I have come to some conclusions on self publishing books based on my experience with 3 companies.. A&I.. MyPublisher..and
Mac(through IPhoto} Which is the best? It all depends..
If you're thinking of all those coffee table books in the stores you see, well forget about it. There is no way to expect the same results. You can however expect some good results if you're aware of the things each of these three have to offer and judge if what you are sending can take advantage of it.
None of them have a real Profile to offer, something that would be really great when you prepare your files. None send a proof or at least an online one,,too bad...Profiles are based on paper quality and ink runs and can show you pretty much how your images will reproduce as long as your monitor is "COLOR BALANCED" properly. That means with some device and program and the ability to adjust your monitor accordingly. There are a lot of them but I use a Spyder from XRite. PC or Mac doesn't really matter but PhotoShop (C-3-4-5) is a norm.
Your files (images with or without text) comes #1.. for most images I use Adobe's RGB98 file a standard with PS.. for starters..There are other settings but that is middle and recognized ground that fits a printable gamut range (for those who wish to melt their brain). Once I like the results, I then make a copy to refer to, and convert or assign an sRGB profile to it. Almost all printers use sRGB so the point of debating its smaller gamut is useless..adjust..resistance is futile!! At that point,I size them according to the final size of the pages of the book or a larger size and scale it down with their provided software. Then I add Smart Sharpen and followed by Edit / Fade Sharpen Lens Blur... From my magazine clients, that seems to work best although I do change profiles for them to Color Match but that's another story..later.
Some want jpeg and some take a Tiff..whatever, most keep it at 300PPI to 350PPI.. In Jpeg mode see if their guidelines call for "Baseline standard or Optimized..." at Maximum quality. Put them in folder "Images ready for book" or however you can refer these as.
I noticed in the end, for best results adjust your histogram from 5- 240 lowest black to the highest whites..with a slightly lower saturation in the reds.. their papers seem to pump reds, at least in my case for all three.
Now while all three offer book themes and templates..I found that creating the size pages you want in PS by File/New/ and filling in the required info.. and doing your own layout with whatever size images you select for the page,add type and a background color if not white, works the best. Upload them as full page choices and it turned perfect if you allow some room for images or let them bleed off the page.. in other words don't put important stuff on the edges that you can't give up!
DECISION TIME..who is best ?
Layouts: All offer a free program download for their layouts..
Mac has a simple one but limited in designs..Unless you make your own layouts mentioned above, but quick to use and uploading and ordering is simple as well.
A&I and My Publisher have more designs and themes, not as easy to use, but you can catch on.
Covers: all offer hard and soft bound..here I used Hard bound except for a small 3.5x2 inch book only offered from Mac..very cute
All 3 have a printable sleeve jacket over their cover like a book wrapper..
My Publisher on the other hand offers both jacket and printed on the cover itself...really really nice,snappy .
Both Mac and MyPubisher return the book in a see through envelope to keep it clean..A&I just returns it , cheap on their part for a more expensive product .
A&I and Mac have the best binding..clean and tight..MyPubisher a little less neat on the spine, but that could just be mine, I did two with them.
A&I definitely has the best paper of the three, thicker,smoother nice feel in quality.They are a higher end in quality all over. Mac is second...MyPubisher not bad, acceptable.Depending on what you are printing like if its B&W..I would go with the better paper but I would convert my B&Ws to rgb. For pastels in colors..Mac is best IMHO. A&I needs around 240 in the highlights..
A&I is the slowest..Mac the fastest..MyPublisher is average.
MyPlublsher has the very best...the other two offer none.
All that being said...I was happy with all three.I would adjust my histogram for the next round as mentioned above... All three have decent reproduction except MyPubisher liked reds so for for them I would desaturate red 15-20%
I liked MyPublisher's cover best, very attractive nice repro on it. Mac reproduced all over very well..A&I needs 240 in the highest whites as mentioned above..they were the most expensive.
Doing your own books becomes a fever, like tattoos, and a lot of fun, keeping it simple is hard but best in the end results.. All in all, it is a cool and inexpensive way to show work and do a promo piece.. I use Mac's 2x3.5 book as my FOOD give away to potential clients..
I will try some other companies and post on them as well.
Comment on your results