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Some Questions for Printers

        [The dollar amounts mentioned in this paragraph have undoubtedly changed.]  If you go in to talk to a printer, or correspond with a mail-order printer, it will help you to know a little about the process and probably costs.  First consider binding.  Hard covers will add two or three dollars for each copy if you are having only a few hundred printed (and who needs more)?  Quality paperbacks have flat spines.  That is called "perfect binding," and it will cost you at least 50 per copy.  Pamphlets such as this one are "saddle-stitched," or folded and stapled at the crease.  After printing both sides of the pages, the printer has to run the pages through a folder, collate the pages (there are machines for this, too gathering the pages and putting them in order), and trim them (so the center pages wont pooch out beyond the edge of the outside pages).  Folding and collating can be done by hand by the poet [the best technique is to run the barrel of a plastic pen over the crease to make it sharp], but trimming is very important and requires special equipment.  (An office paper-cutter won't do the job.)  You can buy a saddle-stitch stapler [also called "long reach" or "binder" staplers] and staple the books yourself or (as for each of these operations) hire the printer to do it.  What kind of stock and ink will you use?  Most use black ink and white paper (20 lb. bond or 50 lb. offset; the weight of these two kinds of paper is about equivalent, but offset is higher quality).  [Offset paper should definitely be used.  Office-quality bond paper wrinkles and loses its shape more easily.]  But you can have different shades of paper and ink for additional costs.  Most use a heavier stock for the cover e.g., 100 lb. offset.  The cover is usually printed on one side only.  Maybe you want a photo of yourself on the back of the book.  Even with modest embellishments of this sort you can find yourself paying as much for the cover as for the rest of the book.  If you want the cheapest possible deal, use the same stock for the cover as for the rest, white paper, black ink, no photos.  (Line-drawings you supply on the page entail no extra cost though they do take up space.)

        Another costly factor is composition getting the words onto the paper in the form in which they will appear in the book.  As I have mentioned, you can do your own composition on your typewriter especially if you have an electric machine with a good, black, preferably carbon ribbon (but a cloth ribbon will do if it is fresh and your keys are kept clean).  Your printer can do a photo-reduction of your typed page which will make the typing look a little more like printing (and get more lines to the page).  For example, a normal 8 x 11" sheet of typing paper can be reduced nicely to a 5 x 8" page size (what you get when you fold that piece of typing paper in the middle).  If I were doing that I would use Pica type and space-and-a-half (rather than double or single space).  The print would then be able half the size of the typewriter manuscript and you could get about 25 lines to the page, with comfortable margins.  [Although it is still possible to produce a book this way, it isn't necessary.  The easy availability of computers and laser printers makes it possible to produce a camera-ready copy of your book without the need for photo-reduction.  You should not, however, use an ink jet printer, as even the best of them are markedly inferior to laser printers. For the best results, use a laser printer with at least 600 dpi (dots per inch).]

        Most of the high cost of composition by a printer pays for very expensive equipment which is required to "justify" lines of type i.e., to make the lines of prose come out even at the right margin.  Justification is usually of no interest to poets, and its a pity that you have to pay for that equipment.  (Also, you often pay by the page composed and a poet gets far fewer words to the page than does the prose writer.  You can imagine why printers rather like to have poets come into their office.)  But aside from justification a composing machine produces letters which are clear, sharp, and proportionally spaced (i.e., an i takes up much less space than an m).  Readers have a subconscious association of proportional spacing with "real" printing, and tend to think typewriting looks amateurish by comparison.  If it is important to you that your book look like printing instead of typewriting, you can try to get access to a typewriter which has proportional spacing (such as the IBM Executive, mentioned earlier, or, better, an IBM or some other type of composer).  [Those composer typewriters have been replaced by computers, and it is doubtful that IBM Executive typewriters are still being made they were definitely a hassle to use.]  Any good typist can learn to use these machines with a little instruction.  If you can't get access to a machine you can use yourself, you have to find a printer who has one and does composition and find out his rates.  (Compare several:  these costs are by no means standard.  It helps to go in with your manuscript in hand for an estimate.)  [Once again, justified text and proportional type can now be produced on personal computers using laser printers.  If you don't have a computer, you can generally rent time on one at Kinkos (or similar stores) or at the library.]

        But if your prime interest is in getting a pamphlet out cheaply, one of your biggest savings will be in taking "camera-ready" copy to the printer.  Your printer can advise you how to do that but I'll give you some tips.  (Incidentally, if you are good at hand-lettering, you may wish to consider hand-lettering the whole book.  The camera which makes the master for offset printing simply photographs what is before its lens and lettering, typing, line-drawings, all photograph equally well.)

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