PDF Guidelines

When you format your book, you create a file. Most likely a DOCX or DOC from Word or an INDD from InDesign. This file may be a beautiful representation of your book. But it is not yet a Print-Ready file. While software like InDesign and Word have print capabilities, the file they actually send to the printer (be it an at-home printer or a large scale book manufacturer) is a PDF. This means that printers universally print your book from a PDF.

How To Make A Print-Ready PDF

Your word processor (like Microsoft Word, Scrivener, or Google Docs) all have options to export your manuscript as a PDF.

  1. Export with Print Settings The exact language varies, but you should always export from your Word Processor with the highest quality settings available.
  2. Open Your PDF in a PDF Editor Now that you have a PDF, open it in Adobe Acrobat or your editor of choice.
  3. Check Fonts Go to Files > Properties > Fonts. If all Fonts show (embedded subset) then your fonts are embedded.
  4. Check Images Images are embedded in the file.
  5. Check format and margins

A Print-Ready File is always a PDF. Printing a book always begins from a PDF.

Print-Ready PDF Requirements

Some guidelines: These aren’t difficult to apply to most files and the software you use to create your PDF will almost always cover many of these elements for you. But not all of them. It’s valuable to understand the recommendations and requirements for your book design and file.

1. Image Resolution

Look for 300 dots per inch (dpi) for all your images. You’ll also need to look at your software for the best way to output a print-ready PDF that retains the image resolution. PDF and image compression is common for software like MS Word, so be on the lookout for anything that may shrink your file size.

Now, if the original image is less than 300 dpi, it may not be possible to achieve the image resolution we require. That’s okay. You can use lower resolution images, but the print quality may be off. Grainy or pixelated images are the most common issue you’ll see with lower resolution images.

I strongly recommend using high-resolution images in your file.

2. Crop Marks

Traditionally, crop marks indicate where the printers should trim the page. Also called ‘trim lines’ the crops show up in the corners to allow the paper cutter to align and perform a straight cut.

we do not use crop marks for standard A4 documents. If crop marks are present, there’s a good chance the marks will appear as dark lines in the corners of your pages. If you have any trim, score or fold marks on your document make sure they are outside the live print area. Crop marks are helpful when laying out your file. Just be sure to turn them off before exporting your final PDF.

3. Bleed

We do not use bleed for printing a standard A4 document as we do not trim the document from a larger format paper. Please note if you do have full bleed images in your A4 document there will be a 5mm white border around the images. If you would like full bleed images we must print on larger paper and trim down to size of the bleed or crop marks. This will incur extra charges for printing and binding.

4. Fonts

While there are many compelling reasons to use common fonts for your book, you might want to use a unique font for some chapter titles. Or for the title and half-title pages. Or even the entire book.

Just be aware that using uncommon or paid fonts can present a number of problems. The most pressing issue is that the printer may not own or have the rights to use that font. Fortunately, there is a simple way to ensure your fonts render perfectly for printing.

You need to embed all fonts in your file.

The procedure for embedding fonts is different for all programs, but once you have your PDF created, you can use Adobe Acrobat or Reader to view the PDF specifications and verify if the fonts are embedded.

Look under File > Properties > Fonts

The text (Embedded Subset) indicates the font has been embedded properly. Make sure black text is 100% black and not a mix of CMYK if you want black and white printing.


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