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Think You Can’t Design Your Own Book? Think Again!

December 6th, 2012

book printing tips from master book printer

You can design your own layout for book printing providing you follow these few steps. The hardest part is the cover as that is in full color but we will get to that too. The important thing is to be consistent   and understand the basics and you will be just fine. After all, nothing beats printing a book to tell your story or to establish you as an expert in your field as people always want to do business with an expert.

Some of the pitfalls you may already have experienced are muddy images, cut off of copy on the page or simply an inability of the printer to output your print files. Further, you even find out at crunch time that in order to print what you have that the price just went up at your book printer due to them not coming to them as proscribed in your book printing quote. Well, here are some failsafe basics that if you adhere to them you will be able to design and print a book with ease. Let’s then take a look at some of the necessities that will help you complete your design that will be ready for the book printers.

What Is A Standard Trade Size?

The following sizes are based on the use of web printing in order to print a book to a standard size: 4.25 x 7”, 5 3/8 x 8 3/8”, 6 x 9”, 7 x 9”, 8 3/8 x 10 7/8” or 9 x 12”. 6 x 9” or the fractional sizes tend to be more press efficient thus providing better pricing as the book printer bases his costs on the yield of the press sheet, with the more pages coming out of press signature the better the yield and therefore the better the price. Odd sizes in book printing are generally accomplished by trimming and with waste and thus no price advantage.

Which Font Should I Use?

Use a font which is attractive and one that may fit with the narrative. However in all cases use a font that is easy to read. I would stay away with overly elaborate fonts such as scripts and if very small type face even seraph fonts such as Times can become a problem. I prefer to stick with simple a font such as Arial or Calibri as an example.

Margins And Print Area:

This is important to understand as if you do not set up your margins and print area you may wind up with copy that is too close to the spine and less readable or copy that may be cut off in the trimming process. If your book is 6 x 9” as a final finished trim size, then most web printers will prefer 3/8” all around as a safety area for your page copy. This would translate to an image or copy area of 5 ¼ x 8 ¼”.  You would want to set this up under your document settings so that each page is also consistent across the board. With perfect binding you would also want the page image/copy area shifting slightly away from the spine. I don’t think Word can accommodate that, but the more sophisticated graphics software such as Adobe InDesign I believe can. In any event your book printing company should be able to accomplish this during imposition of the pages for the web press.

Additionally try and avoid broken words with hyphenations or cramped copy within the printable margins. You can do this by a process called “kerning” which allows you to adjust the spacing of the letters in InDesign and I believe Word may have a scaled down version of that feature. A simple way would be to use a smaller font size if you find this happening.  Also remember that in professional writing only a single space is used between sentence ending and the one following.

Can I Use Word?

Sure if you want to go through the “heartache of psoriasis” when printing your book. The problem with Word or anything other than the major page layout software such as InDesign, Quark Express, Corel Draw or Illustrator is that the rest are all inaccurate and will cause problems for the book printing companies when they are submitted files from them. Most book printing companies will not accept Word or similar files. The exception is POD or any short run printing using digital presses such as the Docutech, but the cover will still be a problem if you design in Word, which generally will default to low resolution, RGB color and not the CMYK color for professional printing and most importantly will create a reflow of your copy much of the time due to a lack of stability that is so common that it may occur from computer to computer as well. If you must use Word then be sure to have a PDF creating software that saves your document as an image file, thus locking in place the copy and the way it flows from page to page. Also if using Word, try not to use any clip art or images with screens or gradations from the solid lines as Word defaults to low resolution and it will print badly.

What About My Book’s Cover?

Hopefully you are not using Word, but if you do not have the funds to step up to Adobe InDesign, then consider Microsoft Publisher as it at least allows you more control of what you are creating than Word. However you must learn the program, especially on choosing colors. You must choose the custom colors using CMYK. Publisher does not make this easy as unlike InDesign where you can chose a color mode with a drop down, you must drill down in Publisher to find it. Since your cover will have images more than likely you must be sure they are imported as 300 dpi, CMYK images. Photoshop can do this, while most other software cannot. You will then have to make sure that you are happy with the result when making your PDF as you can convert to CMYK there where you may see a slight shift in color.

You can ask your book printer how thick the spine will be, so that you can layout your cover as one piece called a “printer spread”. K.I.S.S. must be the motto for a designer especially a new one. It is a long time computer acronym for Keep It Simple Stupid. No intention of insulting anyone reading this, but you need to do this as it will give you less grief should you do so. Create one color for the background of your book that crosses over the front back and spine and set all the rest into it. This way if there must be some adjustment with trimming it will not be very noticeable. If you had sharp color breaks between the cover sections it will be. Keep the font on the spine small enough that if it rolls over to accommodate bindery it is not overlapping onto the front or rear cover.

Test What You Create:

Do not rely on your screen EVER unless you are a consummate book printing pro. Your screen is not accurate and in many cases neither are you if a beginner. Print out copy and covers at Kinko’s on their postscript printers as your desk top one will not be accurate. There you can trim the pages and cover and wrap the cover around the book to make sure that all fits and that your resolution on the cover is accurate. A quick way of checking on the resolution of your color cover is to blow it up on screen to 400% and if you see pixels and not clean and sharp images, you have used non printable low resolution ones.

 

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