Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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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King’s X

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Whew, my concern over losing posts and comments turned out to be unfounded. Our IT guy and kind friend, Patrick Nouvion, found a way to get them back. If you are trying to send me copies of my blogs, don’t worry, they are here.


Bill Ruesch

Is a Traditionally Published Book Superior?

Friday, June 26th, 2009

I’ve been having a friendly discussions with a traditionally published author on Linked-In. He maintains that self-publishing is bad because it floods the market with poor quality products. The traditional publishing system is designed, in his opinion, to weed out the inferior work because a manuscript has to go through many vetting steps before it becomes a published book. To ignore those steps and let just anyone who thinks they are an author publish a book is harmful to the industry.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree?

I’ve thought a great deal about what he had to say and I can see where he is coming from, but after all is said and done, I have to disagree.

  1. Self-publishers, especially in the current business climate, are incapable of flooding the market. Big book sellers like Barnes & Noble, and Borders have plenty of inventory to fill up their shelves from traditional publishers. They don’t have to consider self-publishers, and they don’t. You couldn’t crack into that lock with a crowbar and dynamite. It wouldn’t happen now–but it could in the future. If The Red Hen Association of Self-Publishing Authors grew big enough, and powerful enough we could change things. But for now traditionally published authors are safe.
  2. I would also like to address the vetting system. Come on now–when faced with the choice of publishing a masterful work by a new author and the next annual piece of junk from a popular author, who wins? My money is on the popular author because like Deep Throat said in the movie All the President’s Men, “Follow the money.” Publishing is first and foremost a business. If the business isn’t profitable it won’t stay in business. My argument is not about the choice, but with the assumption that a traditionally published book is somehow superior to a self-published one.
  3. If Mr. or Mrs. Tiny Book Publisher has an idea that they want to put into book form, tell me again how that is harmful. Maybe they’ve written a 250 page treatise to their hair follicles, how many copies will they sell? The real vetting process is the marketplace. The readers will buy what they want to read, and publishers sensitive to the will of the people will find products that they hope will appeal to the marketplace. You can’t force someone to buy a book, any more than you can force them to read it. They have to be enticed, otherwise why even have a dust jacket? An unappealing book on an unappealing subject will never get through the gauntlet of readers. There is no reason to fear. They aren’t a threat.

Is there anything to be done about this stand-off between the self-publishing upstarts and the traditionally published? I think there is. I believe that The Red Hen Association of Self-Publishing Authors is a good place to begin. Self-publishers need to learn the ropes. They have to have support and encouragement to seek good editing, art, and printing. A professional looking product doesn’t appear by accident. Then they have to be shown how to sell the book, and run a publishing business.

Furthermore, if enough self-publishing authors join the cause there is power in numbers. Our voice gets magnified. Perhaps that power will be useful in cracking open those previously closed doors. In the meantime we can explore many other marketing paths and find other ways to promote our books. The intention of the association is to help every market-worthy self-publisher earn a decent living so they can continue to write and not have to keep their day jobs.

If the traditional publishers looked at it like a baseball metaphor, and saw the self-publishers as a huge minor league, or farm team, whose players could be called up to the bigs when they’ve proven themselves, then they wouldn’t have any reason to be critical or derisive. Can’t we all just get along? Our goals are the same. We all believe that the world is a better place because of books. Where would we be without them?

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