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News for January
Self-Publishing from Start to Finishby Annie Rodrigue
I felt so lucky last March when Christina Davis decided to pick me as a designer and layout artist for her book project "Faeries Through the Seasons," as it was my very first take on self-publishing. Of course, I had done some pamphlets and cards before, so I knew a few things already about getting a file into prints, but this new project was obviously a lot bigger than anything I had done before. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. It turned out to be quite a collaborative project and a very instructive one too!
Some of you might think that self-publishing is out of your reach, but hopefully, I will be able to change your mind. Most of the time, we are the only ones stopping ourselves. We think of ideas, but do not take them to the next level. Of course, when we accept to start such a long-term project, we have to be aware that we are the boss. We become producer, artist, writer, and designer. It is essential to be able to set a tight schedule and to follow it. No one will be there to tell us what to do. I was lucky enough to share part of the task with Christina (as she was the one who came up with the wonderful idea. She contacted the printer, took care of the printing and production part), but I still had to do my share of the work on my own and make sure it was done on time. Any artist or writer that wishes to work as a freelancer will have to face this reality. We have to find our own motivation. And I bring this first part up because, to me, it is essential to have the drive. If you do not, your idea will only be that... an idea.
Organising Your Work
For "Faeries Through the Seasons" it was clear that we needed to deal with a lot of files. Twenty-nine artists were involved. Most of them provided 4 paintings (one for each season), a picture of themselves, and also a small text that would include their name, e-mail, website, and a little bit about themselves. This alone adds up to around 150 differents files. On top of it, we needed to work layouts and the actual book file. One can get lost quite easily if they are not organised.
I cannot remember where I read this before, but back when I was in college, I had stumbled on a small tutorial about folder organization in your computer. I quickly adopted this method as it seemed to be such a efficient way to work. I basically open a folder with the main title of the project and divide all the elements in this project into sub-folders. For the book, I had a "Faery Through Seasons" folder and in this folder I had 4 sub-divisions: submissions, layout, textures, and cover. Each participating artist also had its individual folder in the "submissions" section. The next thing I would check was the file names. Remember that other people might have to handle your work (like the printers or partners). If you are the only one who understands what this or that file is, it can become very inefficient.
Organising your work also means scheduling backups! I cannot stress this enough. You never know when your computer might let you down. My own PC completely crashed while I was working on the book. I was so relieved to have a copy in my external harddrive!
Following the Guidelines
Most printing companies will have guidelines to follow. Booksurge provided us a clear .pdf of their rules. If the printing company you have chosen to work with didn�t give you any file or link with instructions, I strongly suggest contacting them right away. Do not try to guess what they might be. It is always different from one place to another. If you do not understand parts of the instructions, always ask your representant about them. One misunderstood instruction might lead to a lot of problems at the prints. I remember reading the .pdf file two and three times and still I managed to miss a thing or two when I submitted our final book file. We ended up doing quite a few corrections along the way. We were lucky enough not to have to pay any extra fees despite the corrections. Some printing compagnies aren't as nice and might charge you everytime you submit your corrected file.
Getting the Right Software
It is hard for me to recommend more than one software for book publishing, because I personnally only know one: Adobe InDesign. I know QuarkXpress is another industry standard, and I am sure there are other programs available out there. The important thing to remember when preparing your work for printing is that most companies will require a .pdf file. Make sure you can save your book in this format and that you can change the settings to the company's requirements.
There is always the possibility of getting the book layout done by the printing company, with extra charges. But obviously, you will not have the same creative freedom and you will also need to explain your idea to the designer who will put this together.
Getting a book together (specifically an artbook in our case) is not all about the creative part, though. Lots of little technical parts need to be taken care of. The following are the major elements to keep an eye on:
a) Bleed and Margins
For "Faeries Through the Seasons" we wanted to pages to be full bleed, meaning that a textures image would be in the background of each page. To do this, we need to actually make the pages a bit larger than the final size of the book. Hence they are bleeding out of the book. When they will cut the pages of the book, it will assure that the sides will have a professional look.
Margins are usually set by the printing house. They will include this information in there guidelines. Keeping your material (both pictures and text) inside the margins will insure that they can be easily read and well printed too.
b) File Format
Since we were creating an artbook, we needed every artist to send us their paintings in digital format. Not every format is ideal for printing. The wonderful side of using InDesign is that you can use Photoshop (.psd) and Illustrator (.ai) files for your book design without trouble at all! But if you do not have all these handy programs with you, using the TIFF (.tif) format is the safest way to go. Stay away from more common internet formats like .jpg and .gif as they are compressed types of formats. They will deteriorate the quality of your work and give very bad results once printed.
c) Color Format
There is only one color format to use when printing and it is CMYK (for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK). These colors are the ones used in every printer (even your own at home!). The reason why it is better to use this color format instead of RGB(which stands for Red, Green and Blue)? The default RGB format in photo editing softwares will allow you to use the millions of colors available on your screen. But not all these colors are printable. A printer can only print a certain range of colors.
Because of this very reason, one�s got to be careful what kind of color they will use in their illustrations, if any, in their book. There is a good chance that they won�t exactly come out the same way on a printed medium. I have come to notice that very bright colors will often tone down a bit. Some will even change drastically.
Some printing houses will be able to provide you a specific file called an ICC profile. Including this file in your photo editing software will allow you to use exactly the right colors that their printers can recreate.
Resolution concerns the amount of details you want your file to have. The short term is DPI for Dot Per Inch. The higher the number, the more dots your have for every inch, thus the more details you have in every inch. This is another information that should easily be found in the guidelines of the printing house. Resolution will vary depending on their printers, so be sure to follow their indication. Using a lower resolution than what they request will make your illustrations all full of pixels. Going with higher resolution will not actually make a difference at printing, but your final file will be heavier for nothing, so I recommend sticking to the requested resolution to start with.
We all like to use nifty new fonts that we have found or bought somewhere. Even moreso on projects like a book. When it comes to sending it all to print, you have to be careful to include them with your files. Computers that don�t have the font file installed will not be able to see it and so the computer will replace that font with another one installed. This could result in getting a book with a very different look! Make sure your printer has the font files and that they work. Since they will give you a first copy for approval, this is something that can be checked and corrected easily. Just keep an eye open!
Putting it All Together
The creative part! What I often like to do is work a quick layout in Photoshop to get my ideas going. Kind of like brainstorming. Like any other type of creative endeavor, my design ideas will change from start to finish. For "Faeries Through Seasons" I realized how my first idea was too crowded and everyone�s art just turned out to be too small and didn�t grab much attention. That pretty much destroyed the whole idea of the book, since it was an artbook. So I switched to something much simpler. I kept the colors light and pastel also.
To me, this is definitely one of the most important parts when preparing a book. It�s easy to miss important mistakes when we work on our own. Always ask for a second and third opinion before deciding you are done with your book. Since my mother tongue isn�t English, it was even more important for me to have at least one or two English-speaking persons to revise my work. On top of this, our artbook included work from so many artists that we made extra sure there weren't any mistakes in names and titles either.
There is nothing like seeing our hard work put all together on paper. Hopefully, this little article will help you feel more confortable about making your own book idea become real! Good luck to all of you self-publishing dreamers!
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