Expecting colour in your book?

Go on, admit it: you are not a monochrome type of author. You want colour in your life and inside your book; a bright, fancy cover is not enough.

Sadly, you shouldn’t assume that your publisher is willing to print anything in your book in colour (apart from the cover). Ask first!

With recent developments in printing technology, the cost of colour printing has dropped dramatically, but printing a book in colour still costs almost twice as much as printing in black and white only. Given the tight margins of academic publishing, most presses are willing to include halftones and other grayscale illustrations but nothing in colour.

As such, unless you have agreed with your publisher that some or all of your illustrations are to be printed in colour, any colour illustrations you submit will be converted to monochrome (often without consultation). Make sure, then, that they will still be meaningful in black and white. A ‘quick and dirty’ quality check can be made by photocopying any illustration you are in doubt about.

Remember that bar chart in Chapter 3, the one with the dramatic before-and-after effects in black and red? Looks like you better convert the red bars to hollow white or a B/W pattern. But what about your action shot of Michelle Obama, the one where she’s wearing that gorgeous yellow dress? After all, the whole point of the picture is in the colour; gray just doesn’t work. Will it help to throw a little money at the problem?


Publisher attitudes to colour do change with a substantial subvention on the table, of course, but even here – if (say) you have several such images scattered though your book – all that you might be offered is having all of the colour illustrations grouped together in a colour section.

Time perhaps to get a little assertive? Or maybe ‘realistic’ instead?

Unfortunately, this may be not the only dashed expectation; there are several other things to get steamed up about yet (more about these here).

(This is a preliminary post regarding use of colour in your book, a post where the emphasis is on typesetting issues. But colour is a bigger story, one I’ll return to another day.)

(Post #15 of the Design & Typesetting section of a lengthy series on the book production process, the first post of which is here.)


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