Where has Quality Control gone?
Trial #1: Upon recommendation of another self-publisher, my first attempt at printing my book “Chaos in Harmony” was through Ingram Spark. Figuring out its steep learning curve of preparing a document for printing, I finally received my first proof book in hand in May 2014. Not knowing its ordering process, I accidentally ordered two copies at different times. I was glad I did. I am not sure if it was the fact I did not ask the right questions or they did not provide me with information up front, but when I opened the book to find my photographs were printed on 70# matte paper, it came as a surprise. Even though unexpected, the printing was bright and beautiful, but needed a little fine-tuning since images are processed differently for matte paper. One of the main issues was that cover was bubbling up at the creases on both copies where the lamination was separating from the paper beneath. There was also glue residue from where they glued the cover. That is a no go. Then looking inside, the pagination on one of the books was off (meaning page 36 was next to page 43; page 117 was next to page 121). It wasn’t the entire book but enough sections were out of order that it was an unacceptable product – a 50% fail rate.
Trial #2: I looked into BookBaby as an alternative source for printing my books. Unlike Ingram Spark, they offered an 80# gloss paper and dust jacket option. So I gave them a try. What I received in August 2014 was a proof copy that felt more like magazine paper bound inside of a hardcover. They forgot to print the dust jacket (which they apologized for but that doesn’t help me proof it). And the kicker was that the images were obviously printed digitally (as opposed to 4 color press) with visible lines from the rollers throughout the photographs. For the price difference, I was expecting the quality to me more as well. Also, they also don’t offer POD (Print on Demand) so I would have to hold stock, which is not useful while I live out of country. I decided not to pursue them as a printer.
Trial #3: In a bit of a hurry to have stock out by October while I was in the states, I returned to Ingram Spark. I knew how to set up a new proof, I re-processed the images to optimize for matte paper (now that I knew). And overall, the quality of color and printing was better than BookBaby. I had heard they made improvements to their materials, and when I received the proof, it was obvious they had. The cover was of much nicer quality. Everything looked beautiful, so I put in a larger order to finally be able to deliver the books. When the shipment finally arrived, I opened the first book on the tall stack. My heart sank. I thumbed through the second, then the third, my heart sinking further each time. The pagination was off on 39 of the 42 books I ordered. It was not off consistently. It would be re-ordered in Mexico, then another book in Bolivia, then another in Guatemala. No country was exempt. It was like looking for Waldo if waldo were re-arranged pages. I did not know where the inconsistency would be but it was there. I was astounded by a 93% fail rate. The next morning I called them to have every book shipped back and returned. They had delivered 4 boxes of unusable product and how could I trust them to ship out a quality book if someone ordered them online. I did not spend the last year designing a book to have the pages out of order.
After much consideration and instead of being back to square one, I decided to give them one more try. Maybe third time is the charm. So here are my apologies to all of you who have either supported me through kickstarter or who pre-ordered this last weekend. It will be a little while longer before I ship those books out, but the order is in and the printer is aware of the situation. I am crossing my fingers that the next delivery is correct. If everything goes accordingly, books should be delivered by November.