Warning: Book Files Need 4 Crucial Checks to Succeed At Your Printer

by Joel Friedlander on December 29, 2009 · 2 comments

Take offA few years ago we took a family trip to Australia. It was a great adventure but what impressed me at the time was how long it took to get ready for the trip.

Passports, itineraries, housing arrangements, plans to take care of our house, dogs and cat while we were gone. Since we both run independent businesses, we had to cover all of that activity as well. Then there were plane tickets, luggage, transportation. It certainly took at least 3 weeks of preparation for a 3 week trip.

Books Need Preparation Before They Can Fly

After sending scores of books off for printing, I’ve developed checklists to preflight the files before they ever leave my outbox. Without these procedures I wouldn’t be certain that everything has been properly assembled. Considering all the revisions and re-proofs most books go through, it’s pretty easy for a critical element to be misplaced.

In this process I also check over the specific printer’s requirements, since they vary from one vendor to another. But as I’ve said in getting ready to make PDF files for printing, if you want to avoid delays, poor reproduction, and extra charges for additional proofs, there is no substitute for checking your files carefully and following tried and true procedures.

Preflight: Check The Big Four

Even if you don’t have time to check every page of your book to make sure all elements are as they should be, you can pretty much guarantee you won’t have technical problems by checking four key areas up front. This will become your preflight procedure.

  1. Check Your Trim Size—Surprisingly, new self-publishers sometimes build books on letter-sized templates, thinking the book printer will somehow make the book the size they intended all along.

    Make sure your book pages are the exact size of your printed book. If you are printing a 6″ x 9″ book, your files need to specify that exact size. This is basic.
  2. Check Your Color Space—Remember those photos you took for your book with your digital camera? They are likely in the RGB (red, green, blue) standard color space that’s used for displaying images on computer monitors. Your printer needs these files to be in the CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) format to reproduce properly.

    You can use image editing software to convert these files, and check to make sure they still look they way you expect after the conversion. Although the printed color may not match the color you see on your screen, you may be even more surprised if you don’t convert them to CMYK first and only find out the difference after they’ve been printed.
  3. Check Your Fonts—Don’t assume the printer owns the exact fonts from the same sources that you own. If you use high-end design software like Adobe InDesign, you can use the “Package” function to bundle your book files, graphics and fonts in one folder. Otherwise make sure you know what fonts are used and supply them to your printer.

    If your printer wants to have you send them a PDF file, make certain that your fonts have embedded into the file. For users of InDesign, see my free report on preparing PDF files for reproduction to see how to verify your files have embedded properly.
  4. Check Your Resolutions—Your printer will require that any photos or artwork be scanned and submitted at 300 dots per inch (dpi). This confuses people because the images that appear on our computer screens are at screen resolution, or 72 dpi. These will not look good when you need to have images at print resolution. And your printer will not be able to magically transform 72 into 300.

    To avoid disappointment with your printed result, and eliminate the need to pull your job while you try to find replacements for low-resolution images, check to make sure the photos you use in your book or on the cover have the proper resolution. And keep in mind that if you take a 300 dpi image and enlarge it 50%, your image resolution is now 200 dpi.

Once you’ve resolved any trim size, color space, font file, or image resolution problems, you can rest a lot easier when you hit the “Send” button to get your files off to your book printer. While it’s tough to say that nothing can go wrong, you’ve prepared for their transformation into a book proof by eliminating the most common causes for file problems and crash landings. Bon Voyage!


Image: Stock.xchng / jelle80nl

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    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    Irk July 16, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Have you had black and white graphics print fuzzy in a book if they’re 400 dpi instead of 300 or 600 (or some other multitude of 300)? A friend’s had this problem and it’s majorly screwed up a book release.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 18, 2013 at 11:33 am

    No, and I suspect it has nothing to do with the “extra” data, but that there’s some other problem with the file that caused the printer’s equipment to downsample or rasterize the photos, but only the printer can answer that question.

    Reply

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