Making of Junkyard Chase 10 – Finding a Printer

 In writing

So we have our final pages (and boy do they look spiffy). Now it’s time to find someplace to print them. Being new to the production side of things, this was kind of a new process for me…but thankfully one that was easy enough to pick up on.

Knowing that I wanted to print this piece from the start, I went and got a standard comic size dimensions and sent those to Jeong early on while he was building the pages. An easy access (and free) template for various standard page sizes can be found here.

I knew I wanted to make a standard comic size book (as opposed to a manga book), so I put those dimensions into my favorite program and made sure the pages Jeong sent to me fit. Then I got to lettering.

I won’t bore you with the details of lettering, as this is a very important process and one that you would typically use a professional letterer for your books. For this project, I took on the task myself. If you’re interested in some lettering tips, let me know and I can make another series of blogs about that later.

So for self publishers there are a few default places to go for printing. I like to get quotes from several printers, figure out who can give me the most competitive pricing, and go with them. Some places will give you discounts the larger quantity you order. More copies of the book mean bigger discounts, but you don’t want to sit on inventory for a long time, so it doesn’t make sense to order thousands of copies just so you make more money per copy of the book.

I knew I wanted the book to be around $3 per copy – cheap, so kids could buy it with their own money if they wanted to. So I had a cost per book in mind while reaching out to these sources. Below is a list of the printers, and some of my experiences with them.

Ka-Blam: Typical first place print on demand people go. They’re helpful and make a quality product. Their pricing is pretty flat, however, so your cost per unit is going to be the same if you order 1 or 100 copies of your book. My first @$$hole! book had a small print run from Ka-Blam.

Minute Man Press: A chain of stores that have some pretty good turn arounds and negotiable pricing options. They’ll work with you to get the quality you need at the price you want – although sometimes it means doing some more pre-production work yourself. My second run of @$$hole! was printed through them, and they were the printer I finally selected for this project due to bulk order discounts and quality printing.

Lulu: Lulu’s really used more for books, but can be used for comics. Back when I lived in Ann Arbor I knew several people who used lulu for their own POD projects, and the quality was very high.

Cafe Press: Lots of people use cafe press, perhaps a little less now than they used to. Not because there’s anything wrong with them, but because there are so many other options out there. I encourage you to include them in your bidding process, though, since they do make good stuff.

Lightning Source: A buddy of mine uses Lightning Source for all of his printing. What’s nice about them is they 1) include a UPC (bar code) in the purchase order, 2) put your books on for you, and 3) offer discounts for repeat business. I found their specs to be a little confusing, so I haven’t used them yet, but I do agree the quality of their product is high and you get some great benefits if you print with them.

So how do you select a printer? I look for a few qualities:

1) Competitive pricing. If a printer is less expensive (or is offering bulk discounts), chances are they’re at the top of my consideration set.
2) Turn-around times: How fast can they print and deliver this project to me? This is important, especially if you’re trying to restock between shows or signings. If a printer takes 18 days to turn something around, and another only takes 14, then I don’t have to do the math for you to say who’s better in my mind. (Hint: it’s the 14 days…less is more).
3) Flexibility: What kind of additional offers or benefits does the printer allow, such as discounts for reprint printing jobs? Chances are my initial print run isn’t going to last me until the end of time and I’m going to need to print again, but some printers charge a “set up fee” for repeat business. This has never made sense to me, and printers who do this are almost instantly off my consideration list.

Once you’ve selected a printer, you then have to prep your files a bit to send. Each printer has a different set of requirements for their files, so we’ll go over some pre-press information next time.

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