So OK, aspiring artists and performers. You want a catalogue or programme printed? While I'm in a post-deadline headspace, I will give you a quick lesson on the nice and gentle way to do it, for all concerned.
Remember-- if you're applying for funding to print something, do all this BEFORE you apply for the money. And ask for the printers to give you generous quotes; i.e., ask for all the expensive things like varnish and perfect binding. Don't make the grant request unfundable, but make sure there's space in the quote to allow for the amount of time between grant application and the actual printing, during which time a lot of inflation can happen, and you'll probably change your mind half a dozen times about what you wanted to print anyway. That gives you room to pare back and take the inexpensive options if your publication suddenly gets larger or more complex and you've got a strict funding budget. And do allow money for the designer. Please.
A QUICK LESSON IN PLANNING A PRINT PUBLICATION*
1. Work out the date that you need your publication delivered and work backwards from there. This is crucial. Name the day, and then count backwards TEN WORKING DAYS. This is what the printer needs, especially if you're getting your publication bound. This allows time for checking and signing off proofs, for mistakes to be dealt with, for everyone to come out of the experience without high blood pressure.
2. OK. Now you have a start date and end date for the printer. Count backwards again for the designer. You could, for convenience, use the printer's in-house designer. Make sure, if you're going to do this, that you like the sort of stuff that comes out of that printery. Some printers give lovely cheap quotes, but specialise in business cards or pamphlets, and don't handle the artistic temperament too well. If you're getting a postcard invitation done, by all means use a printer like that. But if you want something slick and you want a lot of colour control or image control, make sure the printer can handle those requests.
Give the designer lots of space. In fact, get them involved really early on in your planning, especially if they are freelance like me. They tend to juggle lots of jobs, so give them time to fit you all in. Don't give them two weeks. That isn't enough time.
If you do the layout yourself, remember that less is more. Keep it simple. But that's a whole other post/book/lifetime.
3. Now that you know your deadline, work out your print-run, the size of your publication, your budget, and then ring around printers for quotes. You can get your designer to do this for you, but if you haven't got one, you'll need to ring around with the same information and questions. Its a bit chicken-and-eggish.
Decisions to be made include: digital printing or offset printing?
DIGITAL: good for small print runs, because you pay a flat rate per copy. Easy to print a small amount, then go back and get another batch done. Very comparable quality these days to offset, although purists would argue against that statement. you can do some kooky flexible things with digital printing much cheaper than with offset. You are usually charged a set-up fee, even if you provide your own artwork. Quite often have a faster turn-around time, but still give yourself the ten days as a rule, because something will blow out.
OFFSET: Best for runs of over 500 and even better if you're printing upwards of 1000. The price gets cheaper the more you print, because once the job is set up, they can just run 'em off till the cows come home or they run out of paper. Getting reprints is expensive, and more so if you have changes, which means new plates, essentially starting all over again. With offset printing you can wink at the printer and ask if you can have the run-ons, which are the extras they print at the beginning to check that the inks etc are working ok. Run-ons are essentially loose pages, but can sometimes be extra bindings.
4. Here is a typical quote request, with alternatives in square brackets:
How much would it cost to print a 32 [any multiple of 8 or 16]-page A5 [insert size here] landscape publication, saddle-stitched [perfect bound/casebound], on silk [gloss] 130 gsm stock, full colour with [without] bleeds, with a 2-colour [full-colour] cover on card stock? How much do you charge for scanning? Do I get full colour proofs? Does the cover come varnished, or is that extra? The print-run will be 500 copies. Could you also quote me for 1000? Yes, all artwork will be supplied [no, could I use your in-house designer?].
Let me decode that for you:
32 pages = the publication is printed in sections, ie four, eight, or sixteen pages up on huge sheets of paper which are then cut down and folded. You need to plan your artwork to fit into multiples of 8 or 16. If you don't, you end up with a stack of blanks at the end of your book. It's also a waste of money.
A5 = there are standard paper sizes, and the size and shape of your publication can affect the quote you're given. If you're asking for an odd shape, they have to waste a lot of paper to get the pages to that size. If you want an unusual size, it's best to talk to the printer about the paper sheet size and the most cost-effective way to divide it up. Some printeries have an in-house size that they specialise in, and using that size will be good for your budget. Otherwise there's the usual A4, A3, A5 (which is half A4).
Landscape = the orientation of your book. Landscape means a horizontal book, with the spine on the short side. Portrait is a vertical book, with the spine on the long side. Again, because of paper grain, the orientation will affect how many pages can be laid out on a sheet of paper, and thus how cost-effective the layout is.
Saddle-stitched = this means stapled. I wish they would just say 'stapled', it would save a lot of time with clients who think it means that nice rough thread machine stitching you see on fancy greeting cards these days. Perfect binding is the glued binding, when paperbacks are glued straight into a cover, and case-bound is the traditional method of stitching (by machine) and putting into a hard cover. A fine binding is hand-sewn.
Silk 130 gsm stock = stock means paper. Silk is the new matt. It's dull without being completely flat, just a bit sheeny. Gloss is still shiny. 130gsm is the weight of the paper. There are lots of different weights. If you have very thin paper (photocopy paper is 80 or at the most 90 gsm), your text and images will 'show through' to the other side and interfere with each other, which is nice if you want that look, but annoying otherwise. The best thing is to go in to a printery and look at their paper samples. It's lots of fun.
Full colour = full colour means exactly what it says. CMYK printing, which means they use Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and K means Black (go figure, I'd rather say CYMB). It's more expensive than plain black & white, but much cheaper than it used to be. These days it's just as easy to have your whole book colour than to have just a few pages in colour and the rest black & white. But again, prices vary from printer to printer.
Bleeds = this means your colour will go off the edge of your page. To do this the printer has to print oversize by about 5mm on each side and then crop back to your page size. Bleeds = extra cost, but it's not exhorbitant. And it means you have to lay out your artwork with an extra 5mm of colour/photo off the edge of the page, so take that into account if inserting images.
2-colour = to save money, or just for effect, you can print two colour. This works really well on coloured stock (paper, remember?). Bear in mind: black is counted as a colour. A book printed in black & white is different from 2-colour printing. it's way cheaper. And can be very effective, again especially if you use coloured stock underneath.
card stock = this is just the same as paper stock, but it would start at a 250 grammage and go upwards until you get to thick board. Don't go overboard; most covers are thinner than you'd think. Go and have a look at a few books and you'll see what I mean.
Scanning = again, I could write a whole post about this, but I won't, because it's not my strongest skill anyway. You can scan your own images and graphics, or you can give the printer hard copy to do for you. What you're after on the most basic level -- PAY ATTENTION NOW -- is for your images to be 300dpi (dots per inch) at the size you want to print them. So if you want an image to cover a whole page, it has to be 300 dpi at that size. Then it will be crisp. You can't take a photo from a website and expect it to be print-perfect. Web graphics are VERY low-res and print completely pixelated if you try to resize them. If in doubt, phone a friend, or talk to the printer.
colour proofs = this should be a part of the deal, one complete set of colour proofs to check before committing your work to print. Be warned: if you are printing offset, your proofs will most likely be Black Magic digital proofs, and any colours will shift slightly. So don't expect it to be exactly the same as the final product colour-wise. A good printer will tell you this. The beauty of digital printing, of course, is that what you see in the proof is EXACTLY what you'll get in the final product. Check your proofs carefully. If you find a mistake, you'll have to pay extra for each change, unless the mistake is obviously the printer's fault. The solution to this is to submit perfect artwork, but what would be the fun in that?
varnished cover = one of the printers I deal with regularly have a policy of varninshing every cover they print, with no extra cost. They believe the quality and endurance of the finished product is worth their reputation. I thought it was a normal service, but have discovered that other printeries don't do this, and in fact charge extra for varnishing. Varnishing is not giving it a coat of lacquer to a high gloss; it is just adding a protective sheen to the printed card stock -- unless you request a high gloss, that is. The down side of varnish is the way it shows up fingerprints. The up side is less scuffing and marking.
print-run = the number of copies you want printed. If you're choosing offset printing, do get quoted for a larger number as well as the minimum quantity you think you can afford. The price difference will surprise you.
All artwork to be supplied = this used to mean camera-ready copy, which was high-quality laser print-outs and photos ready for scanning, but now means print-ready files on CD or DVD, with all images scanned and cropped and converted from RGB to CMYK (very important!). This is easier to do with all the fab typesetting programmes out there like Indesign and Publisher and so forth. If you use a designer, they'll do all that for you, and you'll make their life easier if you have all your material ready at once. It really isn't easier to have the essays first and the photos later, or vice versa. Having it all together allows the designer to work with a total concept rather than having to faff back & forth.
I hope that made sense of a few things. get at least three quotes, and don't go for the cheapest one. Make sure you can communicate with the people, see if their products are in tune with your vision, and if your choice happens to be the cheapest quote, BONZA! Otherwise, that old adage is quite correct: you get what you pay for.
5. One last note for those most important of people: CONTRIBUTORS. When writing introductions, prefaces, essays, afterwords, or articles, spare a thought for the designer when you ask for extensions. Sending an unfinished copy that is close to the right length is very helpful so that they can work out placement for the final thing, even if it feels like letting them rummage through your dirty clothes basket. And going over an agreed word limit by more than 200 words? You deserve a good spanking, albeit a mischievous one if you've sucked up to the designer first.
I've probably left a lot out, like the late nights, the tanties, the exasperated look on the sales rep's face when you want to feel the paper swatches AGAIN, but this should smooth the way a tad. I'm always happy to answer questions about this sort of stuff (if they're within reason) by email, but there are lots of good books out there, and even more friendly people in printeries who are more than happy to answer lots of dumb questions if it will save them a lot of hassle down the line a bit. Believe me, I know.
*Bearing in mind that I am NOT a formally trained graphic designer. I have gleaned this knowledge from years of making mistakes and talking to printers, and am cheerfully aware that there are probably huge errors in anything I write here, or at least better/more technically correct ways of doing things. However, if this post helps, I'm happy to share.