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FAQ: Printing your book

FAQ Index
Printing the Book

Thank you to Creative Minds Press for providing the content for this FAQ.


How do I find a printer?

What is an RFQ?
Should I get shrink-wrapping?
•  Should I get cover over-runs?
•  Should I get postcards?
•  Should I get bookmarks?
• Should I specify carton weight?

How do I know which printer to pick?Why can't I use my local printer?

What is the difference between POD/digital vs. traditional/offset?

What format should I use for  my book?
Should I use hardcover?
•  Should I use Trade paperback?
•  Should I use mass market size?

Why shouldn't I publish my book in a ringbound binding?

How do I get color printing?

What book size should I choose?

What are signatures?

What are all these paper types I keep hearing about?
•  What are paper weights and what should I choose?
What cover stock should I use?
•  Which is better, off-white or white paper?

Can’t I just use Kinko’s to print my galley?
What are galleys?
•  What are f&gs?

How do I find a printer?

Here is an excellent website with a list of printers.

What is an RFQ?

To get a bid from these printers, submit an RFQ (Request For Quote) to their sales department. Use this website as a template to write your RFQ .

Are there any additional services you request that are outside of this template? Yes, we always specify having the books shrink-wrapped in 4s or 6s (depending on the thickness of the book). This helps limit scuffing and damage in shipping. This costs extra.We always ask for a 10% cover over-run on paperbacks, 20% on hardcovers. The paperback covers are useful when putting together press kits. The hardback covers can also be used this way, but save lots for repairing returns, as dust jackets are frequently damaged and can easily be replaced. These usually cost extra.You can also ask for a run of bookmarks and/or postcards to be run concurrently (the printer uses the "waste"--the space on the paper the cover doesn't take up). Ask you book designer to help you work this out. These costs extra and will incur further charges with your book designer.We also specify that books be packed in cartons no heavier than 25 lbs. We do this because we don't like to carry heavy boxes, and this size often has just about the number of books wholesalers ask for when they order. Many people like to specify that each carton is marked with the title, ISBN and a bar code. Some printers just do this. Ask if this will cost extra. Back to Top

How do I know which printer to pick?

Send out at least 10 RFQs. Evaluate each bid, taking into account price per book and freight charges. You can ask your top 3 bidders (who will probably be close) to send you sample copies. Most printers offer the same services with the same technology. What matters are a) price and b) customer service.

What is the difference between POD printing and "traditional" printing?

POD (Print On Demand) or digital printing allows a publisher to do small runs (as few as 10). The trade-off is that the cost per book is terribly high. This is not recommended for those who plan to sell in bookstores. Discounts (see explanation) will, in most cases, cause you to lose money Off-set or traditional printing is most cost-effective in runs of 2000 or more. The more you print, the lower the cost. The usual goal is to bring the cost of your book to under $3* (paperback) or under $5* (hardback) per unit.

*This is actual cost. For accounting purposes, you will need to figure in "plant costs" (design fees, editing, marketing costs, etc).

POD Printers can be found on this website.

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What format should I use for my book?

Few books need to be in hardcover. Even Coffee-table art books can be produced in a paperback form. Hardcover always drives up your costs. That means your book price will go up as well, limiting your customers. To help you make your decision, go to your local bookstore and see what format books similar to yours are in.

Many publishers print their first edition in hardback, then later go to paperback as demand increases.

A Trade Paperback is a larger format paperback (about the size of a hardback book) and can be produced for under $3. (in offset runs of over 2000). Most self-publishers choose this format, as it has a lower cost per unit and is usually sold at an easily affordable price-point.

Mass-market paperbacks are what you find in a grocery store. These books can only be economically produced in runs over 20,000.

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Why shouldn't I publish my book in a ringbound or
wire-o binding?

Ringbound books are not generally accepted by the book trade. Since most books are shelved with only the spine showing, there is no chance a customer can see what the book is about. Ringbound also has a bad habit of tearing the cover. These are only recommended for non-trade sales. Ringbound is perfectly acceptable for short run cookbooks, however.

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How do I get full color printing for my (art book or children's) book?

There are no cost-effective printers for color books in the U.S. You'll have to bid off-shore to get a deal. You’ll be surprised how low the cost can be... but don't forget to figure in shipping. You can find color printers at this helpful website.

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What are the book sizes I should choose?

Most hardcovers and Trade paperbacks are 5.5" x 8.5" (bound on the 8.5 side) or 6" x 9" (bound on the 9"side). These are comfortable sizes for customers to hold. You can make your book bigger or smaller, but think carefully about how it will "shelve" in a bookstore. Go look at a bookstore to see what size is "standard" for the type of book you are putting out. Also consider that printers may charge extra for "non-standard" sizes.

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What is a signature?

The printer divides the pages of a book into 8s (or 16s or 32s, or, in some rare cases, 48s). When doing a page count in preparation for an RFQ, be sure that the page count is divisible by 8.

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What are all these paper types I hear about?

Acid free is what you'll want for your book—and libraries demand. Acid-free paper doesn't deteriorate with time. This doesn't appreciably drive up your costs.

Archive quality should only be used for books that are created to be sold in museums or academic collections. This paper is heavier and costs more. Recycled paper is what we should all be using. Unfortunately, there is a fairly steep price tag to being Green and there are reports it’s not as Earth-friendly as we might be led to believe.

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What are paper weights and what should I choose?

Trade Paperback and many
hardback books are printed on 50#, 55# or 60# paper. This refers to the thickness, with 60# being a heavier paper. 50# is an acceptable industry standard and doesn't make the book too heavy; 60# can drive a 200 page book over 1 lbs.—making it more expensive to ship.

For a very thorough explanation and comparison chart, check out this website.

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What Cover Stock should I use?

Cover stock is usually offered in 10 or 12 pt. 10 pt is perfectly acceptable and, with lay-flat lamination, looks very good. When spec-ing a cover with lamination, this is expressed in an RFQ as C1S (Coat 1 Side). While a 12 pt cover is thicker (and many people think thicker is better). Again, this contributes to the weight of the book, making it costlier to ship. Hardcover dust jackets are usually 10 pt.

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Which is better, off-white or white paper?

For paperback white is preferable.
is a matter of choice. Many novels use off-white.

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What are Galleys?

Galleys are a pre-publication book with a plain (no art work) cover made especially to send to pre-publication reviews . Usually, very few are made (10-500 depending on purpose). These are always done via POD / Digital press.

The galley should clearly be marked "Advance Review Copy: Not for Sale" on both back and front. Sometimes galleys have finished covers (what the final art work will be), but the cover is marked with the same warning as the blank cover. Finished galley covers do drive up the cost as 4-color printing for the cover is a little moreAll of the book's info (title, author, publisher, who to contact for info) should be on the front of a blank cover galley (back of a color cover). On the back should be a description, (see explanation) any blurbs, (see explanation) author info (see explanation) and a brief outline of the marketing plan (see explanation). Don't forget to put the title and author on the spine.

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Can’t I just use Kinko’s to print my galley?

Many people do use Kinko's to do this. They are still going to be pricier than the professionals, but you may decide to use them anyway.Sometimes you can have a run of galleys done at the same time as your regular print run (see discussion in reviews on the disadvantages of this).Other printers of galleys can be found on this website and look for POD/Short-run printers.

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What is an f&g?

An f&g is "folded and gathered" signatures without the binding. It is usually done for art books and childrens books when color printing is used. It's often too expensive to produce a POD/ short-run bound copy. It serves the same function as a galley.

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What else can I do with my galleys/ f&gs?

You can submit to the BookSense Advanced Access Program.If you are a member of SPAN or PMA, the fee is only $50. You can get independent booksellers interested in your book.Prepare to send 50 galleys out. Keep the e-mail addresses and follow up a month later to get feedback from these bookstores. If the book sellers really like the book, they might nominate your book for the BookSense 76. This is a nationally advertised book list, put out quarterly. Several small presses have succeeded with BookSense recommendations.

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Thank you to Creative Minds Press for providing the content for this FAQ


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