Bookproject update 001: Two tracks, Scrivener, print bids

Here’s the first iteration of that which we promised you: detailed updates on The City‘s progress.

From the start, we’ve thought of this as a two-track process, one track being the effort of actually writing the book and the other concerning its physical design, production and delivery. We think of these things as happening in parallel, and very much informing each other.

(Why in parallel? Well, if you’ll excuse the expression, we’d like significant aspects of the book’s format and design to be innovative – but not simply for the sake of innovation, only insofar as any experimentation is directly driven by the content and its structure.)

I’m happy to be able to report that all is proceeding smoothly on the writing side. I’ve settled on Literature & Latte’s Scrivener as my primary composing environment – I find it a really good fit with both the way that I tend to collect scraps of research and the way I eventually turn those scraps into arguments – and you’ll find me, most afternoons of the week, comfortably ensconced in the Rose Reading Room, tapping away. No complaints there.

On the production side of the house, the very first item on our agenda was sourcing printers that might be interested in working with us. After some initial digging, we identified three we thought would be able to do short-run jobs at the level of quality we have in mind, each presenting distinct strengths and drawbacks: Asia Pacific Offset, Butler & Tanner, and Park Slope’s Rolling Press.

I submitted requests to discuss this project via email on the fifth of January, and only Rolling Press got back to us with a bid, which we’ll be discussing in a moment. I had a very pleasant discussion with one of Butler & Tanner’s salespeople, and she took down enough detailed information to come back with some kind of a ballpark bid, but we’re still waiting on it; we’ve heard nothing at all from Asia Pacific.

Here’s the salient data point in that: two weeks have now gone by, and we’re really no further along on the production side. Anybody contemplating doing something like this might want to consider that the print world apparently moves at a different speed than one folks used to the Web might consider normal. I’ve just sent out reminder mails to the printers I haven’t heard from, and if that doesn’t seem to raise any interest we may at some point be able to leverage the good relationship Asia Pacific Offset has with our friends at the Architectural League. (I’m particularly interested in receiving a bid from them because of their experience with printing Durabooks.)

Now, as to the bid we actually have in hand.

Rolling Press made our short list for four primary reasons: they’re local, they’re family-run, they’re committed to environmentally-friendly methods (“printing with vegetable inks with low VOCs, using a chemical-free computer-to-plate production process, and running on…certified 100% renewable wind power,” with “100% recycled and FSC certified papers always available”), and Nurri has had good experiences working with them in the course of her day job at AIGA.

When comparing this bid to others, it’s good to remember that there’s a certain amount of apples-to-oranges in all of this, as available print stocks and methods are going to differ between houses, and in the specific case of Rolling Press a lot of what we’d be paying for is the satisfaction of doing it indie, environmentally and above all locally.

Still, it does come down to numbers, and these are the basic parameters of the bid we received from them:

Self-published book
Quantity: 2,000
Pages: 248 Pages + Cover
Finish size: 6 x 9
Flat size: 9 x 12
Cover stock: 12pt C1S Cover
Text stock: 60# EnviroPrint 100 Text (100% postconsumer, processed chlorine free, FSC certified, made with BioGas energy)
Cover prints: CMYK + Satin varnish/Black (5/1) (vegetable inks with Low VOCs, chemical-free CTP production process, printed with wind power)
Text prints: 2 PMS (2/2) (same-same)
Finish: perfect binding
Quote: $15,375

That works out to a raw per-unit cost of around $7.70 – which is high, but not ridiculously so given what we’d be able to warrant to purchasers. (Interleaving multiple paper stocks would raise the number a bit.) At the very least, it’s a good place to start from. We’ll obviously be letting you know how it stacks up against the other bids we receive.

So what are our next steps, beyond waiting to hear from Butler & Tanner and Asia Pacific? I’ll continue to work on the text daily, of course, but we’ll also be:

– Incorporating our studio;
– Engaging an editor;
– Soliciting illustrations from various interested parties, as relevant subjects crop up;
– Choosing appropriate body-copy and display typefaces;
– Exploring the relationship between work in Scrivener, an intermediary full-fledged word processor, and InDesign.

Things are going to get really interesting and complicated now, especially with some stuff going on which has so far remained in the background of our lives that might be about to foreground itself in a very big way. We’ll let you know about that, of course, as soon as we hear anything. Stay tuned.

6 responses to “Bookproject update 001: Two tracks, Scrivener, print bids”

  1. richard says :

    If you’re looking a little further away, Hemlock Printers in Vancouver does good work, and for the most part I have found them to be quite responsive.

  2. Timo says :

    I’d be very interested in a good workflow between a nice text editor like Scrivener and InDesign. I’m faced with the constant problem of syncing text between the two environments…

  3. AG says :

    I know! What’s worse is that I’m totally onboard with the philosophy behind trying to author in an XML environment, so as to port most efficiently to whatever output mode becomes desirable, but I can’t yet figure out how to do so elegantly.

    I also can’t see in XML – I need to have book-like formatting already enabled to even think through the writing.

    Theoretically, one of Scrivener’s selling points is that you can use it with MultiMarkdown, which opens up all kinds of possibilities vis à vis LaTeX.

    I get this in principle, but in practice I’ll confess to lacking the sophistication with these environments necessary to actually save any time by using them – so for us I’m afraid it’s still going to be dumping large blocks of text into InDesign and re-styling them there.

  4. Timo says :

    I’ve tried InCopy, which is a true xml editor, and syncs well with InDesign, but it’s certainly not the most finessed word processor out there…

  5. August says :

    The publishing world’s pace is glacial. Authors without an already recognizable name or book deal can often wait eight or nine months just to hear back manuscripts if are accepted or not, from publishers, agents, etc. Printers tend to work on the schedule of traditional publishers, where in many cases a book can take six months to a year to be released even after it’s accepted for publication. Two weeks is mostly likely a completely negligible unit of time for them, with regards to a book.

  6. Ben says :

    “I also can’t see in XML – I need to have book-like formatting already enabled to even think through the writing.”

    I’m with you there, Adam — while I’m into writing with structural markup, I need the look of well-set text for more substantial stretches of writing. Luckily, Scrivener allows you to do both rich text formatting and markup at the same time — the MultiMarkdown export feature will (1) interpret your Scrivener document structure and any existing granular markup in the text, and (2) ignore your rich text niceties, which should be there simply for your own aesthetic needs.

    The challenge is to deploy this combination of aesthetics and semantics seamlessly during the writing process. I’ve just started to use a combination of OS X ruler styles, keyboard shortcuts for those styles, and a couple of macro applications like TextExander and QuicKeys. This setup lets me type a couple of special characters to, say, create a new blockquote that’ll be formatted in a typographically pleasing way *and* prepended by a Markdown blockquote artifact that is also visually formatted to look unobtrusive. I have a keyboard shortcut to take selected text, italicise it, and wrap it in almost invisible Markdown emphasis artifacts. And so on.

    Sure, this setup seems counter to the spirit of Markdown, which makes markup easier to write in the first place. (I certainly use it as it was intended for web writing and note-taking.) But a significant part of that strength is that Markdown also makes a document easier to *read*, so I’m basically using the syntax to add an almost invisible layer of semantic structure to documents that (for my own enjoyment) demand some level of nice formatting during composition.

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