The Pressue of Success
Putnam Publishing Group knows a thing or two about fast turnaround.
Getting an impeccable-looking bestseller out on time often proves to be a challenge, particularly when a project involves a world-famous author and longer print runs.
Despite the pressure of strict deadlines, publishing three recent bestselling hardcovers—Rainbow Six by Tom Clancy, Point of Origin by Patricia Cornwell and The Courage to Be Rich: Creating A Life of Spiritual and Material Abundance by Suze Orman—was handled gracefully by the New York City-based Putnam Publishing Group and book manufacturing vendor Phoenix Color, Hagerstown, MD.
Supply and demand
According to Bill Peabody, Putnam's production director, approximately 2 million copies of Rainbow Six, 1 million copies of Point of Origin, and 675,000 copies of The Courage to Be Rich were printed for each book's first run. The overwhelming demand for all three publications was inspiring.
The Courage to Be Rich, recalls Michael Wettstein, Phoenix Color sales representative, sold out on the QVC television network and was into its third print run by the end of March.
Maintaining the titles' production, dictated by an "ultra-tight schedule," Wettstein remarks, did prove to be quite a challenge, but it was a challenge with which both Phoenix Color and Putnam are quite familiar.
Scheduling pressures are ever-present, particularly when a high-profile author and longer print runs are concerned, explains Peabody. "There was some pressure to make sure that the jacket looks extraordinary, that the quality would be consistent … throughout the run," he adds.
"It's not necessarily the first printing that's tough," Wettstein comments, "because then, at least, we get two weeks (for production)." It is when a bestseller begins flying off bookstore shelves that a printer's weekend is spent printing thousands of extra copies, sometimes with embossed jackets or foil stamping and "everything else," Wettstein remarks.
"Fast turnaround is always a concern with Clancy, although I think the schedule pressure was greater on Point of Origin and The Courage to Be Rich," Peabody recalls.
Jacket mechanicals for Rainbow Six and Point of Origin—both have embossed author names and book titles—required high-resolution art supplied by freelance designers.
For The Courage to Be Rich, an FPO for the front cover and a mechanical for the type were given to Phoenix Color for separation, Peabody explains. With the jacket's production deadline creeping closer on the calendar, Phoenix's first proof alerted the publisher to a need for design improvement.
"So, the art department had to go in and see if they could do something on Phoenix's system to create the look that we were hoping for," Peabody recalls.
"I'm not exaggerating when I say we showed five proofs in five days," Wettstein exclaims.
Wettstein cites "a huge marketing and publisher involvement" throughout the cover art's approval process. In addition to having Putnam's own creative staff sign off on the design, the author also requested final aesthetic approval.
"We would bring in loose art in the morning," Wettstein explains. "We would go over it in detail, sometimes with the publisher, sometimes with the art director, and always with the production department. I would bring it back to prepress, and, overnight, we would do color corrections and bring new proofs the next morning."
Working with a digital Iris proofing device, Phoenix Color's proofing stage is one of the many components of the company's ColorNet workflow process that was devised by the book manufacturer five years ago. According to Louis LaSorsa, Phoenix Color's chairman and CEO, the quality-control measures inherent in ColorNet allow for a 99.9 percent approval for all first- round digital contract proofs. For more information on ColorNet, refer to p. 62.
For the Putnam bestsellers, many pairs of eyes reviewed the proofs, which allowed the jacket designers to continually tweak color to perfection. Five generations of proofs later, the jacket survived the scrutiny of many pairs of eyes and was finally approved.
Credit where credit is due
"The common factor in all of these jobs, which made them work really well, was getting as far as possible upstream in the production process as we could," Wettstein suggests, noting that getting the sales force and the prepress and production staffs involved at an early stage—when the art department began to design the jackets—was a wise move that has secured a tight working relationship between every person and department involved in production.
The success of Putnam's three bestselling titles is largely due to "really proactive, up-front planning on everybody's part," Wettstein affirms. "I just can't say that enough."
-Gretchen A. Kirby