Print Options

Print Options

Offset printing

This is the way books have been traditionally been printed for the larger trade and educational book markets. Books are printed in big sheets on large, fast machines, and you’ll need to order over 1000 copies for this to be a cost-effective option. In New Zealand, for economic reasons, most offset books are printed in Asia and then freighted back; time frames are therefore important, as is having someone who is familiar with printing terminology in New Zealand to oversee the process. You’ll need to allow three months for offshore printing and freight, and there is also customs clearance/cost to consider.

There are local (NZ) printers who are cost-effective, particularly for the shorter print runs, and they have a quick turnaround time. As ever, however, ask to see samples.

Print-on-demand (POD)

POD is digital printing that allows small numbers – just one or two copies, even – to be printed to order. Its obvious advantage over offset printing is that you are freed from having to order large print runs and then worrying whether they’ll sell (or where to store them!). POD books can be priced online and copies produced in a few weeks. Note, however, that choice of format and paper stock, and overall quality, will be limited, and the unit price (the cost of printing each copy) is usually high compared to offset. Also, do ask to see samples before you accept any quotations.

Some offshore POD services will print and freight your books directly to your customer.


If you are just starting out and want to gain some market feedback, skipping the print option and beginning with an e-book may be the better way to go. The formatting is super-quick, and the costs are dramatically lower than print. Distribution, too, is easy: through online stores such as Amazon your e-book can be made available to an unlimited international market. For those reasons, everyone’s doing it! So there’s a lot of competition out there.

The good news is that when we at Smartwork prepare files for a print book, we ensure they are ‘cross-platform’ and can be easily adapted for an e-book.

The format of your e-book, though, is still something that needs to be decided. If it’s straight text, an epub file would be best, but if there are lots of images you may need to consider a fixed layout or app. With instructional material, lots of people like to have the book they are studying next to them on their desk or table, as a reference, to make notes in, to highlight for later study. If you know your readers and their habits, you won’t want to omit this from your plan.


Do watch our blog for a more in-depth breakdown on print and e-books.
Do you have a preference and any advice to share?

Cover Design: the Essentials

Cover Design: The Essentials

Print book or e-book alike, you need to invest care, attention and good design in your choice of cover.

  • Keep it simple. Many self-published books are sunk by their author’s desire to embody all the symbolism on the cover; the over-the-top approach rarely works out well.
  • Gather a collection of covers that you like and work out what appeals about them. Are they similar to other covers in the same genre as your story?
  • Once you’ve arrived at a design you like, reduce it down to the size it will be when viewed on screen through sites like Amazon. Is it still active? Can you still read the title?
  • If you are creating both a print book and an e-book, it may help to use the branding from the print book but simplify it for the e-book version.
  • In a print book, don’t forget the back cover. The images can compliment the front, and the blurb is very important. The theory goes that in a bookshop it’s the front cover that attracts readers to pick up the book, but it’s the back cover that influences their decision to buy or not. And while you’re at it, remember the spine. After all, many books will be ‘spine out’ on a bookstore shelf, and the title/author combination needs to be legible from afar; the spine colour should also, ideally, harken to the front design.
  • E-books don’t have a back cover, of course, but they can have a ‘book wrapping’ with marketing and advertising at the back for other titles, and links on where to buy, or author blogs and references.

What do you look for in a good book cover?



If you include pictures, plan them in from the start, and not at the last minute.

Planning on mixing images with your text? If a picture speaks a thousand words, you want to make it work hard for its keep, so think about illustration right at the start. Why? Words and images should be complementary, rather than compete with or duplicate one another. Also, your choice of illustration will likely affect decisions over format, paper, printing (colour or black-and-white), and more.

Working with an illustrator

If you plan to commission images from an illustrator, an early and efficient briefing is everything! Give very clear instructions on what you want – size, style, b/w or colour, text (if any), etc. Also, you should make decisions over format before you give them the green light. There’s nothing worse than asking for landscape-shaped images, only to discover later that you’d have preferred them in portrait format. If you work with us, we will ensure seamless liaison between all parties to ensure the right result. Here are a couple more tips.

Illustrators will usually supply rough sketches for you to approve before they add colour or other finishing touches. You’ll need to check roughs carefully; the last thing they’ll want is to have to remake a fully finished pic simply because you didn’t apply due diligence earlier.

If they’re working traditionally (i.e. on paper), you’ll need to obtain professional scans at the right resolution (see digital images). Some illustrators prefer to supply their own scans; again, you’ll need to brief them on size and resolution.

Picture resolution

A word on digital images. Photos that look really great on screen only have to have 72 pixels (units of picture information) per inch of display space. But to print properly, those same files need 300 pixels per inch (ppi). If you try to put your 72 ppi photo in your book, one of two things will happen: either the printers will reject your file (that’s the better outcome), or they will go ahead and print the book and you’ll have fuzzy, pixellated pictures.

Your book designer will help you work through this process.

Formats and sizes

Formats and sizes

Deciding on the size of your book is one of the largest budgeting choices that you will need to make.

Don’t hesitate to talk with your designer about this; they can help you figure out your options, understand print terminologies and jargon, get quotes for printing costs, and ultimately help you make the best decisions for your book.
Size is a tricky term when it comes to books: does it mean the size of the page or the number of pages?
Here are some terms of the trade:

Extent: this is the number of pages in the book. Bear in mind that your manuscript may be reduced (or even extended) during the editing process, so it’s wise not to quote a word-count to your designer until after the editing process.

Format: this covers the physical dimensions of the page, whether it’s hardback or soft-cover, and whether it’s portrait (tall) or landscape (wide). Note: this is not to be confused with ‘formatting’, which is what happens at the typesetting stage.

You will need to know the size of your book – whether its shape is to be portrait (tall) or landscape (wide), and your book designer or illustrator will need to know this too. You will also need to know the format and a rough extent, as well as a notion of your desired print run, before you can obtain printing costs. Size, shape and print run will all have a large effect on your production costs and how you set your unit price when selling your book. Sometimes it’s easiest to work backwards: find a book you really like (and which looks or feels similar to what you have in mind for your own), measure it, then get printer quotes for a range of print runs and a range of page extents.

Don’t skimp on preparing the print details: this is the most expensive part of producing your book, so you must always get print quotes first. And remember, these quotes will only be as accurate as the information you supply. What type of stock (paper) will you use? Are you printing in colour or black-and-white? Will your cover have any embellishments (e.g. gold foil, embossing, matt laminate)? And remember that we’re here to help; you’ll find a few more pointers on print here.

Is this an area that confuses you still?

Finding an editor

Finding an editor

As stated earlier, we have a list of trusted regulars we work with, and will be happy to put your manuscript out to an appropriate editor; but you may of course choose to find your own. If possible go for a recommendation. With the rise of self-publishing there has also been a rise in online editing courses, which means there are a number of people out there who claim to be a qualified editor, but may lack experience. If you’re picking an editor based on their stated credentials, do ask what projects they have worked on before, and if possible look for editors who have freelanced for trade publishers. Don’t be afraid to ask for a sample edit (of, perhaps, the first chapter). You need to feel happy with their work, comfortable that it’ll be a good working relationship, and confident that you’ll have a good line of communication to finish the project. Again, note that some editors may excel at structural editing, others at copyediting, and some can do both equally well.

Costs vary hugely – from a three-figure to a four-figure sum – depending on the service you require and on the length and nature of your MS, so it is essential to ask for a quote first. To do this the editor will need to see at least a sample of text. Email is the best way to send this, and by return email they should be able to give you an idea of the services that will be required, and a ball-park cost. (Talk to your editor, too, about WP software; the industry standard is Microsoft Word, and while we at Smartwork do accept Word, we also work with Google Docs.)

Do you have an editor you like to work with? Why?

A quiet word on the law

We’re bringing this up here because it affects your working relationship with editors. Self-publishing isn’t a ticket to write any old thing. Your freedom of speech is governed by laws on copyright, libel, obscenity, etc., and it’s wise to think seriously about what you want to publish before going to the great expense of having your manuscript checked by a lawyer (or the even greater expense of a lawsuit).

What does this have to do with editors? Contrary to some people’s expectations, it is your duty, not theirs, to ensure your text complies with the law. But because they will have some prior experience of these issues, an editor may be able to help you by pointing out passages that are likely to infringe the law. Make sure you have an early chat with your editor to set out your expectations of their role.


Copyright is all about protecting intellectual property. It applies automatically to original creative works of art, music and writing. In other words, if you write a book, or a song, you don’t have to apply to have it copyrighted; protection is automatically bestowed as soon as you commit your creation to paper (or e-book, etc.). In New Zealand it lasts for the duration of the creator’s life plus 50 years following the end of the year of their death. (So for an author who died in February 1945, copyright expired at the end of December 1995.) In many other parts of the world the term is 70 years, not 50.

Copyright cuts both ways. It is there to safeguard your intellectual property, so if someone steals your work, and you can prove that you had the idea first, then you can claim redress. At the same time, you need to respect the intellectual property of others. You are not permitted to quote text or lyrics, or use photos or artwork, without prior permission of the author/artist. There’s a ‘fair use’ clause in copyright that does allow you to quote short passages for editorial use (for instance, to advance an argument), but the best advice is to contact the copyright-holder, or their publisher/agent/estate, beforehand. Many will give permission if you ask, either at no cost or for a small fee.

Some fees are larger. If you quote, for example, the lyrics from a modern song without seeking permission, you could be in for a surprise when the owner of the song (which is often the music publisher) requests that you either pay them a hefty fee or destroy all the books you printed since you didn’t have permission. (Even if you do seek permission, song lyrics are usually expensive.) Similarly, if you want to publish a big, glossy modern art picturebook, make sure you budget plenty for permission fees!

For further information on copyright, contact Copyright Licensing New Zealand (

It would be great to hear about your copyright experiences.