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Marcelina | Have a Book
Posted on 20 February 2023

Prepress: How to prepare your book for print

A man working in the office looking at different pictures and comparing it with the data on the computer screen.

In spite of the whole industry being aware of the term 'Prepress', we can still see some discrepancies in understanding the meaning of this phrase. So, before we go any further, let me start this article by explaining where this name derives from and what it refers to.

Prepress – what does it mean?

'Prepress' is used in the printing industry to refer to all printers’ activities after they receive an order to print a book (or any other artwork such as a brochure, business card, or magazine) but before the actual job begins. The extended definition of this term describes every process that happens before printing and finishing the book. It includes book design, typesetting services, preflight, proofing, imposition and transfer to the final output device.

Many publishing houses or self-publishers decide to outsource or order publishing services related to typesetting, cover and graphic design and other prepress activities to a professional publishing services supplier or a freelance designer.

Modern prepress professionals usually divide their duties into the following stages:

Layout design and typesetting

Our prepress adventure begins with a completed manuscript received in a word processor program such as Microsoft Word. At this stage, what you as a publishing house or an author usually want is to have your text be neat and well-structured. Book formatting is very important – if your document has a clear structure, it is easier for designers or typesetters to understand your intention. It can also save a lot of time on any future corrections!

Designing a book always begins with becoming acquainted with book's genre. Academic and non-fiction books differ in structure from fictional books and therefore require a different approach. While creating a layout, the designer has to make a lot of decisions regarding various graphic elements; the font type and size, leading, page margins, and more. Cohesion and consistency is always a designer's ultimate goal.

When the layout is approved by the editor or author, typesetting can begin.

Book typesetting is the art of arranging text on book pages to provide greater readability. A typesetter chooses the spacing between words and letters, chapter styles, how large section breaks are, and what size the subheadings are and combines these choices with graphic elements such as illustrations, pictures, ornaments, lines, frames, and background colour.

At this stage, all necessary image adjustments are done. Graphics can be adapted to the CMYK colour model, and contrast and brightness are adjusted.

Preflight and sending files to the printing house

Working on the final appearance of the book includes a few rounds of corrections, for both language and typesetting. After the files are approved by the editor, they need to be validated in a process called preflight. When preparing the final PDF, it is crucial to follow the printing house requirements that describes the way a document should be prepared in order to be printed. Every professional prepress company checks their files thoroughly before sending them to print. It improves the final acceptance process and guarantees that your job doesn't fall out of the queue because of the additional corrections needed.

Proofing and imposition

Proofing is a very important stage that requires close cooperation between a printing house and publisher, book designer or professional publishing services supplier. What happens at this stage depends on the printing company since creating proofs is their responsibility. There are several types of proof you can accept. Nowadays, the most popular are soft proofs, where a technically checked production file is displayed onscreen for your evaluation. You can also consider ordering a hardcopy proof – a physical sample copy of your book, especially useful with expensive productions like photo albums or coffee table books where colour reproduction is key.

Most books require setting pages and fitting them to the printed sheet in a stage called imposition. Its main purpose is to make sure that the pages are in the correct order and to make best use of a printed sheet while minimizing paper waste.

Ready to print

Before we are ready to print, all printed sheets have to be ripped. This means they are converted to a raster image (bitmap) using raster image processor software. Productions printed in offset technology are now ready to be transferred to printing plates using CTP imaging technology. In digital printing, the data is transmitted directly to the printing machine.

The steps described above may vary in duration. Every stage of the prepress process depends on whether the previous work was done correctly. Many tasks are now automated, making the book preparation and printing process shorter in a way that was unimaginable just a few years ago. Publishing and designing a book has never been so easy and accessible to everyone. Cooperating with professionals will make your book stand out from other average publications.

I hope you find this article usefull.