Printing and Printing Methods

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In this section:

    Can I see how many printings my book has had?

    Yes you can.

    Visit your book’s Production Page and scroll down to the Printings sections.

    We introduced this section at the beginning of 2009 and it shows all the print runs we have organized for your book.

    You can see:

    • The date the order was sent
    • Which printer it went to
    • The total quantity printed (for all territories)

    The date that the print order was sent is not the same as the date that the text and cover files went to the printer.

    How is my book going to be printed?

    Generally, we use SDR Printing to print our books.

    What is SDR Printing and how does it affect my book?

    Nowadays, there are three main methods of paperback printing:

    • Web offset (litho printing), where the print runs are in the thousands. Due to setup costs, this method is only really practical for runs of 1000 or more
    • Print-on-demand (POD) for single-copy printings, which is costed the same way, on the number of pages in the book
    • Short-run printing (SDR; short digital runs/inkjet printing), in the dozens or hundreds, which is usually costed in direct proportion to the number of pages in the book

    We don’t usually use web offset, unless a title warrants runs of 1000+.

    We do not use POD. The quality is not so good, the cost significantly higher, and it only works for high-priced academic titles or books that are going direct from printer to reader, rather than being sold through the trade.

    So the vast majority of our titles are printed SDR. The benefits are:

    • Quality virtually indistinguishable between web offset
    • Better quality than POD

    I am interested in printing, I want to find out more

    Enjoy this article on offset litho vs digital printing.

    The way that publishers print books is changing

    Historically speaking, the size of the first print run has been a measure of the publishers’ confidence in the book. Your book launch was a big thing, and it was vital it went well, because your publisher will have printed a lot of books and needed to sell them – otherwise, they would lose a lot of money.

    The ability to do small print runs has changed things. The big first print run and splashy launch is now only significant for a tiny number of already-bestselling authors.

    Small, high quality print runs enable publishers to manage costs and print more if the demand increases. They reduce the pressure for a big launch and allow “slow burn” approaches to marketing.

    How does JHP manage its print runs?

    • We keep initial print runs (before publication) small, usually in the dozens, unless we have good reason to print more copies.
    • From one month after publication, we aim to keep stock levels at the number of books that have sold in the previous three months.
    • We have an automatic stock replenishment system (ASR), which brings new stock in at under two weeks.
    • We also check stocks daily on titles which could be "in the news" or where we are forewarned about likely demand – because these orders are often done manually, it can take a little longer, around ten days.
    • We do our best to forecast print demands, but also have to avoid printing too many.

    If you forecast higher demand for your title e.g. for launches, PR programmes etc, please let us know on the Author Forum

    How big will my first print run be?

    It probably won’t be large. But if you anticipate high demand for your book on publication, for whatever reason, let us know on the Author Forum.

    Remember, unless you’re announcing to the trade something like “$250,000 advance, 500,000 first printing and £500,000 marketing budget,” nobody in the bookselling industry is interested any more in whether you’re printing 10 or 100 or 1000 or 10,000.

    Having an extra few thousand books in the warehouse doesn’t do anyone any good; most good-quality books in the USA/UK are printed in the hundreds rather than thousands. Most classic works over the last generation or more had still smaller first printings (the first printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for instance was 500 copies, and that was way back in the previous millennium, through a major publishing house), and in a few years’ time, the vast majority of titles will be printed to fulfil orders rather than in hope of orders to come.

    In the meantime, having small amounts of stock at the different points of the distribution chain is the norm rather than the exception; the important thing is that the channels are open, orders can be responded to, and it only takes days to shift stock from distributor to wholesaler to shop.

    My book is printed and released, but I have spotted a correction. What should I do?

    See Corrections.

    Help! My printed copies are faulty. What should I do?

    All printers sometimes produce faulty books. Nineteen times out of twenty it only affects a few copies; let us know as soon as you can if you come across one. After a month or two, it’s too late to seek remedy from the printer.

    • Usually, these are isolated examples; a section is missing in a book, or printed upside down. We make a sample check of some boxes, and do not find any others.
    • About once a year, we bring out a book where something significant has gone wrong, and we have to consider scrapping the printing and starting again. Almost always, it’s with non-standard books, where it could be anything from computers not reading a file properly to books missing in Customs.
    • These things are inevitable. The question is how to remedy it and at what cost. If some of the pages are back-to-front in all copies, of course, we reprint. If some diagrams have come out in the wrong shade of grey, or the last few minor corrections weren’t included, probably not; it will be amended on a reprint. It’s a question of perspective. If you’re a perfectionist, allow for more time than the schedules given here.
    • As always, if you have an issue or any query about your final printed copy of your book, then let us know on the Author Forum.


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