Cast Our Book in Metal, Please! Printing Malka Older’s Infomocracy

Last week, we were very excited to release Tor.com Publishing’s first novel-length hardcover, Malka Older’s Infomocracy. As someone who has been in publishing for over 20 years, one of the many gifts Tor.com has given me is to make the process seem new again. I’ve been working on book covers since 1993 and loving every year of it, but still, it is impossible not to take a special pride in this line. Combine that with a few new people in the art department (waves at Esther and Christine!), we decided we were due for some behind-the-scenes coverage of our shiny, shiny jacket for Infomocracy.

The cover was designed by Will Staehle, familiar to regular Tor.com readers for his work on Adam Christopher’s Made to Kill, Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky, Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway, and many others. In short, if you want something that looks cool and perfectly bridges the gap between SFF and mainstream, he’s the call you make.

Will gave us a number of options, but we loved the idea of trying to find order in the chaos, and the sense of playful urgency, that the final gave. The simplicity of the design meant we were able to print in solid colors. Typically, when working artwork or photography, printers create all the colors by mixing cyan, magenta, yellow, black, and utilizing the white of the paper itself. In this case we were able to print with pure blue, red, and black inks. It may be subtle, but it gives us richer, cleaner colors. We also decided to throw in some sparkle and print over a silver metalized paper rather than standard white paper stock. This meant we needed to print white instead of  relying on the white of the paper, but it also meant that we could print white underneath some of the colors to give them a matte effect contrasting the shiny areas printed straight onto the silver paper.

The whole effect has been worth it—we’ve seen them prominently displayed in shops, and the book jumps off the shelf. Since the light catches the pattern in different ways, it’s hard not to pick it up and want to make reflections dance across the cover.

With thanks to our printer, Coral Graphics, here are some behind-the-scenes shoots. Any time I visit, I’m always reminded that, despite the scale of the place and the volume of work they can produce, the process is still remarkably similar to how printing has been done for hundreds of years. Printing presses are full of craftsman that create, monitor, and adjust all the moving parts to get the job done. We are indebted to them and the care they put into the process.

Here you can see the silver paper with the white ink that was printed under the black to create a matte effect. This will let the blue shine, in contrast.

Infomocracy book printing process

The press:

Infomocracy book printing process

Stacks of covers with the white undercoat printed and dry, ready to have the red, blue, and black inks printed on top:

Infomocracy book printing process

Buckets of blue…

Infomocracy book printing process

…to be placed in bins that will thinly coat the rollers.

Infomocracy book printing process

Paper on the move…

Infomocracy book printing process

Printing blue…

Infomocracy book printing process

Printing red…

Infomocracy book printing process

Infomocracy book printing process

The final jackets. From here, they’ll be laminated, trimmed, and sent to the bindery to be wrapped around the books themselves.

Infomocracy book printing process

My great thanks to the pressmen at Coral—Claire, Gary, Rick, and Jack—and to our Jim Kapp for always making us look good.

Infomocracy is available now from Tor.com Publishing.
Read an excerpt on Tor.com.

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