This is post two in a series about my experiences in publishing a book. The series starts here.
I’m discovering that getting your first book published is a lot like building your first house. There are a lot of decisions to be made. You are unequipped to make those decisions, but if you don’t make them, somebody else will, and you may not like what they did. You have to educate yourself as quickly as possible, and concentrate on the important questions.
One of the first decision that anyone publishing a coffee table book has to make is: how big the book is. There are three dimensions to work about: how tall, how wide, and how thick.
Let’s deal with the last one first, since it’s the simplest one for me. I have at most 80 images that I want in the book. I don’t want a lot of images that span the gutter; I may not want any. I don’t want to just use the right side pages. All that means about 120 pages; or 60 pieces of paper. I want a cloth binding. I want fairly heavy paper. Add that in, and the book is a little less than an inch thick.
How wide? How tall? Sounds pretty simple, huh? Just spread your hands, say, “About yay big,” and have someone measure.
I don’t want the book to fee small. I want the book to kinda fit in a bookcase. A standard bookcase is about 12 inches deep, so the book could be a bit over 13 inches wide, and maybe as much as 14. It would be easier to decide how tall the book should be if all the pictures in it were roughly the same shape. That is not the case. Many, but not all, of the Staccato pictures are much wider than they are tall. I don’t want to use foldouts: I think they’re pain for the reader to deal with a large book, it’s easy to crease or tear them, and they make the biding of the book tricky. Weighing all that, I think that a page should be at least as high as 9 inches, and no more than 11. So the nominal size should be something like 10.5 x 13.5 inches. Now, we’re done, right?
Books are printed on large sheets of paper called signatures, which are later cut up, folded, and bound. How many pages fit onto one signature is a function of the size of the signature and the size of the pages, with an extra degree of difficulty thrown in in how the cutting and folding is done. It’s possible to make your book cost a lot more by making one or both dimensions of its page size just a little bit larger. And there’s another wrinkle, too, the grain of the paper needs to be vertical so the pages will lie flat, and that will affect how the signatures get laid out. Therefore, the folks at Hemlock will take my book size wished under advisement, together with press and paper decisions (read on), and get back to me with recommendations for exact page sizes.
With the page size issue dealt with – or rather, deferred – we were ready to move on to paper selection.
That’s a multidimensional issue.
The first dimension is thickness and weight. We settled on 100 to 115 pounds, which is thick enough to be substantial, without screaming “look how thick I am”.
The next is color. On that point I’m in luck. The fashion used to be for warmer papers, and that really doesn’t work with the Staccato pictures. I print the images on Epson Exhibition Fiber when I print them myself. That’s actually bluer than I prefer, but I like other things about the paper. There appear to be many neutral white papers available today.
Next up is the coated/ uncoated decision. That’s pretty easy, too. I need a high Dmax for these images, and therefore I need coated stock.
Then comes the smoothness of the paper. The choices are something like glossy, velvet, silk, dull, and matte, going from the glossiest to the dullest. For the images, glossy would be best, but I don’t want the whole page slick. So we decided to go with silk, which is smooth but not shiny, and then we’ll put a varnish over the images to make them pop more or less as if they were printed on glossy paper.
There are two papers that meet our criteria (I’m sure there are many more than two, but there are two that are currently at the top of our list): Sappi McCoy Silk, and a Garda paper that Hemlock has on hand from another job that didn’t use it all.
Binding will be casebound, which is the default for books like these. We’ll defer the cover material decision, but it will likely be cloth.
I’ll want some copies with slipcases. The Hemlock people had a nice sample on hand, which was a slipcase into which a book could fit, with room for a portfolio with two actual – in my case, inkjet – signed images. That looks really good to me. I was planning to tip in some prints to a few copies, but this is a much cleaner way to handle it.
That’s it for the first round of decisions. The Hemlock folks will go away and work on some budgetary quotes and look at book size.