Friday, 16 March 2012

The Lulu print on demand struggle

Friday, 16 March 2012
For an RPG to be considered high quality, it needs to be properly proof read and edited. If you can afford a professional proof read through then it is worth its weight in gold as it will take your game to a high level of quality. It doesn't matter how flash your images are - if the grammar is poor, spelling rubbish and there are typos everywhere then people are going to assume your game is of poor quality. To convince someone to play your free RPG, you have to strive to make it as high quality as you can.

For Icar, I can't afford a professional proof-reader. Instead, I'm going to give it to The Mrs, who would have been a professional editor by now had she not become a mum instead! For The Mrs to proof read it, I need a print copy. I don't have a printer at home that works so I tried my local print shop (Staples) and they quoted me £25 per book. TWENTY FIVE POUNDS!

I knew Lulu was going to be cheaper, so I decided to try a POD version. Two books for £11 sounded much better. So I stripped off the cover and uploaded it to Lulu and ordered 2 copies. I'd done this before so I hard margins, gutters and all that setup. However, this time I had a full page background. I didn't know anything about bleed (the background image needs to extend further than the page) so I created a new background image that was slightly larger, uploaded and ordered 2 copies.

Then Lulu tells me that the transparencies need flattening. So I downloaded their export job options and regenerated the PDF. It's size jumped from 40MB to 160MB as it flattened down all the pages. Blimey! That's a whopper but their limit is 800MB, so it was cool. I uploaded via FTP this time as these big files are what FTP is all about. I ordered a 2 copies.

Then Lulu tells me:
It looks like the problems are coming from your internal PDF. You have many, many, high quality images in your file and I believe it is causing the file to time out at the press. I suggest possibly rasterizing your pages so that your background images are all one, flattened image for each page, and not multiple images. This may help. And make sure your file is clear of transparencies as well.
"Many, Many"? Really? Blimey, they should see what I'm going to upload next. I think what Lulu actually mean is that there are vector graphics in there. However, this is a bit poor as I am using their export settings, which should set up a PDF ready for print. I'm a bit peeved now - not because the file needs work but it takes them 3 days to find out there's a problem and then 3 days to tell me what to do about it. So this whole process is taking forever and I have no idea whether or not the next upload is going to work at all.

I'm disappointed that I've followed all their instructions and their feedback is getting progressively more woolly. It started with "There's no bleed.", I can fix that. Then "No transparency.", I can fix that too. Now it's "You've got a lot of HQ images in your document...". That's not very helpful. I will try rasterising the document and reprint but my experience is getting progressively soured as I wait for Lulu to get back to me. What will be the problem next, I wonder? Too much greyscale?
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