In these posts I’m reviewing the steps that I take to create a PDF file for digital print-on-demand printing at Lightning Source (LSI) from Adobe InDesign CS4.
File creation using this process must be performed at least twice for each book submitted to LSI; once for the interior (bookblock in LSI terms) and once for the cover.
It’s essential that you get this right to avoid poor reproduction, hangups in production, or extra charges for repeated proofs to get the book right. By carefully following the procedures outlined by LSI, we can assure ourselves of fully compliant files.
The problem is that the instructions for this process are spread over the following documentation, all supplied on the LSI website:
Note that this set of files is specific to file creation on the Macintosh in Adobe InDesign CS4. Other files from LSI contain instructions for other programs and platforms.
Okay, Let’s Dig In!
It’s important to understand that the method outlined by LSI does not produce PDFs from InDesign. Instead, we’ll be producing postscript files from InDesign. These files will be used by Adobe Distiller to create the PDF file.
Most of this process is controlled from within the Print dialog box. On seven successive screens, the specifications from LSI are entered in the appropriate places. Although it’s a bit time-consuming to go through these settings, it’s really worthwhile. And once you’ve finished with the setup, InDesign will let you save your customization so it can be re-used just by loading the entire set of specs at once.
Rather than go through each option, I’ve set up these dialog box options to match the specifications in LSI’s documentation. All you have to do is make your options the same as these screenshots. Make the selections you see here and select or unselect the check boxes so that your dialog matches these screenshots.
When your file is ready to go, pull up the Print dialog and follow along with these screenshots.
Here’s the first screen, the Print Dialog’s General options:
Note that your driver in the PPD dropdown may read “Adobe PDF” without the version number, and that’s fine.
Here’s the Print Dialog’s Setup screen. Note that you will need the enter the actual trim size of your book in the “Paper Size” Width and Height boxes. In this case the book is 5-1/2″ x 8-1/2″:
Here’s the Marks and Bleeds screen. Note the unchecked boxes.
And here’s the Output dialog.
Now we have the Graphics dialog.
Keep going! We’re almost there. This is the Color Management dialog.
Last, but not least, the Print dialog’s Advanced tab.
Changes for Color Covers
I follow the same procedure for the color cover of the book, since there are only two of these dialog boxes that change, the rest stay the same. First, the Output dialog gets a different treatment:
In this example for color postscript processing, under Output/Color, instead of “Composite Leave Unchanged” select “Composite CMYK.”
The second difference is in the Color Management section:
Here, for the Color Management/Options/Color Handling selection, instead of “No color management” select “Let InDesign Determine Color” and the “Document CMYK – U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2” Printer profile.
Painstaking, but Reusable
At this point you could click on “Save” and let InDesign create your postscript files, but before you do that, click instead on the “Save Preset” button, which will give you an opportunity to save all the settings you just painstakingly adjusted. Call the preset something you will remember, and when you are returned to the Print dialog’s Advanced screen, click on “Save.”
I save both presets. After setting up the interior, just before clicking “Save” I save the preset as “LSI Interior 11.09.” Then I do the cover, and save that preset as “LSI Cover 11.09.” With these saved I can go back and just pick the preset from the dropdown menu and I’m ready to go.
You’ll be presented with a standard save dialog, but make note of the location the file will be saved to, as you’ll need this information in a moment.
Heading for the Distiller
Our last task is to use the files created in InDesign to create our PDF file for submission to LSI. For this task we’ll use Acrobat Distiller, a part of Adobe’s Creative Suite. Here’s the rather unhelpful main screen of Distiller:
In the Default Settings dropdown near the top of the screen, select “PDF/X-1.a:2001”. Use the File/Open command and navigate to where you saved the postscript file just a moment ago. That’s all the input you need with Distiller. As soon as you open the file you’ll see a progress bar as Distiller works through the file creating your PDF.
At the end, Distiller will show, in the top window, the location of the PDF it created. You’ll also notice a report in the bottom window of the Distiller screen. This is what you want to see:
Distiller has reported that “This document passes PDF/X-1.a:2001 compliance checks.” Congratulations!
Checking it Twice
The last two checks you’ll need to do are to make sure your file looks the way you expect the book to look, and that your fonts have embedded into the PDF file correctly.
Open the PDF you made in Distiller in Adobe Acrobat Reader or Acrobat Pro. Page through the entire file and look at the pages, running heads, chapter openings, page numbers and any elements outside the text stream like charts, graphs, tables with callouts, captions, and so on. Does the book look as you expected?
Next, select File/Properties and click on the “Fonts” tab. A window will open showing the fonts used in the document. Next to each font name you should see either the notation “(Embedded Subset)” or “(Embedded).” This is what you want to see. Here’s an example:
If for some reason “(Embedded Subset)” or “(Embedded)” isn’t listed next to the font name, that font is not embedded and LSI will not be able to process your file. If you’ve followed these steps exactly, you should not have this problem.
One . . . Last . . . Thing
LSI also has strict guidelines about naming your files, and I have known them to reject a file simply because it was named incorrectly. They instruct you to name the PDF file we just created for your book interior with the ISBN number in this format: isbn_txt.pdf or isbntxt.pdf.
For a book with the ISBN 0-936385-40-5, the file should be named 0936385405_txt.pdf or 0936385405txt.pdf. The cover file would be 0936385405_cov.pdf or 0936385405cov.pdf
You are now ready to go into your LSI account and upload your files. You should be confident that when your book proof arrives, it will be exactly as you expected.
A last word: This post is not intended to supply technical support for Adobe InDesign, Adobe Acrobat or Acrobat Distiller, or to replace the materials issued by LSI. It is a record of exactly the steps I take when I’m preparing a client’s book to go to press at Lightning Source, and is solely based on the materials I cited at the beginning of the article. LSI may change these requirements at any time, so it always pays to check whether their requirements have changed. If this seems like too much work, or too difficult to understand, think carefully about whether you are better off tackling these technical challenges, or putting your energy into making your book the best it can be, and devoting yourself to marketing your book. This is the type of chore that is handled by any talented book designer in the ordinary course of book production.