Unlike many "digital only" printing businesses which have sprung up since the arrival of reasonably affordable "print-on-demand" technology, we've been in the printing business since 1923. While most of our FAQ information for authors is specifically tailored to the needs of those wishing to use "only" our digital printing and publishing services, we are a full service: lithographer, printer, engraver, foil stamper, die cutter, thermographer, embosser and custom binder (capable of inserting CD's and DVD's in various types of "holders," shrink wrapping and providing other custom services).
Authors sometimes inquire: "Can I get the extremely fancy, multi-process covers I see on some books in retail stores?" The answer is, "Yes...with prior planning and a clear understanding of the process involved."
First, unlike "digital-only" printing, multi-process covers may involve many production steps using multiple processes and may require custom dies be prepared in advance of production. Further, "exotic" covers are not going to be cost effective unless made in large quantities (1000 minimum) at one time - as minimal spoilage can occur at each of the sequential steps. No, you bear no 'cost of spoilage,' but multi-process work is complex and slower than "just digital printing." These types of covers can take weeks (rather than hours) to produce and have ready for binding onto digitally printed contents.
To achieve a highly complex custom cover (i.e. multi-color litho printing, heavy coating, foil stamping and embossing), you need to submit professionally prepared artwork (both digital and a "hard copy" full color proof). We typically work directly with your designer to ensure their work is fully understood and exchanged accurately/efficiently. With rare exceptions, most authors are not highly sophisticated designers and thus may be unaware that a 3-4 process cover could take weeks to complete (the first time) depending upon the art work received and processes required. This type of work cannot be accurately quoted until we actually have your designer's confirmation about the final input.
When this type of work is requested, please recognize:
1) At the time you engage a cover designer, you're typically no longer able to make "last moment" Title changes.
2) While negotiable, rates from professional designers can be substantial, and their work is not "instantaneous." Beyond creative tasks, they have production tasks using their software of preference, have to gain your final approval of their work, ideally do an initial "file exchange test" with us to confirm their work is being received in clear and correct formats, and then production planning can begin. You are strongly advised to begin planning well ahead.
3) Production time and cost are a direct function of what we're asked to do. "Exotic" and specialty process covers must be fully completed and "inventoried" before final book production can begin. Further, they require you to 'stay on top' of your sales to ensure that, if more of these covers are to be produced, the ongoing inventory is started well in advance of using up the initial batch...or book production and distribution will stop until all required components are on hand.
4) If you plan to have us imprint bar coding on the cover for pricing, you need to slow down until we can quote the cost of your submitted cover. Otherwise, you could make the mistake of setting your 'selling price' before knowing actual cost.
What types of custom covers can I get?
Depending upon your goals and target audience, we can produce everything from lithographed, foil-stamped and embossed covers to multi-color engraved covers on an extremely wide selection of specialty stocks (giving you maximum options for stock color, texture and weight). Digital printing equipment cannot print on all weights and finishes of cover stock, cannot legibly print extremely 'light colors' on dark color stocks, nor can it print metallic inks. A word of caution: case bound covers (rigid with cloth wrap) are not recommended for runs of less than 500 books at a time due to high "set up" costs.
Examples of custom work are available upon request, but to give you an idea: anything from fully engraved covers to lithographed 'oversize' custom stocks, case-bound books with full cloth covering and foil stamping, unique bindings and more... are often available.
Are custom covers and multi-process work commonly combined with digitally printed "guts"? You bet, almost daily. It really depends upon the self-publisher's marketing goals. As a rule of thumb, any additional processes you request add cost, and they increase the time to prepare for a first printing. "How much cost and time" are a function of the processes you request. For example, a lithographed 4, 5 or 6 color cover with aqueous (waterproof) coating requires press and drying times (which are not required with 100% digital printing). Litho printing requires plates, ink prep and more labor than digital printing, and jobs going on specialty presses must be scheduled well in advance. Digital printing, and reprinting, when the files are completely prepared, is astonishingly fast. And unlike any type of traditional printing, only "all digital" printing jobs can be simultaneously distributed to multiple print engines to speed production.
Do I need "exotic" highly customized covers? In general, extremely expensive covers aren't necessary. But it is imperative to understand how important a professionally designed cover is to the success of a book. Yes, most do "judge a book by its cover," and if your goal is to get your books into retail stores and/or use them to 'pitch' large publishers, then you need to invest time, money and thought into the cover of each book.
If your book is going to be sold through specialty locations where you're not in heavy competition with other titles, we suggest you visit some of those locations in advance of printing to observe what publications they're selling, how and where they're displayed and watch how shoppers interact with their book displays. Consumers pay a lot of attention to "packaging," and as a self-publisher, understanding the sales power of professionally designed covers is fundamental to learning your business.