Preparing Your Comic Book for Lulu.com Publishing

By Chongchen Saelee

I thought I’d write a quick cheat sheet on how to prepare your first comic book for Lulu.com publishing. This is for their US Trade paperback format of 6 inches by 9 inches per page. Your page count may vary. What you get with this setup is a color glossy cardstock cover, and black and white pages.

Setting up the interior pages

If you don’t intend to have any full page bleed artwork, you can setup your page template to be exactly 6 inches by 9 inches. Even then, make sure you set a safety margin of at least 0.125 inches so your content is properly visible in case it gets cropped off.

However, if you do want to do full page bleed artwork, make sure you set up your page template to 6.25 inches by 9.25 inches. This adds an additional 0.125 inches per side of page to accommodate for your full page bleed artwork. If you don’t do this, you’ll find when you get your first proof that there may be white margins on your full page bleed because once the artwork is flattened into a PDF, it won’t have any image data to draw from because it was cropped and flattened for PDF.

Setting up the exterior cover

Using Lulu.com’s nifty cover dimensions generator, you can find out the exact measurements of your cover, which includes the width of the spine. This will change depending on how many pages your book is.

Create your cover template with these dimensions. Don’t forget to include an area for your ISBN code. Lulu.com provides a template for that.

Because of the nature of Lulu.com’s outsourcing printing setup, you aren’t guaranteed the exact colors you see on your computer screen. So you might have to adjust the levels a bit, in this case, lighten it by a bit. The idea is once the inks bleed together, it will look darker than what you see on the screen. You’re trying to neutralize the affect. A good practice, if you have a color printer at home, is to do a test print. It will give you a fairly accurate representation what it will look like in final form. I’d say, my home color printer resembles 90 to 95% of what the Lulu.com printer gave me.

You can’t get physical proofs for free from Lulu.com, you have to buy them, so that’s why you want to get it right before you send off your digital source files to them.

When it comes to the spine, if you have a thicker book, say more than 80 pages, I find that you might have to add atleast 0.125 inches to the spine IF and only IF you are adding a different design on the spine. You don’t want to risk it folding over onto the back or front cover. But if you must, then it might take a few proofs for you to get it right. I just want to warn you if you want to get it right the first time.

White boxes around transparent images or drop shadow objects

If you are using transparencies, when flattened into a PDF, you might notice some strange white lines or boxes around the transparencies. This may be the result of Adobe Reader “Smooth Line Art” feature. Turn that off. If that doesn’t fix your PDF viewing, then check this page out:

http://desktoppub.about.com/od/indesigntutorials/ht/idtransparency.htm

Exporting to Lulu.com Compatible PDF for final submission

If you are using InDesign, Lulu.com provides you with a printjob file you can easily download and import into InDesign. You can find those files at:

http://connect.lulu.com/t5/Interior-Formatting/PDF-Creation-Settings-How-can-I-be-sure-my-PDF-will-print/ta-p/33681

Make sure your interior pages are not spreads. They should be individual pages.

Export them into PDF if you are using a program that allows that. Otherwise, export them into compatible Lulu.com source files, mainly JPEGS, PNGS, etc.

Finally, upload your files to Lulu.com.

And set your book to “private” because you don’t intend to sell it online yet (very important, pay attention), and then order a copy of your proof. Granted, once you receive your proof and it looks dandy, then you can make it “public” and start selling it through Lulu.com’s online store.

It’s that simple. I hope this helps out a lot of self-publishers out there.

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