Friday, February 6, 2015

Regina Velazquez: Behind the Scenes — Book Cover Rorschach

For Storey’s editorial production manager, the bookmaking process promises plenty of surprise.

If this crossed your desk, would you know what it was?
Animal tracks? Rorschach test?

This lands on my desk one day, and I’m flummoxed. Here I’ve spent the last 15 or so years in publishing, and I’ve never seen the like.

It doesn’t take too long to figure out that it belongs to this:
In fact, not animal tracks...
which is the back cover of this:
Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier
Still . . . what the heck?

It takes me a good 20 minutes to squash my ego and go ask someone. I approach our prepress manager, Hartley Batchelder.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before. What is it?” I ask.

“You have seen it,” he says. “We did the same thing for Raw Energy in a Glass.”

“Oh, right,” I nod, trying to look like this clears things up. “But what is it?”

“It’s a varnish plate.”

“Of course!” Somehow, I’m still in unfamiliar territory. I figure if Hartley hasn’t laughed at me yet, he’s not going to laugh at all (though he may be dismally disappointed in my lack of knowledge on the subject of varnish plates), so I press on: “What does a varnish plate do?”

Ever so patiently, he explains that most of this book cover is going to be printed with a matte finish, like a chalkboard; the varnish plate shows where a layer of gloss will be printed in order to make certain images pop and shine.

“Ooooooh, that’s how they do it!” I’m so happy to have an answer.

So now I’ve learned something new about publishing that I’d never even considered before. I’ve worked for many big publishing houses where my role was finite, and didn’t allow opportunities to explore the bookmaking process beyond my specific job. In fact, I haven’t always gotten to see the final result, even after years of working on a project. Until now, my knowledge of the production process has only come from my changing roles within a company — not from being able to track the whole book from manuscript to bookstore. I love the communal approach we use here at Storey to build a book, and I love it when new things cross my desk. I still have a lot to learn.

I still think I see a bunny in those black splotches.

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