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Maximizing Your Ink: How to avoid ink density issues

Posted by Scott Gregory on

Years ago, when we first starting working with Lightning Source for POD, we ran into problems. We kept getting messages from our rep that there was a problem with our file. Apparently the ink density was exceeding 240% in some areas. Huh? Well, after some research we did figure out what they meant by ink density. Apparently, they use toner instead of ink which can only be caked on so high before it starts smudging and running. Now here’s the thing with CMYK; each of the 4 colors can have up to 100% coverage per pixel. That means that a solid black dot could have 400%  ink density! Well that is obviously over the 240% maximum that Lightning Source as giving us. They recommended using 100% black with just a hint of cyan, magenta, and yellow to make a nice rich black. Sure… but we had no idea how to do that. Reds and purples also posed problems. We fiddled with it in Photoshop and were able to get the overall percentage down to 240 but not without also fading out the rest of the colors. It was embarrassing explaining the resulting mess to our clients. So we kept looking for solutions.

Can you tell which of these pictures has ink densities maximized at 240% and which one is way over 300%?

Jump ahead a few months and we stumbled upon a solution. By using a mathematical algorithm called parallel matching, we could change the ink density in a piece, pixel by pixel, without fading anything. It was expensive to implement this solution but once we had it programmed, we were golden! Now we use parallel matching on all our art. Even offset books are better with it. Our offset printers like a maximum of 300% ink density to avoid pooling and now we can do that. Whereas before we just took our chances.

We offer the service to the general public as well. You can go to our webpage to learn more about it. It is very inexpensive because we have streamlined the process. No more ink density problems, courtesy of Dragonpencil.

My Blog

How To Print Only 1 Copy Of Your Book

Posted by Scott Gregory on

The cost of printing one hardcover book is prohibitive and yet, we still get calls for it. Usually the order goes up to 10 by the time they weigh the costs. Customers get these super small runs to use as galley copies, review copies, investor copies, or as gifts. So, I thought it would be helpful to share how we do this service and what the costs are.

How the books are made:
 When we print a super short run of 1 to 400 books we start by printing the interior pages on a Xerox DocuColor press. The pages are then trimmed. Usually we can print 2 pages per sheet unless the book is larger than 9×12 in which case we only get 1 page out of a sheet. Then we use a wide-format printer for the cover and dust jacket. Those are then laminated with a lay-flat laminate. While this is going on we also are building the cases for the books (assuming it is a hardcover). There are three boards which have to be sized and positioned exactly; the spine, left cover, and right cover. When the content is ready, the pages are notched to better accept the glue which is applied. The content is then adhered to the case that we have built. Then the endsheets are added by gluing to the covers and to the content, finishing the book. The whole assembly is put into a press which seals everything thoroughly. Any glue that escaped is cleaned off and the books are inspected. After 24 hours the glue is cured and we perform a pull test to ensure that the pages are all secure. Then they are ready to ship.

How much do they cost? You can see from the previous section that there is considerably more manual labor involved in these super short runs than you would see in a larger print run. The costs per unit reflect this. I can’t list all the pricing for all options but I’m going to list the costs for an 8.5×11 book that is 32 pages long and does not have a dustjacket. These prices are all in US dollars.

1 Book = $257.40 ($257 per unit)
5 Books = $287.20 ($57.44 per unit)
10 Books = $376.20 ($37.62 per unit)
25 Books = $598.40 ($23.94 per unit)
50 Books = $839.30 ($16.79 per unit)
100 Books = $1372.80 ($13.73 per unit)
200 Books = $2403.50 ($12.02 per unit)
300 Books = $3423.20 ($11.41 per unit)
400 Books = $4249.30 ($10.62 per unit)

Offset prices are much lower than these but have a minimum of 1000 books which sometimes you just don’t need. If you want to know a specific price for your super short run, email

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The Elf On The Shelf: A Self-Published Success

Posted by Scott Gregory on

At Dragonpencil, we have the slogan, “We turn children’s stories into success stories.” Which is very catchy but what does a success story look like? Here is just one of many self-published success stories:

Self-published success, The Elf On The Self, makes his debut in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition (ISBN 978-0-9769907-9-6) is a children’s picture book written by American mother and daughter Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell, and illustrated by Coë Steinwart. The book was self-published in 2005 by CCA and B Publishing in Marietta, GA. The Elf on the Shelf comes in a keepsake box that features the hardbound book and a small pixie scout elf.

This book has sold millions of copies and made millions of dollars for the authors. The story is good. The artwork is good. But the marketing is amazing and CHEAP!. Parents, like myself, tell other parents about it. And in this age of Facebook, the Elf is absolutely viral. Why do we tell other parents about it? Because it has impacted our family. It isn’t just a book and a cheap doll, it’s a December-long experience with our kids. We want to help you make the same kind of success story. Think about why your book would be shared by other parents or by professionals in a certain field. If you get that part right, you can leave the rest up to Dragonpencil.

My Blog

Good Sports, the app!

Posted by Scott Gregory on

We recently finished a book-app for the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. Actually, it is a comic-book-app. They have a series of comic books called Super Safe Comics which features a super-safe super hero named Captain Super Safe. Everything the Super Safe folks have done with this PSA-style comic book has been top-notch. We merely adapted this first book into an app form. I’m very proud of the work our team accomplished and encourage everyone to pick up this FREE app on their iPad or android tablet.

Because it was a comic book, we had to abandon our usual page flipping format in favor of one more dynamic. The panels slide in, one after another, from the sides or top or bottom as the story directs. As usual, narration, music, and sound effects are abundant to give that theatrical feel to the app.

This app has a coloring page which is surprisingly addictive. And I don’t mean for the kids who color all the time. But the adults seem to enjoy the coloring in app form as much as the kids. Maybe its just the novelty of it. Another fun feature that we developed from scratch for this app was a word scramble. A bit of a programming challenge but we got it done and it works amazing! What a fun way to teach vocabulary terms.

Thanks to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center for hiring us to make this app and thanks to my amazing Dragonpencil team who brought it to life!

If you try the app and would like to leave feedback or have any technical issues, please post your comment below.

My Blog

Should you pay for a book review? Nope. And here’s why…

Posted by Scott Gregory on
Snake Oil Salesman

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And where there’s a way, there’s a scam. Someone is always figuring out new ways to repackage old snake oil. Why? Because there’s an unlimited supply of bewildered people wandering around in search of a cure for something. There’s a reason snake oil salesmen travel from town to town– the last town tried to hang ‘em! Our Internet is even better than a wagon and a pair of quick horses. The good old www lets people swindle from far off safety. Which brings us around to the topic at hand;  

Should you pay for a book review? Nope. Book reviews don’t sell books except for a few big names like Publisher’s Weekly and The New York Times. And of course, they don’t charge. Now, I realize it can be hard to get that first review for your new book, and paying for one might just make the comments more favorable but, there are better ways to get there. Try your local papers. Any old publication will do. Even the smallest of places has a Herald or Reporter or Courier lurking near the supermarket entrance. If you can’t find one, contact your big local newspaper. They own the presses that all the other publications use for their papers. They will have a list of all the local venues you might call upon for a review. Not only is such a review FREE, but somebody might actually read it and buy your book online. Then you take that review and post it on Amazon, assuming it is favorable.Here’s another freebie; Bloggers. Find blogs that suit your genre of book and pitch it to them. They get a signed book and something to fill their Tuesday blog with, and you get a free review (with clickable links to Amazon).

Scam artists are like bears. The best way to get rid of them is to stop feeding them. Don’t pay for anything that isn’t proven and always look for free alternatives. The free ones are usually the best anyway.