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Book Printing: Choose Your Paper Stock Wisely

Jul 7, 2008
It's a tough question to answer, and one I hear all the time: Which paper stock should I choose for my book? And although it's a tough question, it is an important one because the paper you choose will tell your potential buyer what kind of book this is. Go too cheap, you might lose some buyers to a different title. Go too expensive, you just wasted your money.

Let's start by clearing up a point of confusion among many looking to print their first book: the difference between bond and offset paper weights. When you purchase paper for your copy machine or home printer, you'll note paper is listed as something like 20# bond. What that means is that when the paper is manufactured at 17 x 22", 500 sheets of that paper weighs 20 pounds. However, offset paper for printing plants is manufactured in 25 x 38" sheets, which is 2.5 times larger than bond paper. So 500 sheets of that same paper stock now weigh 50 pounds. Thus, 20# bond is the same as 50# offset.

Typically, I would recommend that for a standard book with just black text (no color) and not a lot of images, 50# offset is just fine. If there are a lot of graphics in the book, you might want to bump up to 60# offset to eliminate some see-through from one side of the page to the other.

One thing I cannot emphasize enough - get print samples. There are a couple times when I have had a client tell me they knew exactly what type of paper they wanted to use, but then they were disappointed when they got the final product. Why? A friend of theirs had told them which paper stock to choose, and they ordered their books without ever seeing a paper sample. Don't make the same mistake!

Children's books or coffee table books that are printed in full color need a different paper stock than black & white books. You'll want to think about whether to bump up to a glossy stock to make your pictures really shine on the paper. If you don't like the glare of a glossy sheet, ask your printer if they have any matte coated stocks that would bring out the color of your images without the extra sheen.

Also, if you are printing in full color, you'll definitely want a thicker paper stock. You don't want any see-through for your color images from one side of the page to another. I usually recommend 80# gloss for most color books. If you want a little thicker, step up to 100# gloss. If you are trying to save cost, drop down to 70# gloss - but never less than that.

Again -- always get samples before making your decision!

When it comes to cover stock, for a paperback book a 10 pt. C1S cover is standard. However, it is usually very inexpensive to upgrade to a 12 pt. C1S cover. People do judge a book by its cover, so this might be a cost-effective upgrade.
About the Author
Josh Prizer has been working in the book printing business for more than a decade and is a book printing expert. To pick his brain on childrens book publishing, sign up for his Free 7-Part Mini-Course.
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