28 July 2008

From the Forums: Preview Books and DPI

I spend a fair amount of toe on Digital Webbing answering questions, so every now and then, I'll run some of those answers here (when they relate to comic book self-publishing). Today, those questions involve preview book pricing and DPI.

Question #1
I'm heading to the convention. This will be my first show behind the table. I want to sell a 32-page preview book along with other stuff like posters. Ka-Blam charges about $1.98 per book with the Kablam ad inside the back cover. The book will have a color cover and B/W interiors.

My questions are :
How much should I charge for a 32-page comic book and 11x17 prints?
Does placing a Ka-Blam ad in the back cover of the book make it less professional?

My Forum Response
I charge between $3-5 for a comic book depending on the number of pages. I have a 32-paged black and white book that I sell for $2, but it's a sampler book used to encourage people to buy the more expensive $5 and $15 books. If it was my only book, I'd charge about $3-$4 for it.

11x17 prints, I sell for $10 or 3 for $20. These cost me about $1 each so they bring in a nice profit.

If placing the Ka-Blam ad is the difference between profit and loss, then place the ad. However, I would place it on the inside back cover (at best). You have time now, so take advantage of Ka-Blam's pricing break for slower shipping and drop the need for the ad. There are also other printers out there that may have better pricing without the need of ads.

The Long Answer
When pricing comic books, I look at what the market will bear and price according to my cost. Additionally, I keep an eye on being able to make money wholesaling the comics. With the standard 24-,28- or 32-paged comic, the most common prices are between $3.00-$4.00. This price is pretty standard for black and white or color. This means, I want to wholesale these books between $1.50-$2.00, so I want to keep my costs below that point. I sell most of my comics direct to the customer, so I don't worry about my wholesale costs covering anything more than my printing costs, so in this case, if I'm pricing at $3.00 then my want my print costs to be no more than $1.25.

Keep in mind, that your printer has a lot to do with your final price. Let's use Ka-Blam (since it was mentioned in the example). A 24-paged black and white book with 4:1 covers (that full color exterior and black and interiors) without an ad can be printed as low at $1.98 (with the back cover ad, it will be as slow as $1.40). Let's print 25 and ship via USPS flat Rate for $4.80. That brings our total price to $54.30 or about $2.17 each. Let's make 23¢ on wholesale (at 40% off cover), so the wholesale cost is $2.40 and the retail cost is $4.

I think that's a bit high for a 24-32 paged comic, so I would be looking for ways to reduce costs. I'm not a fan of the back cover Ka-Blam ad (although, I've used it myself). Not because they are unprofessional, but because I think you can get a better deal on advertising by contacting other businesses. However, let's do that math. [(25 x 1.40)+4.80]/25 = $1.60, so you save about 57¢, so wholesale at $2, retail at $3.50 and retailers get a 43% discount. Not bad, but it could be better, so keep looking for cheaper printing and maybe a better advertiser.

FYI: Another way to save on Ka-Blam printing is to link to them from your site. This will give you and additional 5% saving. So that drops the price about another 10¢ on the $1.98 price. That makes your unit cost around $2.07. You have to metion the link when you order to get the discount.

For prints, I'm happy with my current printer (www.catprint.bz). They allow you to mix and match prints and as long as you print around 50 prints, the price including shipping makes your unit cost for full color, full bleed prints around $1 each. These prints sell easily for $5-$10, so after you sell 5-10, the other 40-45 are pure profit.

Question #2
I have photoshop 7 and I need to resize files. Can you change the DPI via photoshop? If so, how? Additionally, I have theA3 1200pro scanner from Mustek, the resolution says normal, fine, and super fine. Is there any way to know how much dpi each one is?

My Forum Response
Lucky for you I know exactly where it is in PS 7 as that's what I use.

When resizing, the most important thing to remember is that you want the number of pixels to be EQUAL TO or LESS THAN what you began with.

I'm not familiar with a Mustek, but the best way to figure it out is to scan something small at each setting and open it in PS, to see the resulting DPI and/or pixel size.

Follow Questions to #2
Q: What happens if I scan it in 300 dpi at 11 by 17. Change it to 500 dpi, save it, and then downsize to 7 by 10.5. That way the final is 7 x 10.5 and 500dpi. Will it come out messed up?

A: 300 dpi at 11 x 17 produces a file that's 3300 pixels x 5100. At 500 dpi that file should be no larger than 3300/500 x 5100/500 or 6.6 x 10.2. 7 x 10.5 is close enough that you will not see a huge difference in quality, but in an ideal world you'd start with a higher DPI scan. Going forward, you need at least 3500 pixels x 5250, for a 7x10.5 file at 500DPI. So you're looking at scanning a little over 300 DPI (318DPI to be exact). I would suggest scanning even higher at 450 or 600 (if your scanner allows) because you never know when you need higher DPI images.

How many pixels are there in 300 DPI. Does DPI mean dot per inch?

A: 300 dpi is simply dots per inch and is the same thing as pixels per inch. 300 dpi means 300 pixels will be in every inch. 1 inch is 300 pixels. 2 inches is 600 pixels. 2.5 inches is 750 pixels.

Q: If the image is 11 x 17, how do you figure about the pixels at 300 DPI?

width in inches x DPI = pixels for width
height in inches x DPI = pixels for height

Using that at 300 DPI, 11 x 17 is :
11 x 300 = 3300
17 x 300 = 5100
and thus the pixels of the image will be 3300 x 5100.

More about Scanning and Image Manipulation
Some scanners scan everything in at the same DPI and increase the number of pixel at higher settings. With these scanners, for a 1 x 1 square you may get 75 x 75 at low setting. 150 x 150 at medium. 300 x 300 at high. If you look at those files in Photoshop, you will note that the DPI is all the same (usually 72 or 75), but the physical size (in inches) is different ( about 1 inch, 2 inches, 3 inches, respectively). In cases like this, when you change the DPI, you also need to change the physical document size (in inches) to match what you desire for the final result. The key thing to remember is that you never want the final number of pixels to be more than what you started with.

14 July 2008

Print on Demand: What I Look For

After my experiences with Digital Webbing Presents (17, 18, 26) and Warmageddon Illustrated #1, my desire was never to print more comics than I absolutely needed. I still have close to 700 copies of Warmageddon Illustrated #1 that I continue to store to this day (several years later). With a growing family, my storage space gets smaller and smaller, so Print on Demand is the right solution for me. Only you can decide if it's right for you.

Here's what I look for in a POD service.

I try to respond to every one as soon as possible, so I like to get a response as soon as possible. Whether it be via phone or email, I expect any business that I'm working with to respond to my needs within a reasonable amount of time. Usually that means I expect a response within one business day. If a company can not provide that, then they will have to make up the difference via pricing in order for me to stay with them.

I like the process from receipt of my files until receipt of the final product to take 10-14 days. Once the turnaround time has been established it should not vary by more than 2-3 days. My goal is to keep as little inventory as necessary, so that means I need to be able to depend on my printing partner to deliver within a reasonable amount of time. If they can not, this means that I have to carry more inventory and thus have more storage space.

The entire point behind POD is the ability to print as little or as many as you need without incurring significant differences in cost (other than shipping). I like to keep my print runs o 25-100 depending on the book and it's expected turnaround. First issues tend to sell faster so I keep more of them in stock, but otherwise, I like to keep about 2 months worth on hand. A POD printer that forces me to stock more than 2 months worth is tying up my cash and storage resources.

I set the prices on my products based upon my costs. For comics I try to keep that cost down to about 3 -4 cent a page. That means a 32-page comic should in around $1-$1.25. This is why I very rarely venture into the realm of color POD. Most POD provide some type of discount for increased quantities, so be sure to ask about where the first price break occurs.

If the best price comes only as a result of inserting ads for the POD, then I try to use that POD only as a last resort. I consider ads as endorsements of the product. If you see an ad for something in any one of my products, generally that means I support that product. That's not always true for PODs, so I avoid placing ads when possible. The first books, I printed using ComixPress and Ka-Blam both had their ads on the back cover. If I had it to do over again, I would not have done so. With the savings, I received from that, I would have been better off contacting my local comic book shop and asking them to buy the ad space.

All printers use a different combination of shippers. My choices should be the United States Postal Service (USPS), UPS and/or FedEx. There should be the ability to decide which service I want (Priority, Express, Ground, etc) and I should not have to pay a premium above the shipping costs for the faster shipping method.

I don't expect my comics to be collectible. I have no desire for my comics to be treated as collectibles, but I do expect them to arrive from the printer in salable condition. Any printer worth using as printing partner should be able to deliver product to your door with less than 5% of the product damaged in shipping. This means that package would be:
1) protected against shifting during transit
2) minimally protected against water damage
3) protected against damage caused by dropping
Even if the package is insured, the shipper should provide this minimal amount of protection for you because it can take weeks to be reimbursed.

What the minimum quality you are willing to accept is ultimately up to you. I look for:

1) trim quality - I expect the cuts to be clean with no extra debris left behind. I expect the product to be square. I expect the book to have uniform page length when in a closed position.

2) print quality - I expect the cover colors to be evenly distributed. I expect the blacks to be uniform. The final product should not be pixelated (unless that's the desired effect).

3) uniformity of product - I expect each individual unit to be an exact duplicate (within reason). This means the size should not drastically change and there should not be drastic shifts in color.

And that's what I look for.