In this new series, editors of the Poetry International Chapbook Series and Poetry International staff will discuss the process of running a contemporary press and literary journal: from collaborating with fellow editors to navigating design technologies to promoting a new publication, and all the spaces in between.
Split-form Chapbook Production
In a previous post, I described our structural experiments with a split-form chapbook. In this update, I’ll talk about our experience mapping those ideas to an actual production run of 50 books.
Our ideal solution had been to use perfect binding—a traditional book structure where the page signatures are glued to the spine—but the local copiers either did not have the necessary bindery equipment (FedEx Kinko’s), or required too large a minimum run (200 at Cal Copy). On-line providers would take smaller orders, but the timeframes did not work with our deadlines (which were dictated by course schedule), especially since they would require the back-and-forth of a review prototype.
Cal Copy did offer to perform tape binding, which has no minimum run, and is very similar to perfect binding—the pages are glued to a strip of tape, instead of a spine fold of the cover; the tape wraps around the cover and thus does not need to be sized like a normal spine-and-cover spread (making it appropriate for small runs). That briefly looked like a good option, until Cal Copy priced the tape binding out as an extra $5 per copy, which was the same price we were hoping to ask for the entire chapbook.
A (well-worn) example of tape binding:
Since we didn’t want to manually glue or sew books, we went with a traditional chapbook option, the stapled saddle-stitch. When trying to reassemble our editorial page pairings (see our previous articles for a refresher of that goal), the most common mistake was to get the entry from an adjacent page. We realized that making the pages alternate between two colors might provide a visual indication of which top section went with which bottom section, making the misidentification of pairs less likely.
I bought a multi-color pack of printer paper (there seems to be a rule that multiple color packs must contain only garish colors) to demo, and interleaved two colors in my printer paper tray before using InDesign’s print booklet feature. The result did cut down quite a bit on misidentifications. It wasn’t perfect, but our design is one of interpretive stress and uncertainty, anyway, so our group decided to go with it. The home-printed demo:
For our final run, we picked colors that were only subtly different: enough to distinguish the pages, but not so much as to overwhelm the other design elements. FedEx Kinko’s initially said they couldn’t do the job, because their chapbook assembly software can only set one color for the body and another for the cover. We ultimately created each page as an individual spread in their regular software, which allowed a color per page, and then FedEx ran these through their folding machine as a separate job (the staff wasn’t familiar with fold-only jobs, so I had to get the manager involved…I knew it was possible because I’d used them for fold-only in the past).
FedEx ultimately finished the job by the end of the same day. We bought vellum to use as a flyleaf in the books, and got to assembly. For each chapbook, we chopped the body of the book in half with a guillotine-style cutter, folded the flyleaf inside the cover, stapled each of the two halves into the book with a long stapler, then tightened them in batches of five in a screw press (the cutting and stapling left them flapped open, and we wanted the chapbooks to rest flat).
This is the final product: