This post is a continuation from Part 1, where I wrote about making my book 'The Prophecy Sketchbook' and running the Kickstarter campaign. In this part, I'm going to talk about my troublesome experience of getting the book printed.
I decided to use the Print on Demand (POD) company Lulu to print The Prophecy Sketchbook. POD allows for individual copies or small amounts of books to be printed to order, and shipped directly from the nearest printer to the customer. The quality is generally lower than other types of printing, but don't require you to make an order of 500 books for it to be profitable. I'm not really sure if I'd do this again.
The original test copies of the book were printed at the closest branch to me, which was located in the Netherlands. I was impressed by the quality, and was happy to use them for the Kickstarter. After the campaign ended, I ordered a new test copy. This one came from a branch in France; apparently the Netherlands branch had closed down for the foreseeable future. This ended up being a real problem.
The first test copy I received from France had some scratches on the back cover. It wasn't such a big deal, and it's not really in my nature to complain. In this case however, I felt I had an obligation for my backers. I'm really glad I did because it opened up a whole can of worms. I got sent a replacement, and I noticed that the pages weren't properly connected to the spine of the book. All of the images were a little fuzzy and I wasn't happy with it. I kept complaining and kept getting replacements. I was eventually told that I was going to be sent a copy that would be specially overseen, and would restore my trust before I placed a larger order. When that copy arrived, I opened the book to see that the first page was from someone else's book!
The Kickstarter was already completed by this point, and each proof copy they sent me meant another week or two delay to getting the orders out. I tried out some other companies in this time and couldn't find anything near the quality of those original test-prints. This was probably the worst part of this whole process. There was a lot of waiting for the next proof-copy, where I was unable to do anything about the current situation. Waiting a week or two to receive yet another defect got depressing.
Fortunately, after a few weeks Lulu informed me that the Netherlands branch would be reopened. I got a great test copy sent to me and ended up getting my larger order from them. There's another lesson here: expect the unexpected. I should have had a back up plan for printing. I should have accounted for things going wrong in my timeline. Sure, you can't account for everything, but I should have had a better idea of what can happen.
My original plan was to have half of the books sent directly from the closest printer to the backer. After seeing how much the quality varied, I decided to order all of the copies from the Netherlands and ship them myself. I'm glad I did this, as it meant I could ensure that everything was a consistent and acceptable quality.
I'm not sure if I'd use POD in the future. While things worked out, I found that it was a very unpredictable thing to rely on and it could have gone very badly for me. Unfortunately, there aren't many options for a small-scale project like this one.
To be continued in part 3, where I'll go over my experience of shipping the books, some final thoughts, and my plans for the future.