Printing my Self-published Book: Paper and Cover Choices

Last week Trish Romanchuk, the Book Division Mangager at Blitzprint, talked about the things to consider when choosing the dimensions and binding for your self-published book. Today, she will discuss paper and cover choices.

I had no idea there were so many types of paper to choose from. What kind of paper should I use for my book?

When it comes to paper types, it really will seem that the options are endless. The first decision that you need to make is whether or not you want white or natural. There are a lot of shades of white and natural, so be prepared.

Your next decision will be whether having a recycled stock matters to you.

Is “stock” printereze for “paper?”

Yes.

Many stocks contain a percentage of post consumer waste, so don’t be afraid to ask about the papers that your printer has. I will warn you though, 100% recycled stocks tend to have visible fibers in them and they also will run you a higher bill at the end of the day.

Now, to enlarge the topic even further, there is also the option of using FSC certified stock in your book. FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council. They work with companies that promote responsible forestry, and anyone who works with them must adhere to certain standards in order to maintain their certification as a partner of FSC. The FSC actually does yearly audits to ensure that their standards are actually being upheld.

If you use all FSC stocks, you can have one of the FSC logos on your back cover, as well as on your copyright page, if you like. Many people choose to do this in an effort to show that their book was created in an ecologically conscious manner.

If you do want to go the FSC route, you will need to find a FSC Certified printer, and you will need to discuss this with your representative right away. It does limit your paper choices.

So now you know what color of paper you want and whether or not you want an Eco stock. From there, you can move forward. Ask your rep for their opinion. Tell them what things matter to you and what attributes you are looking for. If you want a really opaque stock, they can help you to find it. If all that you want is a white stock, and you don’t really care otherwise, ask them for a sample of their white floor stock. If you like it, this will likely be your most cost effective choice.

Do printers usually have a natural floor stock as well as a white floor stock?

They might, but generally, you can be guaranteed that they will have a white floor stock.

If you have a very specific want or need for paper, find a sample of what it is that you are looking for, like in a book with that stock, and show it to your rep. This will help them to find the best paper to meet your needs.

With that being said, if you have found a really unique stock that you love, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket with it. Unfortunately, really unique stocks often either don’t bind well or have to be ordered from the mills in huge quantities.

So the printer might not want to order such huge amounts?

More likely that you, the client, won’t want to because you will have to pay additional, either to pay for the entire amount of stock being ordered or to pay a fee for breaking a carton.

If you are after something unique, try to be open minded and have a few different options in mind.

I personally really enjoy 50# or 60# interior stocks and a weight of about 10pt or 12pt for the cover.

Why?

It’s a weight that works well for books. Not too bulky. Not too thin. Comfortable to turn pages in those weights.

I noticed you use the terms “#” and “pt.”I assume # means weight. What does “pt” stand for?

“Pt” is just another way of defining stock weight. Some stocks are referred to in # and some are referred to in pt. It depends on the paper type and the manufacturer.

If my clients are going to be printing inside of their cover, I recommend a 100# Matte Cover stock.

What if they are not going to be printing inside of their cover?

Then I recommend the 10 or 12 pt.

Speaking of cover stock, you need to think about protecting your covers. There are a lot of options out there. If you want something fancy on your cover, like embossing, debossing, foil, etc., then you are going to have to print your cover with an offset printer, not digitally. Digital is limited with these options, because the toner (ink) can melt if put under heat, and all of the above are done using heat.

If you are doing your cover with an offset printer and you are getting one of these options, get them to put a flood varnish on it. If you want it really shiny, get them to do a flood UV which is a specific type of varnish. If you want a combination of matte and gloss spots on your cover, talk to your representative. It is definitely more pricey, but it can be done.

If you aren’t wanting anything unique to be done to your cover, whether your cover is being done offset or digitally, I recommend a good single side book laminate. It is sturdy, looks nice, has a high sheen, and is an economical choice. Personally, I recommend a gloss laminate for most books, especially dark books. Matte laminates tend to mar, scratch and scrape easily, and show it.

How is a flood varnish different from a laminate?

Offset varnish works on the same principal as furniture varnish. Laminate is a plastic sheet that is heated and adhered to the book cover.

What if I want a hard cover book? What do I need to know?

Standard Case Bound Book: This is your standard hard cover book. It has a cloth, leather or vinyl type of material covering the “hard” or “case” cover. The most economical material that you can get your books covered with would be the ones of the vinyl variety.

With these books you will also get what is called a foil stamp on them. This would be the writing on your spine and cover. You can choose from a variety of colors, including gold and silver. You can even do designs on the front, if you are willing to pay extra for it. I have seen some beautiful books created this way.

Dust Jackets: Commonly, you will see people pair their standard case bound books with dust jackets. Essentially, this is the cover of the book with 2-3” flaps (typically) that can wrap around the case bound book and be removed. These are usually printed on an 80# gloss text weight stock and then laminated on one side.

A classic, and often beautiful looking choice, this isn’t the most hardy way to go if you want a real cover on your case bound book. I am sure that we all have a large collection of hard cover books that have dust jackets that look like they’ve witnessed far better days. That is, of course, assuming that you aren’t like me, who has a collection of bare case bound books and an equally large collection of missing dust jackets, likely eaten by one of the family pets, a toddler or two, or just forever gone to the place where things like the matching partner to your sock goes to.

Just as a note, unless you want to pay extra to go to an offset printer for your dust jacket, the largest sized books that most digital printers could do a dust cover for would be a 6 or 6.5 x 9 book. When you add the dust cover’s 3 inch flaps, the spine, and then the 12 inches in width of the cover itself, you are quickly approaching the 20 inch maximum mark.

Lithowraps: This is my personal favorite when it comes to case bound books. Previously reserved for things like text books, this type of binding is becoming more popular with books from every genre. Hardy and guaranteed to keep  your dust jacket attached to the book, it is easy to see why. Essentially, they take your printed and laminated cover and wrap it around the “case” or “hard” cover. There it stays, attached, and difficult to damage. This is becoming especially popular in hard cover children’s books, for obvious reasons. This option, typically, is also cheaper than the dust jacket option.

At the end of the day, talk with your representative, educate yourself on their companies policies and products, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. We expect you to ask us questions, and we want you to be an educated author.

Trish Romanchuk is the manager of the Book Division for Blitzprint Inc. For more information on their book printing products and services, please visit their website, www.blitzprint.com or contact Trish directly at trish@blitzprint.com.

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2 Responses to Printing my Self-published Book: Paper and Cover Choices

  1. falconwrtr says:

    Great finding this blog. I am in the throws of entry level self publishing and in need of all the advice and help I can get. Will be coming here a lot, I think.

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