The folks at Bookwise-Writewise asked me to prepare an Internet segment to teach self-publishing authors some things they will need to know when seeking printing bids. It dawned on me that these authors might never have had any experience with printing except the occasional wedding, anniversary, or birth announcement. Maybe they took a tour in elementary school to the local newspaper, but that’s about it.
the language of printing
Printing has its own language. As a buyer, if you don’t understand the language you can be as lost and desperate as a tourist in Mexico who doesn’t know the word for restroom. And it isn’t el restroom-o. I know. I already tried that one.
Some of the terms we use everyday include, bleeds, folios, coated, halftones, PMS, CYMK, RGB, and mill order. I could go on, but to the uninitiated these few words are enough to give one a headache. They aren’t that difficult, really. A bleed, for example, occurs when the ink goes to the edge of the paper or in other words, there isn’t a border. To create a successful bleed the printed image must extend beyond the trim. When the paper is trimmed a small, probably 1/8″ of the image trims off. Why is this important? Sometimes it is critical and sometimes it is not. It all depends on the size of the sheet that’s being printed. If the bleed forces the printer into buying a larger sheet it will cost more. That’s pretty obvious wouldn’t you think? Me too, but everyday, customers will either forget to mention that there is a bleed, or how many sides bleed. This little thing can make life difficult in more ways than one. If you have a printing bid sans bleed and there is one, the printer may have to raise the price. What’s worse is if you have not specified a bleed and the paper, as it sometimes is, has to be special ordered from the mill. The printer may not be able to return the paper without a restocking charge, or worse.
two sides–one side
Another area that often causes communication confusion is pagination (page numbering). Imagine I’m holding up a 8 1/2″X11″ sheet of copy paper and I ask, “How many pages are there in my hand?’ Most would say one, but the right answer is two. It is one sheet of paper, but it has two sides. Each side is a page, if you don’t believe me pick up a book and prove it to yourself. The only time this isn’t true is if you aren’t printing both sides of the paper like for a report. If you tell the printer the wrong number of pages, and whether both sides of the sheet print, you are going to get an incorrect bid.
your goal, my goal
Here’s the rub, how is an unknowledgeable customer supposed to make intelligent decisions when they don’t know the first thing about what they are getting themselves into? The easiest and maybe safest way is to take the hand of a trusted someone to lead you through the process. That someone could be a printer, an artist, an advertising agency, or a print broker, like me. You have to do your due diligence like you would in any business transaction. You should check the credentials, reputation, and motivation of your guide. If their purpose is to lead you one way, and one way only, into their shop their advice might be suspect. Also be wary of people who assure you that they will take care of it all and you aren’t allowed to know where your work is printed. I don’t like secrecy myself. I am very open with who I’m working with and I treat each project as a team effort. It isn’t just me, it is the printer, the mailing house, and other services that might be needed. Getting each job done right, on time, and at a reasonable cost is the final goal. At least, that’s my goal, what’s yours?