Community, Design, Local authors, Marketing, Self Publishing, Writing

Author Spotlight: Adventure, Photography, and Postcards with David Robertson

Every book is its own adventure. This is specifically true about one of our authors who has been printing books for a decade with new titles almost every month. His name is David Robertson and he is an exceptional person, author and artist!

I have had the pleasure of working with him on a majority of his books and being able to talk to him about his journey and creative process. He has multiple series of books including family history hardcovers, photography journeys, and a new series of postcard books. When he and his wife are not traveling across the country or the world, he prepares these amazing books for printing. I had a chat with him recently to get his thoughts about his process and here is what he had to say:

GP: What was the inspiration for creating your first book?

DR: I used to do posters and deck of cards and brochures. When I began trying to make something out of our travels, none of these formats seemed to work really well. I would do one trip as a fold out or the like, and another as a deck of cards, but I began to feel they were not working all that well. So, eventually I thought, hmmmm, these trips ought to be a book.

GP: What made you choose Gorham Printing for your books?

DR: I ran a Bioregional Artist in Residence program here at Davis back 20 years ago. One of the artists was Mike Madison and he told me about you. Mike has become quite famous, reviewed in NY Review, etc., and the piece he did in the Artist in Residence became a chapter in his first book. So we deserve some credit here. So On the Road Ecology was my first book ever, except for scholarly books.

David always impresses us when we receive his files. His books are interesting and always pass the file review with flying colors. Out of all his books he has done, he is so meticulous with his editing that I can only remember maybe one time that he made changes to a proof. His editing process works fantastic for him!

GP: What is your editing and proofing process like?

DR: Chaotic! I go through the photos in the iPhone (or what cameras came before) and edit and delete. Then I download them and delete some more and get an idea what “hangs” together. By this time I have an idea of what the book is going to be about. Most of the time the basic idea comes on the trip on the basis of what I see and read. So I make a list on a sheet of paper of what photos might go together. And I make notes of what words might go with them. Then I go back through the photos and on paper say “yes” or “no” or “?” I go away for a few days. Return. Start the book in InDesign. Do a first draft. go away, for a week to a month. This is very important. I get too close to a book, so I have to go away so I can get some distance. I return and most of the time make significant revisions, ever so often change the whole idea because I don’t think it is working. I wait another 2 weeks or so and finalize the MS and after another 2 weeks, send it to you.

GP: How do you sell or give away your books?

DR: I do not sell books, ever. I give them away to friends and family and to anyone who asks for one.

GP: I know you use InDesign for setting up your book now, but have you always used in InDesign? Why did you choose InDesign?

DR: Used Photoshop and InDesign from the start. I decided I would force myself to do no shortcuts. Get the best and learn how to use them.

David has a mix of black & white and color images in most of his books. As part of our PDF Review, we always check to make sure the color count in files are correct. David worked with our team when he first started to understand the best way to set up black and white images to make sure they registered as true black and white images using grayscale settings. His files are always 100% accurate in his color count!

GP: What are the struggles you have faced with designing your book?

Ideas!!! Ideas are the most important ingredient. No idea, no book. (That may not always be true, you understand.) There are two basic ways to “show” photographs. One is as a series of individual pictures, each of which stands alone. Two is a “story.” That’s what I want. Readers of my books should start at the beginning, go through the book as if they were reading a novel, and get somewhere at the end, somewhere they were not at the beginning. Again, you understand, this may not always be true, but I am trying.

GP: You have a few different series of books, including photography travels, family history, and now postcard books. What advice would you give to new authors looking to start self-publishing?

Ask yourself, what do I really want to do. Me, myself, what do I really want my books to be. Then do it. And beware of praise. Praise makes you want to continue doing the things people like, instead of going in your own directions.

David let me know he has another book heading our way soon which will be another Postcard book. We always enjoy seeing his new adventures, new books and working with him. A few years ago he and his lovely wife stopped by our shop on one of their journeys. The team was so excited to meet them!

We hope to make a connection with each one of our authors just as we have with David and perhaps meet you one day as well!

Design, Page Layout, Writing

3 Tips for Writing Your Book in Microsoft Word

Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.

Catherynne Valente – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Whether you’re writing a gripping mystery novel, your great aunt’s biography, or the history of sawdust manufacturing in 1750s Bristol, your story likely began as an idea and spent a while kicking around in your head. When it comes time to print your book, that wild, intangible idea gets transformed into something solid that can be held in your hands.

The first part of that transformation is creating print-ready digital files, and most authors (myself included) use word processing programs like Microsoft Word or Pages to create their interior. Word processors are fantastic for writing, and using them to create a PDF is a breeze. That said, nothing is perfect, including Microsoft Word, and sometimes the programs designed to help you can get in your way. Here are three tricks for outsmarting your word processor to create a perfect print-ready PDF.

1. Know Your Pagination

Let’s talk about recto and verso.

Recto means the right side page, and verso means the left side page. This is a simple concept that will save you a lot of time as you think about book design. Especially if your book has spreads, (pages where content spreads across two separate pages) you’re going to want to make sure you know which is recto and which is verso.

This becomes critical on the first page of your book, because Word, Pages, and even Adobe Acrobat are likely going to show that page on the left, or verso. But all books, whether they’re softcover, spiral, or hardcover, start with the first page on the right, or recto.

book printing first page recto verso

If you format your book to start on the left page, it’s going to throw the rest of your pagination out of line. If your software won’t display the first page on the right, you can add a blank page to the beginning of your book and think of it as the inside cover. Just make sure you delete that page before you send it off for printing!

2. Center Your Page Numbers

Word and Pages make adding page numbers as simple as clicking Insert. Unfortunately, these programs will often put page numbers in the right hand corner. This looks perfect on the screen. But once you lay that document out like a book, you’ll see that half the page numbers are hidden in what we call the binding edge—they’re on the inside edge of the page instead of the outside.

book printing page numbers 1

Trying to make Microsoft Word alternative page numbers can be a headache, to say the least. Save yourself some stress and center your page numbers. Centered page numbers look elegant, clean, and no matter if they’re recto or verso, they’ll be in the right spot.

book printing page numbers 2

3. Review Your PDF

I recently printed my own book here at Gorham Printing.  I created the book in Pages, since I was using a Mac computer, and set my margins for a half inch all the way around. After all, I tell people day in and day out that half inch margins are the way to go for most books. I checked to make sure everything looked good in my Pages document—the margins were right, the font was the right size, and the spacing was excellent.

But then I opened my PDF.

Suddenly, I had one inch margins on the top and bottom. My page numbers were in a different font than the rest of my book. My recto and verso were all tangled, and the beautiful formatting work I had done wasn’t quite so pristine.

What happened? Well, two things. One, when I exported my document to a PDF, there were export settings that overrode what I had in my original document. Two, exporting it to a PDF let me see my document with fresh eyes. This is why it’s critical to open your PDF after you export it and make sure everything looks exactly as intended. If something doesn’t look right, you can always go back to the original document, make adjustments, and try exporting it again.

Using Microsoft Word to Write Your Book

Word, Pages, and other word processors are excellent tools to write your book, and thanks to features they’ve added over the years, they work well for creating a print-ready PDF. Like any tool, it’s important to know how to use them, and to know where their shortcomings are.

Some authors feel overwhelmed when they run into these issues, but there are countless resources to help you! Thousands of other authors are using these programs for the same thing as you, and many of them have documented their process. The Microsoft Help Forums and Pages Help Forums are a great place to start looking for expertise.

Community, Design, Local authors, Marketing, Self Publishing, Writing

Isabella Burckhardt: Making Connections with Paper Pigeon

I first began talking with Isabella about Paper Pigeon in the fall of 2020, and I immediately knew there would be a special book coming my way. Isabella did a lot of research and asked great questions about the printing process, so that by the time we started the order for Paper Pigeon, her files were in great shape. 

We just finished the second printing of Paper Pigeon and look forward to many more reprints. I was able to speak with Isabella recently about her story, and she shared her inspiration and experience in self-publishing her journal:

GP: What is the concept of your book?

IB: I created a prompted, collaborative journal called Paper Pigeon! It’s designed to be completed by pairs like best friends, couples, and family members, and helps them develop a deeper connection. The journal features over 200 different activities and questions for them to complete, either by sitting down together or by passing it back and forth. The idea for Paper Pigeon came from a journal I mailed back and forth with my long distance boyfriend when quarantine first began, so I also heavily advocate for the journal’s benefits with long distance pairs.

GP: What made you want to self-publish?

IB: Before choosing how to publish my project I did quite extensive research about the process of selling my work to a publisher. I learned that publishers often look for an author with previous experience or a strong platform that will improve the reach of their work. As a university student studying entrepreneurship, I have no formal education or background in writing and lack an audience from an established career. Therefore, I believed that although I had the drive and passion to create work that I’m proud of, I may have lacked the qualifications on paper to work with a publisher.

Additionally, self-publishing allowed me to bring my book to life in just 7 months, which is much quicker than the process of working with a publisher. Moreover, Gorham provided me with incredible support and resources. The attention and care I received working with the Gorham staff were completely unmatched and I feel certain that I would not have had such a positive experience elsewhere. Working with Gorham was also very rewarding because I’m able to support a local family-owned business with my publication, which is important to me. 

Finally, self-publishing my book has also given me more control over other aspects of my small business such as packaging, writing personalized thank you cards for every order, and building relationships directly with my customers.

GP: What program did you use to design your book? Did you come across any challenges with that program?

IB: I used the Adobe Suite to design my book, specifically Adobe InDesign. I had never used this program before, so I experienced a great learning curve as I familiarized myself with it. YouTube tutorials and forums on the Adobe website were crucial in helping me learn. 

My greatest challenge designing Paper Pigeon wasn’t with InDesign itself, but actually with choosing a font. I struggled finding a font style that looked clean yet handwritten to properly represent the qualities of my prompted journal. I spent about a month trying different fonts and font sizes, printing sample pages, and even polling friends and family, before finally choosing a typeface that I was happy with.

GP: I know you have been working on this project for quite a while. What did it feel like when you first saw your finished book?

I had spent so much time with my work just in a document format that finally unboxing it as a book felt surreal! Being able to hold the book and flip through its pages was such a rewarding moment for me. I still don’t think I’ve fully processed it, especially when I consider now that people around the world are using my journal to connect with the people they care about.

GP: Your first printing was in March of this year, and you are already doing a reprint. What kind of presale marketing did you do before you had the books in hand?

I began by reconnecting with the people that I had interviewed to inform its contents. I emailed anyone that I believed had contributed significantly to the development of Paper Pigeon to share the exciting news that it was finally published, to thank them again for their support, and to give them first access to purchasing a copy. Then, I shared the news with my extended family and friends on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. They subsequently reposted my announcement to their own networks which helped raise additional awareness. That being said, a majority of my sales came from social media promotion after my book was published.

GP: How have you spread the word about your book since?

IB: I used an organic marketing strategy to advertise my book and never spent a single dollar on marketing expenses. Instead, I used Instagram and TikTok to post content about the value of Paper Pigeon and the prompts inside. Most social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook) require that a user follow you before seeing your content. Contrastingly, TikTok and Instagram recommend content to users based on an algorithm (think Amazon “recommended for you.”) This meant that I was able to get my content in front of hundreds of potential customers without having a large initial audience. I posted daily for about two months before selling out. Each post performs differently so the key is consistency. I ended up having two posts gain a lot of traction on TikTok, one received 18,000 views and the other 128,000 views. The popularity of these posts directly translated to sales and led to half my inventory being sold in just a week! 

My growth was also fueled by a partnership I arranged with a couple who has 11,000 followers on TikTok. They are college-aged and post content about being in a long-distance relationship, so they aligned strongly with my target audience. In exchange for a complimentary copy of Paper Pigeon, they posted a video using the journal which directly led to the sale of about 20% of my inventory. TikTok is home to large book and small business communities, so posting content that taps into these groups is a powerful tool for any self-published author! (Do some research on “Booktok” to learn more.)

GP: Do you have a future project in mind? Will it be another journal or something different?

IB: I have considered the potential of making additional prompted journals for pairs that have specific themes, for example Paper Pigeon for students, grandparents and their grandchildren, newlyweds, etc. I do hope that continued success will give me the opportunity to expand into some of these areas, but right now I am excited to continue growing my current edition of Paper Pigeon over the summer.

GP: What would you tell someone who is thinking about self-publishing a book?

IB: DO IT and don’t let a lack of formal experience in writing or literature stop you. Your drive and the passion you have for your concept are what truly matter. Being able to hold a physical and bound copy of your work is so rewarding and you will be happy you did it. Additionally, by printing with Gorham you couldn’t be in better hands.

GP: If you could send your book to anyone in the world, who would it be?

My dad often insists that I should send a copy of Paper Pigeon to Oprah, especially because her recommendations carry a great amount of weight. However, from a business perspective, I would love to get a copy of Paper Pigeon to an executive at Paper Source. The store is all about creative gifts, paper products, and journaling, which all strongly align with Paper Pigeon! 

For a more fun answer I would love to send my book to Emma Chamberlain. She’s definitely my generation’s trend setter and I think she and her boyfriend would love using Paper Pigeon to connect while she’s busy jet-setting around the world being a girl boss!

One of the best parts of working at Gorham Printing is seeing beautiful and innovative book projects, and Paper Pigeon is a great example of this. Isabella took her personal situation during quarantine and created something to help others. Being able to accompany her on the path to getting her books printed was truly enjoyable.

Whether you are writing your family history, publishing a novel, or creating a collaborative journal like Paper Pigeon, we are here to help bring your vision to life. Call me or Jennifer to discuss your ideas!

Find out more about Paper Pigeon:

  • Follow Paper Pigeon on Instagram and TikTok @paperpigeonjournals
  • Purchase a Paper Pigeon journal of your own at https://paperpigeonjournals.square.site/
  • Email Isabella at paperpigeonjournals@gmail.com if you’d like to talk more about her experiences self-publishing or marketing her work.
Book Printing Cost, Book production, Self Publishing

What to Look For in a Book Printer

Before I joined the Gorham Printing team, I had some experience printing my own books as gifts and creative projects, and found myself swimming in a sea of options. I had worked at bookstores and seen thousands of books, so I knew what I wanted mine to look like, but I wasn’t quite sure how to communicate that to the printers. There were more options than I realized, and all of those options had consequences I didn’t fully understand.

Now that I have more experience with book printing, I have a better idea of what I’m looking for, but if I had to go back and start fresh, this is what I’d tell myself about finding the right book printer for a project.

1. Type of Printing

Every printer is different, but there are different categories of printing, and if you know what you’re dealing with, you can better anticipate what the process will look like. There are three key words to look out for.

Print-On-Demand. This is the kind of printer I worked with for my first book. These printers are fast and flexible. The real benefit of print-on-demand is that they can print one or two books at a time, whenever you need. Because they print quickly, the quality is not always excellent, and the options may be limited.

Offset Printing. If you’ve picked up a book at Costco or Target, chances are, it was printed using offset printing. Offset printing presses are suitable for printing thousands or hundreds of thousands of books. It has a high set up cost because it involves metal plates being made for your book, so if you only want a hundred books, offset printing will break the bank. But if you’re looking to print a hundred thousand, offset printing is the way to go.

Short Run Printing. Short run printers are perfect if you want high quality books but don’t want ten thousand of them. With quality similar to offset printing, short run printing usually takes a little longer than print-on-demand, but the end result is a longer-lasting book. These kind of printers will sometimes have more options than POD (print-on-demand) because POD printers streamline their options to keep their production times fast.

2. Production Timelines & Quality

When I ordered my first book, I needed it quickly. It was a present and I had procrastinated. So I was excited when I saw I could have my books in as little as a week through a POD printer.

For my latest book, though, I planned ahead and went with a short run printer. There are a lot of reasons, but one of the big ones is quality. Sometimes quick is critical, and this works perfectly for many projects. When you look at production timelines, it’s important to remember that the timeline can speak to the quality.

3. Finished Product

One thing I really wish I had known when I started printing books is to ask for a sample. At the time, I thought it’s paper and text; how many options are there?

The answer is a lot.

From the quality of paper to the type of printers used to create your book, each component has an effect on the finished product. Depending on the book printer you work with, the same files and book could come out any variety of ways. When I started printing, I had a specific feel I wanted for my books, but didn’t even know the questions to ask to see if that was possible. The best way to get a sense of the quality of your finished book is to request a sample of a similar book the company has printed. This will let you test the strength of the binding, the quality of the paper, and the way the book feels in your hands. You can also use it as a jumping off point to ask questions about the ways you want your own book to be different or similar.

Closing Thoughts on How to Pick a Book Printer

As a writer, I know that a book is the result of hard work, many cups of coffee, endless rants, and who knows how many sleepless nights. Writers work hard, and giving that hard work to a book printer can be nerve-wracking. For any writer, I would suggest picking a printer—specifically a book printer—you can work with long term who will help you find the right options for your book. If you’re not sure about whether a certain printer is right for you, the best way to find out is to give them a call and ask.

self publishing guidebook

Want to see a sample of our print quality? Click Here to request our new guidebook. It’s designed and printed here in our shop in Centralia on the same papers and printers as your books, and is full of helpful tips and tricks for self-publishing your own books.