Archive for October, 2009

Graphic Designers & Printers–It’s a Love/Hate Thing

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

I envy the printers for one thing in particular, they are updated regularly by paper merchant reps who call on them with the latest developments, updates, and changes. I get my information either second hand or by attending seminars and showings hosted by the merchants. In the last two weeks I attended a seminar on preparing art files for printing, direct mail, and the danger of the opt-out initiative, and digital printing advancements. I never know what a customer is going to ask of me and I have to be prepared.

Yesterday, Sappi paper sent Daniel Dejan, their North American ETC Print/Creative Manager to town to speak about graphic design and file prep. I thanked Daniel for his presentation, but didn’t thank him enough. You see the printers depend on the artists and graphic designers to keep the presses rolling. The graphic designers need the printers to produce their products. But to hear them talk about each other, you’d think there is a war going on. The printers say that graphic designers don’t even try to prepare their files correctly, that they think because something looks right on the screen it will print right. Designers on the other hand, think that the printers are screwing up their files, and if they just knew what they were doing the jobs would all run smoothly.

Stop the bickering. Mr. Dejan framed the problem as having its roots primarily in the graphic programs and in the designers failure to take the finishing steps necessary to make sure their files are correct.

I can tell you from my personal experience that computer design has completely overhauled the printing industry. When the first design programs were introduced, they created more problems than they solved. Over the years we have seen definite improvements. The programs are much better but still far from perfect. Could they get even better? Yes. Are they striving to implement technology that would fix the disconnect between printer and graphic artist? Not really. Daniel says that he has recommended changes that are possible, but are shrugged off as being too expensive, or time consuming, and aren’t worth doing. money trashedMillions of dollars every year are wasted in printer and designer time because the needed tweaks aren’t happening. Printers and designers need to get together and insist that the software is improved. Maybe working on changes that would throw up red flags when art is incomplete or wrong isn’t sexy, but it would go along way to reducing wasted hours and angry phone calls.

“The single most important thing a designer can do to communicate the job to the printer,” according to Daniel, “is to provide a hard-copy dummy. Herein lies the rub, most files are now emailed to the printer or go by way of ftp. It used to be that the print rep picked up the art and delivered it to the printer. Hard-copy dummies were more common then. We have gotten away from them today, but they are still critical to successful communication. I hate to say it, but it seems to me that we need to take a step backward and have the print reps pick up the disk and hard-copy dummy to take back to the shop. We’ve lost an important communication opportunity along the way.

The second most important task for the designer is to pre-flight their own files. A good pre-flight program provides information about problem spots like low-res photos, but also tosses all the false starts and junk that accumulate as the design is developing. It’s like delivering a finished statue without cleaning it up or sweeping the debris around it. It’s not just ugly; it confuses the rip and leads to wrong fonts being selected, and other problems.

Every printer in the world would love for Daniel Dejan of Sappi to personally instruct the graphic designers, but that isn’t possible. What is possible is that the word gets out about dummies, and pre-flights and most of the problems would be resolved early.

As for Adobe and the others, come on, give us a break. Listen to Daniel, take his advice, and endow your programs with the tweaks needed to help stop the war.

Sappi’s website is If you would like to discuss other design-print problems with Daniel, his company email is


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5 Great Reasons to Write a Book

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

I’m here to say that writing a book is good for the soul as long as your expectations are realistic. The chances of being a best selling author are probably worse than winning the lottery, but notice that the lottery’s notoriously slim odds doesn’t keep people from entering. If you write only for the pleasure of writing and keep your expectations in line, you will find much to commend it.


A book gives you prestige and raises confidence. In my profession I am known as a print broker. Those in the graphic arts industry know what that is, but no one else seems to. The best I can expect after trying to explain what I do is an unenthusiastic, “Oh.” On the other hand if I say I am an author and starting an association of self-publishing authors, I get, “Wow, that’s great.” That is a big difference.


A book allows you to say all the things that you’ve wanted to say. Whatever your experience or field of expertise is, don’t you just hate it when people get it wrong? The Stephen Spielberg movie called Catch Me if You Can, made me indignant. Toward the end of the movie Spielberg’s lead character was printing checks on a press located in France. It was all wrong. Checks are not printed the way they were portrayed and it made me question this movie, and frankly every other Spielberg movie made. Has he never visited a print shop?


Writing a book is a pleasant pastime. I’m a morning person. I wake up a good two hours before anyone else in the house. Writing gives me an opportunity to jump start my brain. It is good exercise. Currently I write for two blogs (Talking Through My Hat and Chicken Scratchings), submit articles to Ezine, and am working on two books, one fiction, and one non-fiction. I also belong to the Utah State Poetry Society and have written two books of poetry. Many of our poets are older people. I’ve noticed some things they all have in common, their minds are sharp, and they love life. When I’m in my 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s if I can be like them I will consider it a great accomplishment.


Writing fiction lets your imagination soar. Most of us in our daily lives have to deal exclusively with the mundane and routine details. It can get very boring. If you write fiction you can go anywhere, do anything, and experience things that are considered impossible. My wife writes a blog The Misty World of Arial Hollyberry. She has created a connection between a fairy world and our backyard. She writes in a serial style with each entry a continuation of the story. Arial Hollyberry has enriched our lives.



Writing is meditation. I don’t know about you, but my life seems to be like a runaway freight train. I find I have to react to situations far more than I would like. When I write, however, my mind is focused on my thought. It’s a kind of meditation. My wife complains sometimes that I don’t hear a question she asked. She’s right. When I’m in the writing space the rest of the world is cut off. Ah.


What do you do once you have a book? You may want to find an audience. After all, what good is a book that no one but you reads? Learn how to use the Internet for book marketing the easy way through the Author’s Platform.

Authors! 12 Easy Ways to Select a Non-Fiction Subject

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
Never Too Many Diet Books

Never Too Many Diet Books

So you want to write a non-fiction book. Maybe you have an idea and maybe you don’t, but choosing a topic for your non-fiction book should be easy. Start with what you know, love, or care about, but always, always, always search for the unique angle. Simply rehashing the same old, same old won’t cut it.

Talking about a new angle–how many diet books were in the market prior to Dr. Atkins entered in 1989 with his high-protein, low carbohydrate diet? More than you can name, I’m sure, from the infamous Grapefruit Diet to the Scarsdale Diet. Every new diet idea has to have a book, or two, or three. Diet books were already a huge market. The field was crowded, but his new angle was a breakthrough and changed the diet scene forever.

Shortly after it became a smash hit, other protein diet books appeared. He spawned a whole new way too look at diets and this motivated other authors. There were books created to support his point of view, other books to tweak it, and others to challenge it. Then along came the cookbooks. High-protein, low carbohydrate recipes were all the fad. I don’t know the total number of books created directly as a result of the Atkins diet, but I daresay it is in the thousands. Do you think the publishers said, “Oh no, not another diet book?” Or did they rush it to print to take advantage of the buzz?

  • What do you know that is a little different from what has been published before? Bookstores and libraries are chock full of self-improvement books. How many ways are there to find your inner power, create success, sleep better, be happier, stop smoking, find God, and develop irresistible powers of attraction? Yet, with all of this information truckloads of new self-help books hit the market every year. Each of them say essentially the same things, but they all seek  a different hook. Will new angles ever be depleted? It doesn’t seem so, but if you have one, don’t sit on it or someone else will come up with it too while you are languishing in the starting gate. A good idea is too valuable to waste.
  • Is there new information you can bring to the table that may have been overlooked? Research and discoveries are continuing in every field of endeavor. If you are keeping up with the latest information, your book by hitting the market first could propel you into the spotlight.
  • Has technology changed the landscape? How? There are few subjects that don’t benefit from improved technologies. Even in fields like restoration of old paintings technology is used to discover what is unseen to the naked eye but vital to the correct restoration.
  • What do you expect will happen to your topic in the future? Project yourself into the future, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, or more. What does the future hold for your field of interest?
  • How has your topic altered, improved, or ruined your life? Get personal. Readers are bored with dry reading; they want to know what your experience has been, even if it turned out badly. Especially if it turned out badly. In fact, there is a reason news shows lead with murder and mayhem. It’s sick, but humans are very curious about disasters. Even if your experience is and was very positive, you’ll want to look for some contrast to create drama.
  • Has new information been unearthed that alters previously held beliefs? People are forever studying the history of this, that, or the other. You can rest assured that someone will come across with an old memo, forgotten manuscript, or lost photos. Perhaps those discoveries will contradict previous truths.
  • Do you have doubts about the subject and can you prove them? Every subject needs balance. If all of the books written glorify your subject, you may think about being the devil’s advocate. Look for evidence of the dark side.
  • What are your ten rules? Huh? You don’t think you have rules, ah but you do. Things that we enjoy doing required us to learn how to do it. Think back to when you started and list the steps you had to learn to master it. Write them down one through ten and dedicate a chapter to each of those steps.
  • How does your subject fare in other countries? Would utilizing practices from a foreign country improve performance here? Have the practitioners of your subject in distant lands created ways and means that are more effective? Would your readers be served well by knowing what those differences are?
  • What have you always wanted to say but kept to yourself because certain areas are sacred cows? Fear of rejection or expulsion has killed many a good book. If you have a burning desire to tell something that will stir up trouble, it takes real courage. Do you have enough guts to be the one? Just think of all of the people who would benefit from the truth you are keeping to yourself.
  • Who will read your book, a well-informed practitioner, or a novice? Consider the books currently in the market on your subject. If the majority of them are written for the beginner, perhaps the experts would benefit from your expertise. Be sure you don’t write over the heads of the newbie’s or talk down to the pros. Write for the audience you choose. The purpose of a non-fiction book should be to dispense information, not dazzle the readers with your prose. Save that for creative writing classes or novels.
  • Can you latch on and ride with a trend? Like the Atkins example, is there something hot in the marketplace right now? Maybe it doesn’t even have to directly relate. If something in your title, or cover art indicates a relationship you could benefit from the trend. When President Obama was elected there was a fervor that rivaled religion. Suppose you had a book of stories and folk sayings from his birthplace Hawaii, couldn’t you call it something like Folk Stories from President Obama’s Birthplace? I know it is a stretch, but crazier things have been done like the Obama Chia Pet.

Note: Be sure to check out the Author’s Platform. Writing your book is only part of the job and may be the easiest part. Finding readers willing to buy your book is difficult especially if you don’t know the ropes. The very reasonably priced Author Platform prepares you to negotiate through blogs, social networking, Amazon, virtual book parties, etc. I have used it and recommend it heartily. –Bill Ruesch

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