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Common File Problems: Are Your Book Files Ready?

March 27, 2023 (Last Updated March 29, 2023)

Lisa Fulton

You've probably spent months, even years, writing your book. We HIGHLY recommend that you spend an extra hour or two looking it over one last time before you send them to us. Our prices are very reasonable, but they do NOT cover corrections to your files.

The first thing we do when we receive your files is to send them through a custom-made filter that does a pre-flight check for the most common file problems. Some of these problems we can correct at no charge.

But there may be corrections that either:

(A) we can fix but they'll require an additional charge, or

(B) we can't fix at all.

In either case, we'll ask you how you’d like to proceed. If you only have a few corrections, it's usually easier for us to make the changes on our system. But if you have a lot of changes, you'll probably want to make the changes yourself and send us a new file.


Common File Problems

The three most common problems are: wrong page size, fonts not embedded, and low-resolution graphics.

Perhaps the most common problem is sending in files that are the wrong page size. Maybe the page size on your file is 8.5 x 11, the default page size in most programs, but if you want a book that is 5.5 x 8.5 inches, you’ll need to format your file to that size before sending it to us. We can reformat your file to fit your desired dimensions, but there are extra charges involved. Reformatting will also increase the number of pages in your book, which will affect the overall cost of printing.

Another common problem is missing fonts. However, when you create your PDF file, there should be 'settings' or 'options' available, one of which will be to "Embed Fonts." Be sure this is selected. If fonts are NOT embedded, they'll be substituted with a generic font or may get jumbled up, and your book won’t print the way you intended.

If your graphics are low-resolution, they will turn out pixilated or blurry in your finished book. We recommend all images be at least 300 dpi for printing. Unfortunately, resolution can’t be ADDED to your graphics. You'll need to replace them in your original files with high-resolution versions. If you don't have high-resolution graphics available, you'll have to either get rid of the graphics altogether or be willing to accept low-resolution results in your book.


Those are the top three, but there are many other common problems, including:

- No bleed allowance

- Live type too close to the edge

- Backgrounds that make the type unreadable

-Images that are too dark (since your screen is backlit, it will always make your images and colors appear much brighter than they will be when printed)  

- Using too many different fonts (sometimes known as "ransom note" design)

- Photos stretched or squeezed out of proportion

- Spacing over or tabbing over to try to make your titles look centered. (Always use the "center" command instead)

- Hitting a bunch of 'returns' to move something to the next page (Always insert a "page break" instead)

- Reviewing your Word document but not your PDF (sometimes content can shift when it is converted to PDF. Since we print from the PDF, that’s the file you’ll want to check carefully!)

- Putting all of your page numbers on the right or left. This will result in half your numbers being in the gutter. (Put page numbers in the center instead).

- Not reviewing the PDF proofs we supply


We're Here to Help

We help you wherever we can, and a few of these can be caught by our filter, but most won't be. It's up to you to make sure that your files are as clean as possible. We highly recommend ordering a printed proof before you approve your full order to print, which helps ensure everything will come out as you expect. Of course, our Pre-Press department is always here to help you out when you need us.

Here are some additional resources to help prepare your files:

Book Templates

Book Formatting Guide

FAQ Section

Video Gallery 


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