print work can go into producing an eyecatching cover
Few people would be in charge of more printed pages than Jill Donald. As
production manager at HarperCollinsPublishers Australia she organises for
around 6.6 million units to be printed each year, both in Australia and
Part of News Corporation, HarperCollins is one of the largest and most
successful publishing groups in the world, with iconic authors such as Banjo
Paterson and May Gibbs, as well as its current crop of bestsellers including
Colleen McCullough, Fiona McIntosh and Donna Hay.
Donald has been in the print production business for 17 years and at
HarperCollins for the past six of those, where she takes charge of all print
repro and production for Australia, New Zealand and local UK titles.
She works alongside three others, deciding on costings, who is going to
print each title, where it will be printed, and arranging the print
schedules to fit in with the editorial and design teams. So good are her
negotiating skills that her average printing costs are under $2 per unit.
Quality is the biggest issue when choosing a printer, but as HarperCollins
only uses printers that they know who have already proven themselves in this
department, it often comes down to cost and time, Donald says.
³The majority of printers in Australia are pretty good so it comes down to
price and time. Sometimes if the price is more expensive at one, but they
can meet the time schedule, they will get the work,² she explains.
As price is such an important issue, 30 per cent of HarperCollins¹ printing
is done offshore, mostly in China. ³The price offshore is about one third
cheaper than Australia. Mono is most likely to be done in Australia. Four
colour and non standard books are likely to be done overseas. Reprints are
usually done overseas, but mono (1c) books we will reprint here in
Australia. If we don¹t have time to print an illustrated book overseas, then
we may print the first print run here in Australia, but materials are then
packed up and moved to an offshore printer for any future reprints.²
In China, HarperCollins has a stable of around six printers that it uses
regularly, including Phoenix and Everbest.
Donald says the type of job may also dictate whether or not a particular
book is done in Australia. ³As well as a better price, offshore printers can
often produce things printers here do not have the capabilities to do,² she
explains. ³For example, we print a lot of hymn books, which need to be
printed on bible paper, which can¹t be run through Australian presses.
³Cased children¹s books are also not feasible to do in Australia as it would
put the cost up too high. I have particular printers that specialise in
certain types of books that we will use, such as one used primarily for
Most standard formats go to Griffin Press in Australia, while smaller
formats and two colour jobs will be quoted out.
Although she¹s been in the printing game for almost two decades, Donald has
few disaster stories to tell. She says in Australia it¹s rare to encounter
big problems as the Q&A procedures ensure high quality. She admits that
occasionally there is a book block misbound, but alarm bells at the press
catch this pretty quickly and the workers will pick up most, if not all, of
the misbound books. This year HarperCollins has already printed millions of
books and just one complaint relating to misbinding has been registered.
Offshore Donald says language barriers can be a problem but she
predominantly uses printers who have local representation, which overcomes
this. She also generally deals with printers she knows and trusts, so very
few problems are encountered.
Occasionally, however, something doesn¹t go according to plan. One of the
biggest problems HarperCollins ever encountered was a delivery of faulty
glue to an offshore printer. As the glue dried, it cracked and the books
fell apart. In this situation, Donald says HarperCollins started reprinting
the damaged books immediately. In the meantime, the snapped books were sent
to Hong Kong where they were rebound and bought back.
³If there is a way to salvage books in such cases, we will investigate it
fully,² she says.
In terms of print quality, the proofing system seems to eliminate any major
problems. Donald recalls one instance when she had chosen a PMS colour for a
cover and done print tests on uncoated stock, but the varnish over the page
had altered the original colours when the final proof came back.
³If something is saleable, I¹m not going to reject it. If it¹s going to
affect the RRP, then it will be sent back,² she explains.
Paper is also a well thought out decision by Donald and her team, which
depends mostly on the type of book being produced. ³We need to consider
what¹s going onto the stock, what suits the publication, how thick it needs
to be depending on if we have a heavy page extent or need to bulk up a
book,² she explains.
For example, Donna Hay uses expensive, high quality Chinese paper to do its
four colour images justice. Donald says generally four colour illustrations
will use art paper, unless they are after softened images, in which case
they would use wood-free stock.
HarperCollins¹ production team has access to paper samples, and will pass
the sample on to the printer who needs then to match it with what they can
get from their own local merchants.
Donald also gets to be creative, using her print expertise to advise and
suggest more inventive ideas for cover design. Covers are decided by the
designer, but run past the production team who also have input into the
³The main opportunity to make an impression with books is in the cover,²
says Donald. ³Anyone who says a cover doesn¹t matter is wrong. It has to
captivate, draw someone over to it, and essentially, sell the story.²
She recently produced a book where a hexachrome cover was produced with a
total coverage of gold foil, then printed 5c over the top one being the
hexchrome green, a colour that could not have been achieved using either
standard CMYK of PMS.
In another book, a cover designed with bullet holes was going to be flat
laminated, but ended up being debossed at the production team¹s suggestion.
Donald is currently experimenting with a book cover with spot UV over the
top of glitter, which was produced here in Australia after Griffin Press ran
numerous tests. ³Prior to this I would have thought that it could only be
achieved overseas, but this shows that you always need to push the
boundaries with printers to try new things,² says Donald.
Donald says these kinds of projects often need to be done offshore where
labour is cheaper as they are virtually done by hand and producing them here
would mean a significant increase in the RRP. However, she¹s recently
discovered some local printers do have the capabilities.
Another interesting challenge was the cover of the most recent Donna Hay
cook book, which required a PVC jacket. With a 160,000 print run, it was a
lengthy process, first to find the right PVC that was sturdy and wouldn¹t
crack when folded, and secondly to complete the varnishing and foiling. The
jacket was varnished eight times, taking eight weeks, and pearl foiling was
used for the text.
³Things like this are what makes the job fun. They¹re more interesting than
your average paperback,² says Donald. ³Books like this are more exciting as
they¹re a little bit outside the square.²