29 May 2009

Step 4: Post-production and preparing for the printers (a.k.a MacGuyver phase)

Why is it also known as the MacGuyver phase?

Because when I was chained to my desk for those couple of years drawing, I was unaware of how much effort and money I really needed to get almost 200 pages of art print-ready. Or perhaps I was in denial, but either way the pages needed to be scanned, cleaned up, laid out and converted into a print-ready PDF.

But during the drawing process I was far away on a cloud being blissfully unaware, smiling and daydreaming about books rolling off the presses and floating off into bookstores like a scene out of Harry Potter.

Okay, so denial had me in a choke-hold there, and when I phoned for quotes about how much it would cost to get all those stuff done by the people who do them stuff, denial released its grip and I coughed my lungs all over the floor! IOW, I had no choice but to channel my inner Richard Dean Anderson.

So instead of having the pages drum-scanned and cleaned up all nice-like at a repro house for a small fortune, I had to be resourceful, which meant inquiring if I could actually do this myself somehow, and if that would be a wise move or would it mean my book ended up looking like green and yellow sputum.

I was told that going with the repro house would be the best thing for my pages as their drum scanners are of a higher quality and their people also clean up any stray marks and broken lines on the pages. But I was also advised that since my book has no greyscale art and was strictly line art, I could conceivably get away with using a home scanner set at a high resolution, between 900 – 1200 dpi, but then I had to do the clean up myself, a very laborious process which is the reason why many folks (with rich uncles) end up going with the repro people.

But, at least there was hope, so all I needed to do was brace myself for a couple months of scanning each page in three parts (A3 pages, A4 scanner, oy!), stitching them together into one page and spending hours photoshopping the pages into a shiny sheen.

And I have to admit, I was quite pleased with the way it turned out - I dare you to compare the original pages with the scans and find the scans wanting (yes, admit it, I’m a genius!).

All that was left was laying each page out in Freehand and finally creating an EPS file that the printing company would use to convert into a print ready PDF.

Yes, I said laying each page out in Freehand, as in the vector-based drawing software you use for creating logos and such. Look, I couldn’t get my hands on the typical layout software like In Design or Quark (don’t ask why) and necessity being the mother of no choice, I went with what I had available. But hey, even though it meant more work for me (yay!), to my surprise it actually ended up working, barring one or two computer crashes. (okay, several!)

And if that wasn’t enough, after all my researching about book covers and people advising that not only shouldn’t you design your own book cover but you should ask a professional cover designer and not just any graphic designer, I went and gave them all the finger and decided to actually create (all by myself) my own book cover.

And guess what, I don’t think anybody else would’ve done a better job than the author who knows his creation better than anyone else and therefore knows what the most appropriate image would be to convey what the book is all about. I think it was a job well done thank you very much!

Having said that, however, don’t EVER do what I just did there! Rather ask a professional cover designer to do you it for you. I’m sure as hell going to next time because I’m not going through that again. I think that experience shaved a few years off my life, I swear.

Finally, I have to give all due props to Arthur Attwell over at Mousehand for answering some of my more challenging questions about how to get my book print-ready. It’s just good to know that there are still some people out there who’s got game.

So with my entire book scrunched up into an EPS file, I sent it off to the printers and waited like a child on Christmas Eve for that first book to arrive.

Next time: Trying to sell the damn thing!

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