Can Everton Jones find out how his father stole Emperor Bokassa’s diamonds and, more importantly, where he hid them; before the world and his brother get there first?
Click on the picture link in the sidebar to read an extract of my first novel, which was published by Paradise Press in August 2012.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The London Book Fair 2011

I’ve just attended the first two days of the London Book Fair with my Paradise Press/Authorial hat on. Primary goal, to sound out print-on-demand companies in the UK for Paradise Press, collect handouts and give away as many of my nice shiny new business cards as I can. First stop was “Lightning Source”, who have printed some of PP’s books.

They are a subsidiary of Ingrams, a large book distributor, and I was surprised to see their stand was mainly devoted to their distribution business. There were no available copies of their books, or rather I was not directed to any, which seems rather off. But Elsa Wallace had given me a copy of her book which Lightning Source printed and I had it with me. The title is off-centre on the spine, which was concerning me rather. The guy I spoke with assured me it ought to have been in the middle, and couldn’t understand why, but made much of the quoted +/- 2mm tolerance. Even so, it was hardly encouraging. When I then asked about printing a sample copy of my book he got even less helpful. I was told I’d have to set up an account, which could take several weeks. Not much help either, if I want a physical copy to show off in Morocco next week. When preparing the artwork for the cover, I used their website to download a cover template, which they emailed to me. But it is a .pdf built to an odd size and I can’t edit it. It proved impossible to verify the size of the safety margins they have built in and I had to resort to reading their online file preparation guidelines to find the relevant information. Their attitude was very much that they would prefer me to have my book professionally designed, which is what I’ve been told by Paradise Press/GASPS. The general feedback from their competitors was that they were picky and wanted things done their way and charged for practically everything, including changing a single page. I know this is what the competition would say, but my impression of them persuaded me that they were telling the truth. The off-centre spine lettering on Elsa’s book alone is reason enough to avoid this company in the future.

Next up was Print on Demand Worldwide. This was a completely different story. The staff were open and friendly and they had printed copies of their file preparation guidelines. Their website has a convenient spine width calculator (as, to be fair, does Lightning Source’s) but they alone among the companies I found also have an online quotation widget which I have made much use of in the last few months. They, as all the other stands I visited, had examples of their books on display and all the companies had good finished product on display, with the exception of Lightning Source). The final quality of the books is not a factor I would consider in choosing a print on demand company as the standards were all very similar. When approached with the idea of printing a single copy they were quite happy for me to submit the file right away and would have a 4-5 day turnaround if memory serves me right, which was quite standard across the companies I spoke with. None other than Lightning source wanted me to set up an account and so a simple credit card payment would suffice. I would say Print on Demand Worldwide had the most transparent pricing, because of the online quotation option.

The next company I visited was Orbital Print. I must say I was astonished when I handed the guy a copy of Paradise’s flier and he said, “Oh, I know him… and him… we printed those books.” No-one at PP/GASPS had mentioned this company. More impressive though is that they remembered their customers. When I started looking at their book display the quality was poor. But they told me the copies on display were rejects. They insisted that they would ensure the spine was centred on my book. I must say I am still a bit surprised that they were displaying rejected books, or was that on the level? I will ask my colleagues about the standard of work they had from Orbital Print and edit this post when that is done. One good thing was their pricing structure. They quoted me a price for my book on the spot of around £4.50 and a discount of 2.5% per hundred books ordered, which I can easily understand. They quoted a minumum order of £30. When I asked about payment methods they said I could pay then by any means possible. I’m afraid I replied that they were talking to the wrong person as I could think of some very imaginative ways of paying them, but it was taken in good humour.

Then it was the turn of the Berforts Group. I think I had researched them already, but as we don’t use them as yet I knew nothing other than what they have online. Again, very friendly, again, acceptable books on display. One thing I did like, however, was the option of having a matt laminated cover. Those were very sexy and I think I want one for Bokassa. Their approach to spine width and costing was that they would respond by email. Fair enough, but not as useful as Print on Demand Worldwide’s system, which is a winner. Although to be fair, Lightning Source’s spine width calculator also tells me the weight, which is useful when considering postage and packing costs.

Then I found a stall for Matador, who market themselves as a self-publishing outfit. Actually they are a subsidiary of Troubador and have close links with Orca Books (a distributor). They sell their titles through their website and bundle distribution (which I do not want). They were also a bit sniffy about their standards and said they don’t print everything they are asked to. I’m not going to recommend them to Paradise Press as they are not offering the package we want, which is just a simple print and go service. They will just print books but, as the service is outsourced, I doubt very much that their quote will be competitive as someone, somewhere, will be wanting a slice.

A surprise discovery was Beamreach Printing. They had a tiny, tiny, stand with one very talkative guy staffing it. He actually asked me what my book was about, which threw me a bit off-guard, as I’ve not perfected my elevator pitch yet. After we had talked about my book he admitted he also outsources all his printing and wasn’t the man to talk to as he is primarily an intermediary and designer. Fair does. He did offer to find an offset printer for me, but I can do that for myself as well.

I saw Gardners listed as print on demand suppliers in the directory, but discovered that they outsource all printing requests. The guy I spoke with couldn’t even remember the name of the company they use. It was useful, however, to talk to them, as the 55% discount they require was enough to persuade me that my choice not to use a distributor was the right one.

What about the next step? Well, I will be asking Print on Demand Worldwide, Orbital Print and Berforts for quotations for 1, 100 and 200 books and I will take it from there. One further note, all were of the same voice about file preparation, they want crop marks in the cover artwork but not right up to the inner edge of the bleed. Orbital Print, in particular, were adamant this was necessary to ensure correct trim.

NB the date on my camera is wrong!

PLEASE can anyone who has used any of these companies post a comment on their experiences of them, as this blog page could be a valuable resource to others going down the self-publishing route and needing to find a print on demand printer who is reliable, approachable, professional and competitively priced.

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