"What most surprised you about the process of printing your first book as a publisher?"
In February’s Q&A, John asked, “What most surprised you about the process of printing your first book as a publisher?”
Although we established Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing in the summer of 2012, I don’t think we printed out first book until late 2012 or possibly very early 2013. So, it’s been nearly a decade, but I can definitely share a few thoughts here.
First, we are a print-on-demand (POD) publisher, meaning we don’t do giant print-runs up front. Instead we use a service called Lightning Source, which prints the books as we need them. Although, with that said, we do try to keep a healthy stock of every title at our house / publishing office, since we focus on selling through our webstore rather than places like Amazon.
I also don’t format and design the books. That’s something my partner Lori Michelle does. So the whole process, I imagine, was far more difficult on her end than it was for me1.
I do remember being impressed with how quickly and efficient everything seemed to work in the beginning. How good it looked.
A few surprises we’ve discovered with printed books over the years:
Heat will destroy paperbacks, especially when you’re selling them at outdoor events. Especially when you live in the middle of Texas where the humidity often feels deadly. Front cover corners will curl up.
To prevent this, we started shrinkwrapping our books in plastic like they were sandwiches.
Plus, at conventions people often pick up our books, flip through them really aggressively, then set them down once they’ve realized “yup, these are actually books”, successfully bending the spine and doing all other types of gross damage. The plastic restricts such crimes from occurring.
With POD, you often get two choices for cover styles: glossy or matte. In the beginning of our publishing career, we always printed books with glossy covers. However, we quickly learned that glossy covers kind of suck when you’re selling books at indoor events. Interior lights reflect off glossy covers and distort the artwork. Potential customers passing by can’t even see what the book cover says, because all they see is a bizarre light reflection.
So now we mostly utilize matte covers, and I think that’s for the best. They look and feel better than glossy. Matte tends to leave fewer fingerprints than glossy, and matte isn’t as reflective.
So, yes, it’s easier to demonstrate your catalog at events with matte covers, but it’s also easier to photograph matte covers. Which is kind of essential in the year 2022, when Instagram and YouTube and TikTok are the most successful outlets to attract new readers.
It’s all about visual presentation now. The last thing you want is a reflection ruining the cool artwork on your book.
I’m hoping she’ll write a few posts in the future about book layout/design. Stay tuned.