Becoming a writer/publisher – part 3

Once I started searching for a printer, the first thing I did was make up a Request for Quote which I planned to send to every digital printer on the Aeonix Publishing Group’s list of book printers.  The Aeonix website is a treasure trove of information. I am sure that you could spend hours exploring it.            

To keep things sane under control, I first checked whether the listed printer had a working web site. If there was one, I located the most up-to-date email address and sent off the RFQ. If the web site was missing or uninformative, I discarded that printer as a supplier.

Some of the sites had an auto-quote feature which would give you an instant quote based on the data you provided. These were quite efficient, but they didn’t provide what I needed.  I wanted to deal with real people who would get me the book I wanted.

My test for that was to send in my RFQ and see how the company
responded. About 35% of the companies responded within two days. A few
of the responses were short forms which quoted pices and quantities and
relied on some standard printing industry practices. Since my RFQ
specified that the contract was to be based on my RFQ and not on
industry standards, I set those responses aside for another day.

I sent follow-up emails to the printers that had responded well and
asked for any details which they had missed and for samples of their
best work.

I also asked how I might increase the spine width to a more
substantial size, like 5/8 or 3/4 inch. With the paper that some
printers quoted, the spine width was barely 1/2 inch.

These discussions quickly showed how flexible and knowledgeable the
printer company staff was. I received several suggestions for achieving
the results I wanted.

It also became apparent when a printer was using web fed presses
instead of digital presses, because the digital printers were far more
flexible and could handle a wider range of paper.

The printers don’t tell you how they are printing your book. you
only find out when you ask for something they can’t do. The best thing
to do is to ask how they intend to print the book and how that  affects
what you have to supply them.

This field is changing even as you read this because I found that
digital printers have changed what kind of files they accept since Dan
Poynter wrote his most recent book.

They want PDF files for the text and PDF files for the cover. You
supply a complete cover design with text, ISBN numbers and bar code and
they print from that. No stripping of negatives, no color separations,
nada. You design it and they print it.

The printers who were most responsive have already sent me samples and I must say I am impressed!

Fidlar Doubleday has a great team and they sent me paper samples,
cover samples and several books. The shipment included a hardback, two
paperbacks, and a slick little ring-bound booklet.

One of the paperbacks has the exact look and feel that I am trying
to achieve. It has the same page count, the same size, and the book
creates an excellent impression! I feel a great sense of relief. If
they can do it, perhaps others can too. I hope to wrap this up in then
next few days.

I had generated so many emails and pieces of paper, that I made a spreadsheet to track:

Who had been sent RFQs
Who had responded
Who had  been sent follow-up emails
Who had responded
Who was sending samples
Which samples were satisfactory
Who needed prodding

It seems to be working. I started with one folder which quickly
overflowed. I am now going to one folder for every contender and one
last folder for those who aren’t.

What was interesting was how many printers called me on my toll-free
number once they received my RFQ. These were printers who could not
respond exactly as I requested, but who offered valid alternatives.

I am looking forward to receiving samples from them. I think that
the samples will be a deciding factor, if the prices are generally in
the ballpark.

One last thing. I received my cups from CafePress and they are beautiful! I will provide a close-up in a later post.

I hope that this series will encourage others to make the plunge. So far, the printers have been a pleasure to deal with.

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