We’ve now shepherded 6 books through the printing process and we’re halfway through a seventh. By this time it is all very familiar to us, although each project presents its own variations. I thought it might be to write out how the process works for us, both as a record, and because others might be interested in knowing how this works. The process will vary depending upon the printer, but this is how things work with Oceanic Graphic Printing.
1. The bid Like many things, printing begins with a bid. This is when we approach a printer with approximate specs for a project and they give us an approximate cost. A good printer will process bids for free. Getting a bid has become very routine for the Schlock books. We essentially say “The same as the last time, only with 96 pages.” This is because we’ve already sorted out exactly what papers and processes to use. Getting a bid on the XDM project was more complicated. We had to select paper and a binding, both of which required several rounds of emails to get answers to questions. Our printer even sent paper samples for us to evaluate.
2. Printing agreement Once we accept a bid, comes the printing agreement. This is the contract that includes all the specifics about the specs of the book and about the payment schedule. At this point our printer will create and ship a “dummy” book. This is an unprinted book with the exact same specs as our project. Having the dummy book is especially nice for us because it allows us to weigh the book and plan for shipping.
3. Shipping files Next we ship files to the production address, and a check to the accounting address. By “files” I mean an electronic copy of the full InDesign files along with all of the necessary images and data. We also have to send a print out of the entire book and cover for comparison purposes.
4. Digital proofs A week or two later we will receive digital proofs. These are pages done with the actual printer on the actual paper. This is our chance to check for color errors. With the Hold on to Your Horses printing, we had to do lots of color correction in the images because the yellows all showed up a sickly lime green on the digital proofs. For that project we had to do a second round of digital proofs (for extra money) to make sure we got it right. Digital proofs have to be sent back, so they can be used for color comparison. For the XDM project, color is not an issue, but we were a little worried about how the grayscaling and printing would look on the more textured paper. Because we have a long-term relationship with our printer, they actually let us do a quick proof test before we shipped the full files. With black-and-white on texture paper, it was actually called a wet proof rather than a digital proof. We have to approve the proofs before the process can proceed.
5. Plotter’s proofs A week or two after approval of the digital proofs, we receive a set of Plotter’s Proofs. This set of proofs is printed in low resolution on cheap paper. However, the pages are all cut and stapled into the sections that they will be bound into in the book. This is a chance to make sure that the pagination is correct. It is also the last chance to spot any errors. Once the plotter’s proofs are approved, the book goes into production.
6. Advance copies It takes 3-4 weeks for all the books to be printed. As soon as they are done, a pre-selected number of them are shipped to us via express mail. The remainder of the books will travel by ship and take an additional month to arrive. We can select any number of advance copies, but we have to pay the shipping costs, so we tend to keep the number low.
7. Books arrive Part of our printing agreement is that the printer gets the books through customs and arranges for them to be shipped directly to our door. We always make sure to clarify that we do not have a loading dock, and therefor the delivery truck will need a liftgate to lower the pallets of books down to our driveway. This is imperative because our book shipments are weighed in tons.
Once the books have all arrived then we have to ship them out to customers, but that is a whole different set of challenges. I wrote about it last year. Adventures in shipping phase 1.