Printing & Self-publishing Pt. 1Posted: December 18, 2012
It’s opened up a lot out there. This is good and bad. The good is that the entry into printing up your own stuff in a professional manner is easier than ever. The bad is that there are a lot of places/methods to choose from. I’m not going to give you an overview of all the print on demand places (there are tons of great articles on that topic which are easy to find). I’m going to tell you what my method and experience has been.
Printing your own stuff is not exactly Publishing in the true sense. Basically, if you go the route of printing and distributing your own work (whether by choice or by necessity), you are your own publisher. You’ll be making all the calls, paying all the bills, and doing all the advertising. ADVANTAGE: Total CONTROL
DISADVANTAGE: Money, connections, public awareness
Everything’s a give and take. For the last 10 years, I’ve been producing, printing, and distributing my own work. It’s hard. I don’t make any money doing this. But at the moment it’s my only real option. I’ve had the chance to experience both ‘at home’ printing and used a couple Print On Demand services.
Part 1: Print on Demand
A hot phrase. I think it’s died down and most people have realistic expectations for these services now. I decided to print Gary with a print on demand service due to the length of each issue, binding preference, and number of copies. These factors combined to be a bit too much for me to handle printing at home. I barely have time to draw my comics (hello dayjob!) let alone print and bind longer projects. Print on demand seems to be good for folks that:
- Don’t want 1000 copies around their house
- Have a little more money to spend
- Have a project with appropriate content for print on demand formats (standard size, a lot of pages, images reproduce well on digital printers, etc).
I did a lot of research on many different options. It was apparent to me early on that there are places that want to basically be publishers/distributors for you, and other places that are happy to just print things for you. If you are using a place that does the ISBN and distribution for you, they will usually charge you more for those things or take a bigger cut of the sales prices. I arrived at two main competitors for Gary‘s printing: Ka-Blam & Lulu
I had a pretty lackluster experience with Ka-blam. I have heard they turned things around in the last year or so, but I had issues with their communication and timeliness. After initially uploading my files and requesting a job, I didn’t hear back for 2 weeks. After 15 days, I emailed them to ask what’s up. I got a response (2 days after that email) saying my files were corrupted. The files were exactly the same files used for lulu, so i’m not sure what happened. If I had known this when it happened, rather than 2 weeks later, when I reached out to them, I might have continued on with the order. So in the end, I cancelled my order and never even saw their print quality or options on my book. I figured, if this is how just getting my files uploaded goes, I don’t want to bother with actually ordering a print job!
Lulu is huge, and mostly automated. Responses and quotes were given to me promptly and made perfect sense. Getting a demo copy of my book was super easy. I literally had priced out my print job, uploaded my files, and ordered a proof copy in a couple evenings. I had my final book within 2 weeks.
As for the quality of the books…
Honestly, it’s just passable. It’s not great. I’m not embarrassed by the quality, but I wished I had more options. They don’t offer many paper options, and the cover stock default is glossy. The perfect binding is actually pretty good though. None of my Gary books have fallen apart. The biggest issue I had with them was the dot patterns I used would consistently print kinda spotty (that’s confusing), and the line quality on thinner lines was a bit jaggy.
Once I did get an entire order of books that was printed poorly. There was a huge mark across 4-5 pages of the issue from the printer roller. Lulu required I take pictures of these defects to officially file a complaint (which is reasonable). They let me talk to a person on the phone very promptly so I could describe the problem. Then they sent me new proofs from another printer. When I wasn’t satisfied with those, they had another printer send me proofs. This might seem like a hassle, but I was able to discuss this with a real person on the phone (big plus) and this all happened within 10 days of the original order. Once I got a proof I liked, they sent me a whole new batch from that printer, free of charge. And I got to keep the messed up copies! (btw… if anyone wants a severely discounted copy of Gary: Book 2, let me know).
Now, I’ve moved on from Lulu to Rink Printing. I decided to use them for all of my Gary re-prints once stock ran out. Hallelujah! I am currently singing the praises of Rink! I have had a stellar experience with them. I found Rink at their booth at C2E2 here in Chicago last year, and was very impressed with their quality and friendliness. Following the show, I reached out to them to inquire about printing my book. Within 24 hrs (!) I received 4-5 sample books showcasing the different options they could produce. I am a freak, so I had a million questions, from paper quality, to binding, to what types of printers they used. Every question was answered promptly and thoroughly by a person (not a generic email address).
I proceeded to upload my files and request a proof copy of my book. It arrived within 2 days (!) of the order. The proof copy is free if you proceed with your order (which I did). All concerns/questions I had about the proof were addressed personally by the print technician prior to the final run. Please note: I had not been charged anything at this point.
Once all was set and finalized, Rink called me to finalize payment. It was great to put a voice with the name of the print rep I had been emailing. She was fantastic (thanks Teri)! Now, The price quoted to me originally was about 50 cents cheaper per book than Lulu had been. But I expected to pay a shipping fee, especially since I had requested a specific delivery date that had to be met. Here is the best part of the whole thing: the original price quoted to me included shipping and taxes. That’s right folks, there were zero hidden fees. This made the order more than 75 cents cheaper per book than I had paid at Lulu! Teri assured me they could meet my requested due date, so no rush charges would be required. The books arrived right on time!
Rink’s quality is head & shoulders above what I got from Lulu and what I’ve seen from Ka-blam. The paper stock is nice and thick, holding the ink very well. The covers are durable, but not stiff. The binding is clean and professional. They had many options on paper stocks and cover stocks. And when I asked what sizes they could print, they just said ‘any size you want’. They stressed that they want to work with the artist to bring their vision to the final product. Since my last order, they have actually updated their online ordering system and added tons of new options, included cover coatings. I’m very excited to try these options as well.
I HIGHLY recommend Rink for print on demand. Please give them a shot if you are working on anything that seems appropriate for this avenue of printing:
That was a bit long winded. I’ll have another part to this up for the ‘print at home’ options I use. Thanks for reading!
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