper, supply your printer with all of its specifications. This allows us to make appropriate recommendations for inks and coatings.

Sheetfed vs. Web Presses
Ink coverage, bleeds and areas of critical registration should be communicated to your printer. This information will often help your printer determine the best equipment on which to run your books, especially if your printer has a mix of sheetfed and web presses. For example, if your book requires critical registration on many pages, it may not be a good candidate to be run on a non-heatset web press.

3. Sending Files Correctly

Once your book is designed, it’s time to send your files to your printer. One of the most critical aspects to timely print production is to send all necessary files to your printer completely and correctly. This includes all layout files, all screen and printer versions of fonts, and all image files. Most book printers have the latest versions of all layout software in both PC and Mac format, but a quick call can save some headaches.

Adobe PDF files are gaining in popularity because of their ability to embed all graphics and fonts, allowing you to create a single “print-ready” file that includes all the elements of your book. However, when submitting PDF files your printer may request that you send layout files as well. That allows your printer to make changes easily during the prepress stage, which can save time and money.

Uploading Your Files via FTP
Many printers have FTP servers available for a quick, hassle free way to submit files. FTP upload generally involves little more than opening your Web browser, typing in the FTP address and dragging files into a designated folder.

There are a variety of proofs available from printers, including “hard” (physical printed proofs) and “soft” (digital files) proofs. Turnaround time, cost, and your comfort with a particular type of proof will help determine the appropriate proofing method. Clear and timely communication with your printer during proofing is essential to keeping your project on schedule.

4. Binding Your Book

Of course no book product is complete until it is bound. A full-service book printer can provide several in-house binding services, and will help you choose the right binding method for your project. Your binding selection will trigger the need for ancillary services such as folding, gluing, drilling, laminating and shrink-wrapping.

Even packing and shipping details must be communicated prior to the start of production. Maximum carton weight, label information and other special instructions need to be funneled through the printer to maximize production efficiency end-to-end.

Better Planning Means Happier Customers
No book product becomes a work of art by itself. Many hands play pivotal roles in bringing your books to life. The printer, often at the center of the production activities, needs to be armed with as much information as possible to deliver the book as you envisioned. By including all of this information early in the estimating and production planning processes, you can greatly impact production efficiency and take a giant leap forward in having a finished book that meets your expectations.

Font Basics
When it comes to printing your books, fonts require just as much attention as images or paper selection. In fact, missing fonts are one of the most common oversights when preparing files for printing. To that end, here are a few tips for handling fonts:

Using Font Styles: Bold, Italics, etc.
When using all programs, including "basic" word processing programs such as Microsoft Word as well as layout and design programs like Quark XPress and Adobe InDesign, it saves time to simply highlight and italicize or bold sections of text. This is what we call stylizing.

However, fonts that are stylized won’t always properly reproduce because stylizing only changes the appearance of that font on your screen. It will print as a stylized font from your desktop or network printer, but this format will not always translate for a printing press plate processor. To be sure bold, italicized and other stylized fonts are reproduced correctly, select that exact font – such as Helvetica Bold Italic - and be sure to send it to us along with all other fonts you have used. If you don’t have these fonts, for instance in Word, please check your PDF file to see if the styling carried through the conversion process. If they are embedded they usually can reproduce to plates.

Font Collection
Missing fonts are a common problem at the prepress stage when receiving native files, and often causes delays in production. Using the “Collect for Output” option in layout and programs allows you to see all fonts used in your file and collect the screen and printer versions for each font. Including all font versions will help Sentinel Printing properly prepare and print your project.

Another option is to create a PDF file. A PDF file is a compressed file that contains your document with all necessary fonts and graphics embedded into it, like a suitcase with all the contents needed inside. This format is quickly becoming the preferred method of file transfer by many printers. Call us for more information on creating PDF files.

Communication is Key for Accurate Estimates and Schedules

"Yes, I have plenty of extra time in my schedule to handle that!" If you're like most publishing professionals, that's probably the last phrase you could imagine coming out of your mouth. At Sentinel Printing, we understand you're often restricted by a busy schedule. That's why we stress the importance of communicating all the details and timelines of your project when you contact us. This will help ensure we provide you with both an accurate estimate and a realistic, aggressive schedule.

At Sentinel Printing, we know your time is valuable. That's why we collect as much information as possible in the estimating stage. We know it helps avoid time-consuming headaches later!

Don't Forget the Basics
It sounds simple, but including your project "basics" will eliminate a great deal of confusion and back-and-forth communication. Include not only your exact requirements, but your level of flexibility as well. For example, if final trim sizes and measurements can be adjusted slightly, let us know. A slightly different trim size can allow Sentinel to use paper stock sizes and machine capabilities more efficiently, which can save both time and cost.

Similarly, when planning to submit files to Sentinel, let us know when to expect them and how the files will be submitted - in what format and by what means.

Plan from Finish to Start
Knowing all the details of your project not only allows us to provide you an accurate estimate, but they help us "block out" appropriate equipment time and provide the most aggressive schedule possible. How much time you need to proof, due dates and shipping requirements play important roles in the planning and scheduling of your project. Not only will we be able to offer time and money-saving tips, but we can plan for efficient production. Letting us know packaging requirements, such as shrink wrapping, tells us what processes will be necessary as well as what materials will need to be on hand.

Remember to consider the following questions when communicating your shipping requirements: Will you pick it up or will we ship it? Will it be delivered to a dock or residential address? Split into multiple shipments? The key to efficient planning is always to communicate as many details of your project to us as possible.

Sentinel Printing Advantage
It is our mission at Sentinel Printing to make the book production process as worry-free as possible for our customers. Our experienced and knowledgeable estimating and customer service professionals ensure your project meets your quality, budgetary and delivery needs.

The Importance of Preflighting
As you may imagine, the term "preflighting" has its roots in aviation, referring to the series of preparations and checks airline pilots must perform prior to takeoff. In printing, preflighting is the process of analyzing native digital files to ensure that the print production process will go smoothly. This helps eliminate schedule delays, errors during printing and costly reruns.

At Sentinel Printing, we use the latest software to carefully preflight every document we receive to save you time, money and headaches. By locating and correcting errors prior to printing, the preflighting process helps avoid costly reprints. Many times, proper file preparation can help eliminate some common problems even before you send us your files. To that end, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Pay Attention to Layouts - Be sure that the dimensions of your layout files match the trim-size dimensions of your finished product. It sounds simple, but is often overlooked and can become a time-consuming problem to correct in the prepress stage. If you need help determining appropriate layout margins for your projects, give us a call!

Select Appropriate Fonts - At Sentinel Printing, we recommend using Type 1 PostScript fonts rather than TrueType fonts for your projects. Many TrueType fonts are not fully compatible with high-resolution imagesetters and can deliver unpredictable results during prepress production. Also, be sure to include both the screen and printer fonts when sending us your files.

Pack it Up - Once you're project is ready to be printed, you will need to send us your layout files, images and fonts. These items can be hard to find individually on your computer - especially on complex projects - and the file collection features found in layout and design programs aren't always easy to use.

The good news is that many page layout software include a preflight option within the program, that are ideal for designers. Adobe InDesign and Adobe Acrobat both come with a preflight option. We preflight files through a software that is basically a plugin for Acrobat called PitStop. Enfocus PitStop is a program we highly recommend to our customers that want a more advanced preflight software. We can give pointers on how to setup the PitStop preflight profiles to fit your needs. A great deal of time and money can be saved by using this software to ensure that we receive every file we need to produce your job - the first time.

Recycling & FSC Options

A recent government report indicates that widespread use of paper with 30% recycled content would save 25 million trees annually. Facts such as these, as well as the growing concern for the conversation of natural resources in general, have led many companies (as well as the Federal Government) to specify the use of recycled papers for their printed materials.

At Sentinel Printing, we regularly help customers incorporate recycled papers into their printed products. If you would like to do so, here are some important tips to keep in mind:

Is it Really Recycled?
Consumers often confuse the terms "recycled" and "recyclable." "Recycled" paper refers to new, non-recycled paper that's been mixed with a percentage of recycled paper fibers, or post-consumer content. "Recyclable," on the other hand, refers to the ability to recycle a material such as paper. This distinction is important, as products bearing the "recyclable" symbol are mistaken for "recycled".

Post-Consumer Content Defined
To be considered a "recycled" stock, paper must contain a certain percentage of post-consumer content. According to the most recent U.S. Government guidelines, uncoated offset paper used for book publishing and commercial printing must have at least 30% post-consumer content. Uncoated text and cover paper (including premium stationary and envelope stock) also requires 30% post consumer content to be considered recycled. Another recycled paper category includes supercalendared and machine-finished groundwood papers, which are typically used for magazine publishing. These papers require only 10% post-consumer product to be considered recycled, as do the coated stocks used in annual reports, posters and brochures.

What is FSC?

FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is an independent, non-governmental, not for profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests.

It provides standard setting, trademark assurance and accreditation services for companies and organizations interested in responsible forestry.

Products carrying the FSC label are independently certified to assure consumers that they come from forests that are managed to meet the social, economic and ecological needs of present and future generations. FSC maintains representation in more than 45 countries.

Sentinel Printing is FSC certified (BV-CoC-009897) by Bureau Veritas

It should be noted that although most paper stocks produced and used in the United States and Canada come from environmentally conscious, reputable paper mills, not all have FSC certification; therefore, they cannot use the FSC logo. The certification adds cost to the paper production which will ultimately affect the price of a finished printed piece. Some major consumers have not been able to bear the increased cost of FSC papers, therefore, commodity papers are most often not FSC certified.

Contact Sentinel Printing early in the design stage to determine what paper style is right for your project. Paper types vary by appearance and printability. Sizing your project accurately will help to determine many factors involved in the printing process.

The Sentinel Printing Advantage
At Sentinel Printing, we're well-versed in producing a wide range of printed materials using recycled stocks. Whether your project is an annual report or a perfect-bound book, let us help you make the most efficient and attractive use of environmentally-friendly recycled papers. Of course, we also use a complete range of regular coated, uncoated and synthetic stocks for almost any application.