Printing and Printing Methods

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In this section:

Print methods

Print quantities


Faulty books

This section shows all the print runs we have organized for your book (since 01/01/2009). You can see the date the order was sent, which printer it went to and 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.

Print methods

There are basically three methods of paperback printing nowadays:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Print-on-demand (POD) for single-copy printings, which is costed the same way, on 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. The large majority of our titles are printed SDR. The quality is virtually indistinguishable between web offset and SDR. A good article here on offset litho vs digital printing:

Print quantities

Historically speaking, the size of the first print run has been a measure of the publishers’ confidence in the book. That is now only significant for a tiny number of already-bestselling authors. 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 two 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.

All printings can be seen on the Production page/printings section for your title. If you forecast higher demand for your title e.g. for launches, PR programmes etc., please add a post to the Author Forum/Editorial and Production/printing queries.

So we cannot tell you when we sign the contract what the print run is going to be. 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 fulfill 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.


I’ve spotted a mistake, can I make a correction?

It is virtually impossible to publish a book with zero need for corrections first time round. But, if our system has been followed correctly, there should be very few of them indeed.

If you do find a correction our policy is make a round of changes when two thousand copies have been sold.

This might seem like a long time to wait for one small tweak that will take seconds to make, but it’s not as straightforward as that:

  • First the designer has to make the change in the book.
  • Then the new file has to be sent to printers all around the world.
  • The new ebook file has to be distributed in various formats to the ebook retailers.
  • Things can get messy with a mixture of corrected and uncorrected stock in warehouses, human error can cause the wrong file to be printed. Sometimes, making one correction can create the need for another which creates the need for another and corrections can also affect the page extent (the length of the book, or amount of paper needed to print it).
  • You may not find all the minor errors straight away. Making a lot of single corrections one after another is time consuming if we have to follow this process for all of them. It’s better, cleaner and simpler to do them all at once.

One day, we may have the ability to make corrections to a file, and have them automatically feed through to all printers and distributors across the world instantly. We certainly hope so. But until now, this is the system we use.

I don’t want to wait until I’ve sold two thousand copies? I want to make corrections now!

If you don’t want to wait until you pass the two thousand copy mark, then we can make corrections for a cost. We don’t do this to make a profit – the following charges do not cover the total cost of making the changes and distributing the new information to the printers and retailers – we do it to cover our main overheads and the extra work involved.

  • If there are a just few changes we charge £10 or $14 per page, with a minimum charge of £100 or $140 dollars.
  • If you have a lot of changes, which affect the whole book ,such as chapter lengths, changing the Contents page, etc, then we charge £3 or $5 per page for the whole manuscript, and £100 or $140 for a change to the spine text or working on the cover.
  • If you want to change the whole cover, we would charge £250 or $350.

There will be an additional charge to change the ebook, as depending on the extent of the changes, we may need to re-convert the whole book.

These charges will be invoiced and we do not deduct them from royalties.

REMEMBER, our old, uncorrected stock will have to sell through before the corrected version becomes available.

I want to make corrections. How do I tell you about them?

If you have sold 2000 copies in all formats and want to make corrections (or if you want to pay to have them done), then this is what you need to do.

For text: Download the latest PDF version of "Final Text" (in Final Files) from the Production page and mark up your corrections using your PDF viewing app of choice. Please then post the amended file with your instructions in the Editorial and Production forum under "Other queries" and attach the corrected file.

For cover: Please post your instructions in the Editorial and Production forum under "Cover queries."

Download the latest PDF version of "Final Text" (in Final Files) from the Production page and mark up your corrections using your PDF viewing app of choice.

Faulty books

All printers sometimes produce faulty books. 19 times out of 20 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 what it will 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.