Updated: Apr 13, 2022
Book printing and binding is a complex manufacturing process requiring more effort than most realize
By Michael Heath / selfpublishingUS.com
The meme may be obnoxious, but there is a bit of truth mixed in. The first time I saw the quote was years ago behind the workspace of a tailor. One can only imagine the times that people went rushing in to see the man to have a suit altered or dress hemmed for an event that was to take place in just a few days. The tailor then having to explain that there were other articles of clothing to be worked on and only so much capacity to produce. After that, there may have been begging, explaining, cajoling or even threats that followed.
Book printing and binding is a complex manufacturing process requiring more effort than most people realize. There is the ordering of papers needed to make the book. The allocation of print machinery and set-up for a specific job. After the papers have been printed, they go into a binding area where raw sheets are folded, cut and bound. Covers go through a lamination process before they are glued to the interior pages. The three open sides are cut or “trimmed” to give that sharp, clean appearance to the finished book.
The summary is an example of only one binding option (perfect bound), but one can see that making books is based on an interlinking system to ensure cost-effectiveness and timely delivery. Interrupting the process to direct efforts on a job not in the production sequence slows the chain of manufacturing and costs everyone.
Before committing to an event, or promising books for a certain holiday, authors should plan to make sure the project stays on schedule.
Here are some good questions to ask before printing your book:
How are the files? If you only have a Word document there needs to a discussion with a graphic designer to know how long cover design and lay-out will take
If you have written a children’s book you will need to talk with your illustrator. They often have other projects in process, and some are notorious for taking longer to complete a job then is forecasted
Talk to your printer. Ask what lead times are. Getting a printed proof normally takes about ten days and the project will not get onto a production schedule until the proof is returned
Manufacturing is not an exact science and things happen like machinery failures or delays in component availability.
TIP: If you are given a lead time for printing your book, tack on a couple weeks as a buffer. And don’t forget the time it takes to ship books which can be a week or more.
A solid plan prevents a lot of heartache for both the author and printer. And let’s face it, no one likes getting slapped around by Batman.