What's a Publisher to Do?
CTP Veterans Share Tips For Publishers Taking Their First Steps
By Tatyana Sinioukov
So what's a publisher to do when considering going CTP with four-color work?
Do your homework, first and foremost, insists Rick Wills, electronic prepress manager, Banta Book Group, Menasha, WI. Tom Carpenter, director of book development for the North American Outdoor Group (NAOG), Minnetonka, MN, agrees, suggesting visiting a publisher who is already using CTP as a first step. "We all know people at other publishing companies, and the technology isn't proprietary--I can't see where anyone would have a problem showing you what goes on, as a professional courtesy," he muses. "You can't understand the advantages until you see it in action."
If you're convinced it's worth a try, try it, suggests Carpenter. Before investing in the technology, hire a freelance designer with experience working in a digital environment, commit a certain percentage of your work--over a certain time period--to CTP; monitor cost and convenience, then judge the results.
Ivor Parker, vice president of production and manufacturing services at the New York City-based Henry Holt & Co., agrees: Set up an experiment, he cautions. Target only a few titles in the beginning--since taking a sudden plunge may prove dangerous. Gain experience first. Citing the practice of combining digital and traditional proofing at Henry Holt & Co. as an example, he says, "the approach is to understand the technology and avoid pitfalls."
Once the decision to try CTP is made, invest in training, as well as hardware and software associated with traditional desktop publishing; then visit the printer's manufacturing facilities to better understand the digital workflow, prepress capabilities and digital proofing, suggests Frank Ervin, vice president of training and technology at Phoenix Color, Hagerstown, MD, who has been running his company's training programs on CTP and color printing for publishers. "If using a service bureau, identify the extent of integration of digital file preparation and color management processes with your printer," he remarks. "CTP requires a true digital partnership with your printer."
Once you reach a certain comfort level, make sure you have a robust infrastructure to be able to support it, says John Pecaric, director of R.R. Donnelley's division in Roanoke, VA. Don't just do it the way you did it with film, warns Craig Bauer, facilitator of information technology and digital prepress for Donnelley, but create new methods that can save you time and money.
To ensure successful partnership with the printer, preflight the files before you send them to the printer and educate yourself about what types of proofs the printer will be using, says Jerry Charlton, director of customer technical services at Quebecor, Kingsport, TN.
Whether you are just committing yourself to producing only a few four-color titles CTP or converting to a digital workflow once and for all, you must be aware of several factors, says Wills. First of all, try to realize that you're dealing with a completely digital workflow: no cut-ins, double burns and fewer last minute changes "because things move so fast." Also, be prepared to accept a non-contract, non-contact digital proof. What you see is what you get--no proofing of plates--so look carefully, he cautions, as "this may be your last chance." Finally, don't expect to see big cost savings right away. CTP is expensive and the returns are slow the first year, Wills explains, urging publishers to remember that, ultimately, the biggest advantages of converting to a CTP workflow are fast turnaround and high print quality.