The Basics of Printing
by Marcelle Karp, Bust
Choosing a printer
is like choosing a therapist, boyfriend. lawyer or mattress
it has to be a good match. As a zine publisher, you want to make
sure your printer is going to make your zine look as remarkable
as you envisioned it. After all, you will be spending yours (and
your subscribers if you have any) hard earned cash. If you are
as much a control freak as most publishers are, you will probably
want to do a little bit of homework, so that the end result is
a dreamboat instead of a nightmare.
You will want to
choose a printer who you can work with, who understands your
needs, and who will invariably take all of your phone calls (kind
of like a therapist, boyfriend and/or lawyer). I suggest having
a face to face meeting with the printer. If they live in another
city, speak to the printer at length on the phone. Ask lots of
questions. Stupid questions especially. If the printer doesn't
speak English very well, do not assume they can not understand
you. Have every detail of your phone conversation printed on
hard copy and faxed to the printer for clarification. For instance,
I have worked with an amazing printer, Linco's, for 5 issues
of Bust. While Anton's English could be a little ambiguous, his
thoroughness, his professionalism and his high quality of production
has kept Bust coming back for more business, as well as highly
recommending Linco's to my fellow zine publishers.
Before you go to
press with a printer, ask for sample copies of their work
past zines, newsletters, what have you they may have printed.
Not all printers print zines, so you may want to ask for newsletters,
catalogues, menu books, whatever. It is important to see what
else they print. If you look at the materials and like it but
don't love it, call one of the prior clients and ask them what
their experience was like. If you don't have the time for that,
make the time. It will be worth your while to do the homework,
which means checking all the options in terms of paper stock,
paper quality, production schedule and cost.
Whenever you deal
with a printer, get your price quotes up front and have the printer
fax you that quote. It is in your best interest to get a quoted
figure on paper, so that if you need to call the printer back,
you get the same quote twice. Confirm with the printer at every
juncture what the price quote is. If the printer does not fax
you the price quote, make a written transcript of your conversation,
and fax it to the printer ("As per our conversation....").
Don't let the printer throw different prices at you after a final
quote has been given. If you have your hardcopy fax that the
printer sent on over, or vice versa, there won't be any funny
business. Be assertive with the printer. Remember, it's your
business they want back. They need your business more than you
need to do business with them. So, have the printer give you
quotes for different page counts, in case you need to make a
fatter issue than you originally anticipated, get different quotes
for different paper stock, etc. Explore every option you so desire
financially. You are most likely going to be fronting the cost,
so you may as well have as much information as possible.
There's a bunch
of different types of paper you can print your zine on
recycled, newsprint, glossy (or should I say, "sell out"?)
and paper comes in different weights (30lb, 40lb, 50lb)
thickness, color (white paper, white gloss, newsprint, etc.).
You need to ask yourself what kind of paper is best for you and
what can you afford. Hint: the lighter the paper, the cheaper
your long term cost (especially when you start mailing your zine
out the post office weighs each piece of mail, and charges
you accordingly. But more on that in the mail
section). You may want to go glossy, but you may not be able
to afford it, on the typical shoestring zine budget. So, when
shopping around for a printer, collect all the kinds of paper
stock that may seem like an option to you and figure out what
you can afford.
Always insist on
seeing the proofs/bluelines before you go to final printing.
When you deliver your zine to your printer, you will probably
hand over a disc (Syquest or whatever they request of you) and
the hard copy paper version of your zine (this is usually your
zine, printed out, with little Post-its placed where the ads
should go.) The printer takes your masterpiece and begins laying
out your zine. Some shoot eight pages at a time under a camera,
some don't, but they all end up with a proofed copy of your zine,
also know as a blue line.
The blueline is what your zine actually looks like except the
whole thing is in blue! It is the final hard copy proof of what
the printer will actually hand over to you as a final product.
Usually, it takes
a week for the printer to lay out your magazine and compile the
blueline. There is a cheaper version of the blueline, an ink
jet proof, that you can also request. It is not as slick as the
blue line; it is more of a cut and paste job of your zine, as
the printer has laid it out. Look over the proofs with a fine
toothed comb. You may be able to spot some mistakes of your own,
and you will undoubtedly find errors that the printer has made.
Don't be concerned
that you are already five weeks late and you don't want to eat
up any more time because you want to get the zine back from the
printer so badly. Quite frankly, making corrections is usually
a quick turn around. It is worth an extra day or so to make sure
that the zine you get back is the zine you want, that all the
ads are where they should be, and that there are no missing pieces
of text in your stories. Printers can and do sometimes misread
data they will leave a crucial sentence out of the story,
they will repeat paragraphs, they will re-print a story twice
in the same magazine but in a different area. So go over your
proofs. You'll be glad you did.
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