Tuesday, November 10, 2009

First Paperback Book

A few years ago I took part in National Novel Writing Month for the first time.  I succeeded in completing 50,000 words, and was left with a typed manuscript that people were begging to read.  Well, begging may be too strong of a word.  My wife wanted to read it, and I wanted to read through it as if it were a real novel.

Since my wife and I both tend to read in bed before falling asleep, I decided that I would create a paperback version of the novel rather than try to deal with loose sheets of manuscript.  Creating a paperback book in this fashion is probably one of the simplest forms of bookbinding.

The first step was to create the pages.  This entire process was done before I had researched any sort of bookbinding techniques at all, so I made all of the steps up as I went along.  The pages were created in Microsoft Word by setting the page size to that of a paperback book.  I added page headings and page numbers, then printed the entire thing to regular printer paper.

The next step was to cut out each page.  This was one of the more time consuming processes since I had to cut out each page individually.  If I recall correctly, there were between 250 to 300 pages.

Once all of the pages were cut out, I assembled them into a single block, in order by page number.  I added a couple of blank sheets to both the beginning and end of the book.  I pressed the sheets together between a couple of wooden boards, leaving just a bit of the spine protruding.  I measured the width of the spine to have as a reference for creating the cover.

The next step was to glue all of the loose individual sheets together.  While the book was pressed between the boards, I used a stiff brush to dab regular school-grade rubber cement into the spine, making sure to get in between the pages as well as I could.  While this was drying, I began work on the cover.

The cover was designed in Photoshop, using a couple of photos that my wife had created.  The entire cover was done as a single piece, with the back cover to the left, the spine in the center, and the front cover to the right.  Since I wanted a dark cover, I converted the two photos to black and white, then added them to the front and back.  On the front cover and spine, I added text for the title and my name.  On the back, I added an excerpt from the story, and a short biography of myself.  The spine and back cover were both purposely done in black, just in case my spine measurement was incorrect.  That way, the fold could fall slightly off without affecting the look of the book.

The cover was printed on heavy matte paper used for photos.  Once the cover was cut out, I folded it along the front edge of the spine, then fit it over the now dry block of pages that made up the bulk of my paperback.  The back cover was folded along the spine wherever it naturally fell.  After a little trimming, I glued the cover to the spine of the book, again using rubber cement.  My first published book was born!

You can see from the photos that the cover has faded slightly.  Overall, though, the book has held up well over the past few years.  At least three people have read it in this form, and it is still together.  In fact, it blends in well enough with the other books on my shelf that it took me a few minutes to find it in order to take these photos.


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