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I'm working on a case-bound hardcover A5 book (portrait) and this is the first time I've ever had design files for content inside the book when bookbinding. The signatures will be sewn together and for bookbinding its best to have the paper grain run parallel to the spine. This means I have to get a printer who can print the spreads with paper grain running from top to bottom of each page.

Is this direction of paper grain typical of the paper that printing services work with? What are the sizes of paper they work with before trimming?

I'm not sure I can just ask a printer to use A4 paper to print 2-page spreads, since I also need to keep some bleed edge and trim everything later. A4 would be not enough bleed. Preferably the printer would print the untrimmed spreads so I can fold them in half into signatures by hand, have bleed on the outside edges of my text block so I can trim the whole block at once after sewing and gluing it together. Does anyone have experience adding creep to their pages?

Can anyone give me any advice or tips on how to setup my file? It's my first time working on a project like this.

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Knowing about the printing process is always a good thing, but as a designer you shouldn't have to worry too much about how the pages of your book are placed on printing sheets. That is the print house's responsibility.

It doesn't really affect the setup of your document. You should just create an InDesign document with Facing Pages, Page Size set to A5 and probably Bleed set to 3 mm.

(The Margins should of course be fitting for a bound book and aesthetically pleasing, but that's a whole other story.)

One thing you should worry about is the number of pages. The number should at least be dividable with 4 and often it's better (cheaper) if it's dividable with 16. Talk to the print house about this.

When your design is finished you just deliver a PDF in single pages with bleed and the print house will use their imposition software to place the pages correctly on the printing sheets. They know about paper sizes and direction of paper grain and have a standardized way to deal with all this.

Normally a print house will also handle the bookbinding process and just deliver the finished product to you. If for some reason you want to deal with the bookbinder yourself (which I strongly advice against if you don't have experience with this) you need to make sure that he print house makes sheets fit for the bookbinders equipment. The easiest would be to make the bookbinder talk directly with the print house. You would also have to handle the transport of the printed sheets from the print house to the bookbinder, so it can quickly get a little complicated.

I think you should contact the print house and have a talk with them about specifications for the print PDF (color profile, page number etc.), paper type and the whole process. Part of my job is handling that contact with our clients and I often deal with inexperienced designers. I do my best to make them feel welcome and comfortable about the whole process so you shouldn't have to worry about being a nuisance. If it's a good place the customer is king.

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  • Whoops, just reread your question and now I'm in doubt if you are going to bind the book yourself? If that is the case you have to find out yourself what you need and ask the print house to deliver that. Still probably best to just deliver a single paged PDF and let the print house handle the imposition. If you are going to do it the way you describe with just single spreads (4 page signatures), creep isn't an issue. – Wolff Feb 7 at 14:35
  • I know guys who take the flat sheets straight from the print shop & do the rest themselves (not that I'd have any clue how to do that myself). If you don't want to tackle it from that early in the process, then get the print shop's in-house bindery to go as far as folding if not guillotining & sewing. If you really do want to do it all yourself, these guys are the guys to ask about it - societyofbookbinders.com – Tetsujin Feb 7 at 14:42

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