Last week, I did something I’ve never had the chance to do: I watched one of my books being printed. My 100th title, Positively Teenage! I was lucky enough to spend a day at the printers, along with the team from Hachette Children’s Group, including my commissioning editor. The printer was CPI, which prints millions of books a year. We saw all sorts of titles in various stages of printedness. And we watched a Harry P edition having its edges spray-painted blue by hand.
I was surprised at how old-fashioned and industrial everything looked. I expected lots of silent, whirring digital machines. But printing is an intensely physical process and the machines are BIG and clunky and solidly metal, with the very clever digital stuff hidden away, including laser cameras that check barcodes hidden in every set of pages.
We were welcomed in reception and taken to get our hi-vis jackets, though I had to quell my disappointment at not being asked to wear the promised hard hat, and off we went into the office, where we saw a complicated time-plan for the books being bound that day and heard a lot of figures that I instantly forgot. Positively Teenage is the brown square just below left of centre. Why is it the only brown one? Because it’s special, obv. Harry Potter is in there somewhere but clearly not so special.
The pages of Positively Teenage had already been printed, and so had the jackets, so what we were seeing that day was it being bound. But we also saw the plates which are individually made to create each section of 16 pages. (Every book has to be a multiple of 16 pages. That’s why you sometimes get some blank ones at the end. Positively Teenage has NO space at beginning or end, as it turns out.) And we saw other books going through their earlier processes. I could tell you which ones but then I’d have to kill you.
I’ve always been fascinated in “how things work” – including human brains – and I love to see the different stages and processes. Some of them are plain weird – such as the conjoined twin books that come out before they are cut in half.
This was a funny moment. (Left.) The first books had come off the line and I could see several men looking intensely at them, pointing at different pages. I thought, “Awww, how sweet! They’re reading it!” It turned out they’d discovered a problem and the text was going too close to the edge of the page. So those books – at least 100 – had to be scrapped, and they recalibrated something and started again.
If you look very carefully at this video, you’ll notice that every machine you can see has my book at a different stage of production. I took over the factory!
Once 3000 copies had been printed and packaged up, I signed a pile which Hachette have taken off to give as prizes – so, keep an eye out for news of giveaways around publication date on May 24th. There’s going to be a fun competition for schools to enter after Easter, too – with lots of books as prizes. Everything will be announced on my website.
A very exciting day for me. Thank you to Hachette and CPI books.
Positively Teenage is a really uplifting, practical book that’s absolutely full of useful information, science and insights. It aims to give teenagers the very best start on their journey to independence and adolescence. I’m feeling very positive about it!