Instant publisher

Yesterday I got some samples of books done by Instant Publisher, and it looks like a highly viable option for small run book printing (as opposed to Print on Demand). While my usual printer, Lightning Source, will do as few as a single book at a time and has automatic connection to Amazon ordering, Instant Publisher offers far more options relative to paper types and bindings. I suppose the difference is that LS has to be fully automated so a job flow of inter-mixed, single-book orders can run without special setup…they only allow a limited set of book sizes, paper choices, and bindings. IP, on the other hand seems to have a business model patterned after cookbooks and yearbooks…Aunt Minnie’s Cherished Recipes isn’t going to sell thousands, but it requires kitchen-friendly printing…glossy pages or even card-stock…color…spiral, lay-flat binding…all things that can be done for a run of a few hundred.

IP is also more flexible in terms of accepting manuscripts produced by word-processing programs…I get the idea they have often cleaned up files before printing…they have gone so far as to produce custom software to do that interface, and it must be working OK. 

Finally they do not have a setup fee, although there are fees for providing ISBNs and other extra charges for special sizes or other special handling. But the bottom line to me is that they provide a more flexible set of options for special requirements.

So, do you have a special book just waiting to be published?

Tom Rath: next book

Having just gotten the copies of his revised KittenCat book, Tom has just sent me a draft of his next children’s book (or series, perhaps) about a donkey. In the first one the donkey (I believe his name is Don-key Oatie, groan) wants to be a cow but discovers he has a very useful role protecting the young calves in the pasture from coyotes. 

An outstanding feature of this new book is the illustration work by Gregory MacAdam…a student at UPEI, I believe. He has used pen and ink line drawings filled in with water color and has captured the nuances of the story with great clarity and appeal.

As a publisher I face the usual questions about format and layout. Tom would like landscape format but none of my small-batch or POD printers seem to support that except for a one-at-a-time photo-book printer (Photo Book Press) who begins at a price of about $56 per book…not a price to capture the children’s book market. I hope I can talk Tom into the 8.5 x 8.5″ square format from Lightning Source or else a severe post-printing trim on vertical height from Instant Publisher

As the final test of the potential market, seeing the draft, my wife says we will have to buy a copy to take to the grandchildren.

Colour book looks good!

Just this afternoon I got to see the proof of Tom Rath’s new book. The initial impression is good, although in the 8 1/2″ x 11″ size with few pages makes it feel like an expensive magazine. The cover that was so much trouble looks fine (except I went back one too many iterations when re-doing the background colour to fit inside the bleed boundaries and missed a text re-arrangement.

I see that I should have put more white space in the interior. While the poem text doesn’t run off the page, using a very dark font and going out to fairly narrow margins makes it seem a bit too packed. A smaller font size and wider margins would have been better.

The positive bit about the colour interior is that the colors seem nice and bright. I had purposely increased the saturation to avoid the washed-out look of a sample book, but Tom R had said the pictures looked ‘a bit flat.’ I now understand that he meant with non-glossy paper the pictures do not look like in a glossy magazine.

Anyway, Tom is an extremely reasonable client and is in a hurry to have books to sell, so we went ahead and ordered without changes (not all clients are that reasonable and some have quite impossible expectations).

Tom R showed me the proof at the writers guild meeting, and the presentation was about the Espresso Book Machine at the University of Prince Edward Island. It was fascinating to hear him quietly bemoan the amount of support time he spends with authors to get the manuscripts into a printable file format. I walked away with a sense of restored confidence that Wood Islands Prints is providing a valuable service interfacing authors to a printer.

Hire an interface person?

I have just completed a frustrating process of getting files to my primary print contractor, Lightning Source. My primary publishing role is to take client’s WORD draft and lay it out with page numbers, headings and table of contents as well as positioning and processing photos for best printing. That is enough of a job, but all of that can be done in WORD (and Photoshop). The latest challenge is in getting the cover in the right format. My printer has always required a PDF-format file with all the fonts embedded…something that WORD does not always do when you tell that program to save as a PDF.

The frustration has arisen because Lightning Source has established stiffer specifications for covers of books with colour interiors. 1) They MUST be laid out on their template. This allows the automatic generation of the bar code for the ISBN, but it also specifies a very large sheet with the actual cover fitting on that page. My failure to understand was that this huge sheet cannot have the cover colour outside of the bleed edge (but must be that larger size) 2) In addition the PDF must be in PDF/X-1a (2001) format. Wouldn’t you know, Photoshop Elements does not produce this. I suspect the need relates to color being mot in RGB but in CMYK, but there may be other issues. Buying full-blown Photoshop is expensive beyond imagination, but I have Adobe Acrobat Professional which includes Acrobat Distiller. Following a circuitous route I am able to get the cover to the required form!

Why am I saying all this? Basically I am suggesting that paying $100-200 for the services of someone, who has gone through all this pain, to do the interface to the printer is not a bad price if you don’t own the expensive software packages or have the computer experience required. Having someone who has been through it can save a lot of grief. Just a thought.