How important is it for my book printer to be local?
In a perfect world every author would have a local shop they could turn to for their needs, especially given how personal a book printing project can be. Authors pour themselves into the writing of a book, and they, like you, want to be sure the quality of their finished piece reflects the quality of their words.
No matter what size town you live in, there is probably at least one print shop close to you, but in our experience the odds of them being able to professionally handle the printing and binding of a book is pretty slim. It’s usually the binding piece that hangs up a local print shop because without the proper equipment it’s a very labor intensive process, and even with rudimentary equipment the quality of binding can be pretty suspect. You want to be sure that whatever print shop you choose has the experience and equipment available to them to give you the book you want.
If you have access to a print shop close to you that you can meet with, do press checks with and you are confident in their offerings, we think you’ll love being a hands-on part of the book production process. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of shops who do quality books, because of their specialization. Let’s talk about why.
The first thing you want to look for in a print shop is what kind of printer they are running. Most community print shops have copiers set up in their front lobbies. Don’t get me wrong, copiers are wonderful and the advances in digital printing technology allow for them to produce quality prints, but they’re probably not set up to print the pages of your book.
What you want to look for is a printing press. A press can look very much like a copier, ours do, but presses give operators the ability to calibrate their inks and toners for the best possible result. Presses also allow for a larger variety of media to be run, giving you more choices in what type of paper your book is printed on. The feel of the paper your book’s pages are printed should feel much different than the flyer you found tucked under your windshield wiper when you parked at the grocery store.
Even more importantly, you want to be sure that the cover of your book will be printed by a press calibrated to bring its color to life. A copier that you’d find in a business office will not have the ability to print with the resolution, clarity and vibrancy your book cover deserves.
The specialty equipment needed to give your finished book a professional look and feel is where a local print shop is probably going to fall short. Unless your local shop has made the conscious decision to specialize in book printing there would be no reason for them to invest in the equipment needed to produce quality efficiently.
We’ve covered coating types in a different blog, which I highly recommend you reading, but be sure that your shop can laminate or UV coat your books cover the way you want.
Most print shops will offer some binding services, most likely saddle-stitching, plastic comb binding, and in a lot of places even plastic spiral binding. That’s wonderful if you want one of these options, but be sure that their equipment is rated to handle higher volumes of print for your book run. Not every spiral binder is able bind hundreds of copies of the same book and may even require the operator to hand punch your books pages, which undoubtedly means your price per copy will sky rocket.
And if you are looking for a perfect bound, paperback book, this is where a shop dedicated to book production is really going to shine. In order for a print shop to justify having a quality perfect binder they must bind hundreds if not thousands of books every month. A local print shop may be able to print the cover and interior pages of your book, but be sure to ask them if they’re going to bind your book in-house or if they will outsource this piece of the process. There are businesses around the country which only bind books, wholesale, for other print shops. They do wonderful work for local print shops but the added cost will be passed along to the author paying for the books.
The last, and very important piece of equipment to look for in the shop which is printing your books, is a cutter that will cleanly trim your product and give it a look that will compete with others on the shelf. Not all paper cutters are capable of giving your book crisp, clean corners, and operators must take great care to protect bound books from being mangled in the trimming process.
If you have a local print shop capable of providing these key production elements to you, and are giving you a price that can compete, then by all means go for it! We think the book printing and binding process is fascinating, and if you have a chance to see what’s happening I’d recommend not missing out. But as a savvy print buyer be sure to get the quality product you deserve.
And if you’re in the Denver Front Range area we are your local shop! Give us a call and we’ll have you by to see how we can give you an amazing book at an incredible price.