Stages of Production Part I: Art Lasers

By Carol Hinz
Editorial Director, Millbrook Press

Every publisher probably has a slightly different process for turning a layout into a book, but I thought authors—especially those we work with—as well as those interested in the book-making process might like to find out a little more about what we do to get a book ready for the printer. To make this explanation less abstract, I’m including some images of the art lasers for one of Millbrook’s exciting new fall books, Journey into the Deep.

So what are art lasers? Once a layout has been proofread with text, captions, photos, and an index in place and is ready for review by an editorial director, we can say we have art lasers. Art lasers are black-and-white printouts that may or may not be full-size, depending on whether a two-page spread of a book fits on an 11” x 17” sheet of paper. We hope everything is fairly final at this stage, but those editorial directors do have a pesky habit of marking changes or asking questions. At this stage, changes are expected and do not cause a problem.

Journey art lasers 2(click on image to enlarge; everything in red is a change)

What kind of changes might be made at this stage? We might request a different photo if the current photo doesn’t seem to be working well or if something vital has been left out (just ask Mary Rodgers—with her documented passion for the Beatles—about how she reacted when Are the Drums for You? came to her with no photo of Ringo!). We might suggest tweaking phrasing for clarity or series style. We might suggest changes to adjust the reading level of the book (although we hope the reading level is on target at this point). We might ask for clarification if we think a concept will not be sufficiently clear to the intended audience.

Once the editorial director review is complete, if the book contains photos, production editors give the photo researchers the okay to order the high-resolution photos (and pay for them). Art lasers also give production editors and designers to review the book and make sure that the design is consistent and that things are looking the way they’re supposed to look (e.g. is that caption aligned correctly under the photo?). Production editors and designers try to make all their final changes to the file at this stage because after this point, they no longer have access to it.

Journey art laser 1(click to enlarge; these comments are all from the book’s designer)

We can make a PDF of art lasers to send to authors and illustrators for review, and this is often the last time they see the book before they receive their printed copies.

In short, art lasers give us a chance to make sure the book is working well as a cohesive whole and to adjust as needed. Check back next week for part two: prepress lasers.

5 thoughts on “Stages of Production Part I: Art Lasers

  1. Laurie S. Sutton

    Interesting! I've worked in 3 fields of publishing — books, magazines, and comics — and I've never heard the term art lasers. Is this new? Am I woefully out of date? Are there any real lasers involved? These look like galleys and page proofs to my old eyes. (I suppose I should come out of my Batcave more often.)

  2. Carol Hinz

    You know, art lasers might be a Lerner-specific term. These pages come from a laser printer–often in the art department–so I assume how that's where the name comes from.

  3. Julie Harman

    I think our art lasers are most similar to page proofs at other companies, but REAL lasers — there’s an idea! If we find a way to incorporate high-tech laser beams into our procedure, we promise a follow-up blog entry (with photos). – Julie (one of the production editors)

  4. Rebecca

    As author of Journey into the Deep, there were many high points during the production process, but reaching the art laser stage was one of the best. You really get a sense of what the book is going to feel like, as well as look like, at this point.

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