A Step-By-Step Overview of the Book Printing Process


Once the pages have been copyedited and approved, an index is created, typesetted, and proofread. The author generally pays for indexing, as outlined in the contract.

Each flat is numbered and given a crease before being sent through the printing process. At the end, the books are glued together and then trimmed.


Typesetting is the careful arrangement of text and graphics in preparation for printing. It involves everything from determining font sizes and spacing to creating a page layout that maximizes visual communication. Typesetting is also a form of art, with designers often applying conventions that make the work feel familiar and comfortable to readers. While modern typesetters use software like Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress, the craft still requires skill and experience.

Whether using a POD service or self-publishing, your manuscript must be typesetted. The process takes much time and attention, so hire a professional to do the job well. Look for a professional typesetter who can provide you with a physical print proof of your book so that you can check the readability and ensure that all the hard work pays off with a polished result.

Once you’ve completed the typesetting and proofreading stages, it’s time for the post-press phase. This includes anything after your pages are printed on parent sheets and cut to the appropriate size for your book. This step is critical to ensure that your books look professional and are easy for readers to handle. If you need more help with this stage, look at our book distribution page for more information. We’ll get your books in readers’ hands while ensuring you receive the royalties and profits you deserve.


After a book passes muster in Editorial, it heads to Production, where it is given a final once-over before being sent to a book printing company. This is the proofreading stage, and while it may seem obvious, a professional proofreader looks at much more than just grammatical consistencies and typos. She also ensures that the design of a book adheres to the original edited manuscript. This involves reading a book layout, page by page, comparing it to the final copy edited manuscript, and correcting errors that have somehow crept into the layout.

This means looking for things like orphans (a line of text at the bottom of a page) and word stacks (where a single word appears three or more times in a row, stacked one on top of another). For children’s books, it might mean ensuring that all of the art is where it belongs.

Book printing starts with aluminum plates coated with an imaging, ink-accepting coating. These are fed into a machine that etches the images of each page onto the coating, and then water and oil-based ink are rolled over them. It takes between 2,500 and 3,000 pounds of ink to print a book, depending on how many pages it has. A full tank of ink can hold up to 800 gallons, and the presses can use up to 80 gallons at a time.


Book design is taking your raw manuscript into a complete, print-ready file. While a manuscript is composed of the content of your book—be it a story you have to tell, a manual or guide on how to do something, a history that you’re recounting, or anything else—it takes careful planning and layout design using book design software to turn your manuscript into a book.

A book designer will start by establishing the parameters of your project, including page dimensions and page counts. This is so that any graphic artist or illustrator involved in the design doesn’t begin without having a clear understanding of what the requirements are. It also prevents miscommunications, which is one of the leading reasons that project partners go their separate ways.

For example, a good designer will think about the fonts that you’re going to use and the sizes of those fonts. They’ll consider the color scheme you’re using and how it will relate to the rest of the book. They’ll ensure that all of the text in your book is comfortable to read by checking that you have the right amount of leading between lines and that there are no gaps in the line spacing.

A good book layout will have a consistent look throughout. That’s why it’s so important to think about your design decisions in the beginning and be willing to stick with them for two hundred or more pages.


Before computer typesetting and iPads and epubs, it took a small army of skilled artisans and craftspeople, not to mention leviathan machinery, to make a book. Even today, it takes a similar number of people and equipment to create a book using the Print-on-Demand (POD) method.

In this process, a digital file is sent to a printer that prints the pages and cover, just as you might print a document on your home printer. Then, the book is saddle-stitched or stapled together along its spine and trimmed for size.

Before POD, books were printed in large sheets called flats. These were sliced into 32 or 64-page sections called signatures and then gathered on a collating table in the correct order. This is why when you look at the spine of an older book, it appears to be bunched up into chunks rather than seamlessly sewn together.

For text-only books, this form of letterpress printing was adequate, but for illustrative material, a newer method of modern offset printing was needed. For a multicolor book, four negatives are produced: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. These are then melded onto a plate, which is coated with a chemical that attracts ink. The plates are then brought to the press and printed with the ink that corresponds to each of the shades.

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