B&N Week 57: Page Counts

| January 24, 2012 | 4 Comments

It’s that time once again for more Bolts & Nuts! [How’s that for a simple intro?] This week, I want to talk to you about something near and dear to my heart. The page count. No, I’m not talking about the page count of your story, although that comes into play. I’m talking about the page count of your entire book. Let’s get into the Bolts & Nuts of that.

I want you to grab a comic. It doesn’t matter, any physical comic will do. I want you to count each page, including the cover. By count, I mean front and back. Each front and back is a page. Your 22 page story book will have about 10 pages of ads, and with the covers, you add another 4 pages [front, inside front, inside back, back]. That brings the grand total to 36 pages.

Now, this only applies to print. In digital, it will eventually be all about screens, but in print, it’s about plates.

I’m talking about printer plates. (Le huh?)

Okay, time to talk about printing for a little bit. The printing process most common for books is called offset printing. This means that the inked image is transferred [ offset ] from a plate to a rubber blanket, and from the blanket to the printing surface [paper]. These sheets of paper are huge and double-sided. So your comic gets printed onto these huge, double sided sheets of paper, and then are cut.

Follow me, now: 1 sheet of this huge, double-sided paper can fit 8 spreads, and each double-sided spread is 4 pages of comic.

When it comes to offset printing, your comic HAS to be divisible by 4. Otherwise, you’re going to have blank pages. Blank pages are a no-no. Quite literally, it’s a waste of space.

So you have to fill, at the very least, five pages worth of content. (Five pages? Steven, you’ve lost me.) I know. Follow me.

Most of you are only thinking of your 22 pages of art, and your cover. Well, that’s nice. That gives you 23 pages. Now, what about the inside front, inside back, and back? Those three pages still only give you 26. You need another two pages in order to be divisible by 4. At the very least, you need 28 pages worth of content for your 22 page story.

(MY HEAD HURTS!) Inside voice. (I know. Sorry. But it does.) I know. Here’s how you fill it.

When it comes to the inside front cover, here is a perfect place to put the creative team, the name of the story, and maybe some background on the story. A what has gone before if you will. Or, you can use one of the inside covers or the back cover as ad space from the printer in order to get a reduced price on your printing cost. If possible, you could sell all of the pages as ad space from others, and if you’re big enough, you could cover the entire cost of the print run with those ads. [Far fetched in the indies, but possible.]

When it comes to those extra two pages that aren’t covers, you can put backmatter in there, or fill it with sketches from the artist, run an editorial, or do anything else you desire [and falls within the moral mores of the printer]. Be creative!

Now, understand this: you CANNOT add pages willy-nilly to the count. Not if you’re using an offset printer for your physical books. Again, your book HAS to be divisible by 4.

This means you have to think about how many pages your story is going to be. [Especially if it is saddle-stiched, meaning you have a couple of staples in the very center that the book is folded over, holding the book together. That comic you picked up? Saddle stitched.]

Always remember that your cover costs you 4 pages in terms paper. Front, inside front, inside back, and back. You have to add that to whatever your final page count is. Divide that number by 4. If it doesn’t come out to a whole number, you’ve got pages of content to fill.

Now, while you’re still reeling, there’s another thing to think about when we talk about printing: these extra pages are going to cost you not once, but twice. (Steven, no! I’ve had enough!) It’s just a little more.

The first time is the actual production [drawing, lettering] of any extra pages. I’m counting that as one, instead of the money going out in stages. You’ll just be adding that to the extra cost of production, anyway.

The second time is the output of the comic [printing]. The more pages you add, the higher your printing bill will be. If you’re printing in color, then it got exponentially more expensive.

Now, there are hidden costs. (STEVEN!) Well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say anything about them, wouldn’t I?

One of the hidden costs is that this thicker book you’ve created just got more expensive to ship. You’ve got a longbox sitting around somewhere. Pick it up. See how heavy that is? And that’s only holding maybe 250 comics, give or take.

Next, your book has become more expensive to sell. You’ve got to be able to cover the expense of creating the comic somehow, right? So your price point has to be higher. So, you may be selling less. Just something to keep in mind.

Finally, there’s the retailer. The thicker the book, the fewer they’ll be able to put out on the rack. Believe me, they’re only racking a few to begin with, unless you’ve got a phenomenal book on your hands.

My advice is simple: stick to 22-24 page stories. With a 24 page story, you won’t have any space at all for any backmatter, but that is okay. You’ve got two pages from the inside covers in which you can do something, and there’s always the back cover you can do something with. But as soon as you go to that 25th page of story, your costs just ratcheted themselves up.

Always remember that your physical book has to have a page count that is divisible by 4, or else suffer through the printer trying to help you fill the page count, or deal with blank pages somewhere within your story.

And that’s all I have for this week. Your homework: think about what you’d like to fill your extra pages with. Start with the insides of the covers, because you will always have to fill those.

See you in seven!

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Category: Bolts & Nuts

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

Comments (4)

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  1. Don Pankievicz says:

    Sometimes, and I know this will sound stalker-ish, I feel like your talking directly to ME. Oooohhh Steven…(Sorry, I can’t type the Cable Guy lisp but hopefully you get the reference. Ha! At least I make myself laugh!) Thank you for this and all the other helpful tips I’ve been gathering from your archives. You, my friend, are a champion of the people.

  2. Noel Burns says:

    Thank you for bring this up Steven. Page count is something I fight with everyday. I try to offer the most afordable printing I can, but sometimes you can’t save creators from themselves. More pages = more cost. If you want to be able to have pricing like the current market then you need to have your books sized to match. Yes, indie creators can go outside the box, but remember there is a cost when you do.

  3. Conner MacDonald says:

    Haha this is perfect, I can’t believe this never occurred to me. But this means I get to add a few pages more, to a couple scripts I’ve written. Awesome.

  4. Sarah says:

    So a 24 page story, or a 38 page book is ok then?

    I briefly considered to actually have my own joke ads in my comics.:3

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