Guest Post- Darc Sowers: Printing Gotchas

Greetings everyone! The name's Darc Sowers and I'm here today to share some of my experiences in bringing webcomics into the world of print. The ability to hold a book that you created in your hands is extremely rewarding. Unfortunately, the road to that glorious moment can be a frustrating, and costly, one if you're not careful. But no worries, I'm here to help by sharing a few of the 'gotchas' my husband and myself have run into over the years. Some of them are basic, others may leave you wondering, 'what were they thinking?' But all are learned from getting down and dirty with the publishing process.

A quick walk on the technical side...
Will I be covering the technical process of taking your book to print in this post? No, I'm afraid not. The truth is, every printer is different, as are the circumstances surrounding each book. We're finding out ourselves that what works for our long-form comic ('Code Name: Hunter') does not work as well for Chrispy's daily comic ('Precocious'). The best advice I can offer in this regard is to... 

1) Ensure that your pages are at a print-ready resolution. This should be at least 300 DPI.

2) Be aware of your budget limitations. Don't over extend yourself by purchasing more than you can sell. There's little more disheartening than ordering 1,000 copies of your work and only being able to move 100 of them.

3) Locate a printer whose dimensions and price point fit your needs and follow their instructions. Most printers, especially print on demand ones like Ka-Blam, provide down-loadable templates which point out the live, margin, and trim areas. Bigger off-set printing companies often provide you with a sales representative who will help set things up and answer questions.

4) If you're printing in color, be sure to check whether the company you're working with uses CMYK or RGB. While CMYK is considered standard, many of the print on demand companies work in RGB.

Now, let's head into the gotchas.

Gotcha One - Proofread!
Not once, but multiple times. It's amazing how things can slip by you, no matter how diligent you are. If possible, let a few days pass between proofreading sessions. This will stop yourself from falling into the trap of your mind automatically replacing missing words or reading the wrong word as the right one you intended. Our minds are wondering things. They know what they intended to say. Unfortunately, our hands sometimes go off in their own direction. Spacing your proofreading sessions out gives your brain time to forget what you intended and focus on what is actually in front of it. It also stops your eyes from glazing over.

Better yet, if you have the funds, hire a professional proofreader. They'll check your grammar, spelling, and some will even give advice on word choices which may improve your dialog flow. They will not, however, make the changes for you. That's your responsibility.

Why go through the trouble? It's better to catch errors before you find yourself sitting at a con, a number of copies on hand, and having a reader pop up and begin pointing out spelling errors that you missed. Yeah, had that happen. It can be a little embarrassing.

So, proofread, proofread, proofread!

Gotcha Two - Save room for that spine!
While the template a printer provides you with is an excellent guide, there is one small detail that many of them tend to leave out... what a spine does to the pages of a book. This isn't as big a deal for single issue comic books - saddle stitched binding. But, when you get into perfect binding, it's important to remember that the innermost section of the pages will be compressed by the spine itself. Even if you follow the template, the spine compression may make seeing the innermost edges of your pages a little difficult. Adding a slight increase to your trim area on the spine edges can make both your life, and your readers' lives, a little happier.

It's also important to remember that layouts which work well online may not do so well in print. Make sure any panels that bleed close to the edge of the page - perfectly fine online where one page is seen at a time - don't turn into one continuous panel that reads oddly and confuses your readers.

  Gotcha Three - Don't forget the fluff!
Actually, this stuff isn't really fluff so much as pages that are easily overlooked. It includes stuff such as your title page (or pages), the table of contents, and your copyright page.

This page should note the years when your work was completed, who holds the copyright to the work, the statement of reproduction rights as well as the fictitious use statement, and, if you have one, the ISBN. More complex copyright pages contain an LCCN - Library of Congress Control Number - as well as additional cataloging information, but that's a little beyond what most of us will need right now. Though as a former librarian who cataloged for a bit, those extras do come in handy.

Gotcha Four - If possible, order a proof copy!
Ordering a proof copy is a great way of doing a final check of your book before the full print run goes into production. As with the proofreading, it's better to catch any errors before investing in the complete run. Printers will not reprint a run free of charge if you find you accidentally missed a page.

The proof can also be a great promotional tool. Take photos of your proof copy. Share your excitement on your site. Even bring the proof to cons to drum up interest in the print run. Show it to everyone you know. If you're excited about the book coming out, they'll be excited. And excitement can easily translates into sales.

Gotcha Five - Read the fine print!
If you're using a print on demand service, this section may not be as useful to you. But, if you go with a larger printer and they offer extra services, it's always a good idea to know fully what you're getting into.

Matt and I used a printer for the first volume of 'Code Name: Hunter' who offered to sell the books through Amazon.Com for us. In terms of sales it was a success. We sold over 70 books. Unfortunately, we made just a little over $20 from those sales. Turns out Amazon negotiated with the printer to buy the books at just slightly above printing cost. They then turned around and sold them for over $5 off the cover price. The discounted price enticed a number of our readers to buy through Amazon and not us directly. After the printer took its cut, we made very little off of each book. It was a lesson, but a costly one.

So remember, always check any extra services out completely before agreeing to them. It just may save you some money, and sanity, in the long run.

I hope this post has been a bit helpful. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to email Matt and myself at rcsi@rcsipublishing. Thanks for reading! 



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