Claire King


Christmas at the Printers

Posted on: December 20th, 2012 by Claire - 15 Comments

Some of you might know I had a Big Adventure this week.

Last week the Night Rainbow started its first print run, and on Monday the very first finished copies were born.

I had been asking the team at Bloomsbury if it would be possible for me to visit the printers with my daughters. I knew it was a long shot, because of many things – the chance of getting to the UK to coincide with the print schedule, the fact it’s time-consuming for Bloomsbury and the printers to arrange that kind of visit, the fact I was asking to bring my children. But my girls are so curious about books, my writing, and how what I do turns into a book, that I had to ask, just in case.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, thanks to the special efforts of my editors at Bloomsbury, the production people there and the people at CPI printers, I was told it could happen. Astonishment! Wheee! Cue mad booking of flights.

The Night Rainbow was being produced at CPI Mackays in Kent. Liz from Bloomsbury was meeting me there. There were to be books printed, and sandwiches.

It did feel odd arriving with children in tow, but everyone was so welcoming and kind to me and my two girls. We asked lots of questions about the printers: Q. How many books do they print a day there? A. 300,000-500,000! Q. Do books really come hot off the press? A. more warm than hot. Q: How is recycling managed? A. Error and therefore waste is kept to a minimum. Q: What about quality control? A. Happens at every step of the way. Some is human, some is computerised. Q: What is the impact of e-books? Q (daughters): How do the shiny bits get onto the book covers and please may we have another cookie? Etc.

Then Liz and I were taken into the factory. It smelled like new books. If only you could bottle it…And there, there were big piles of inners, boards, covers with purple foil stars, purple stitching…it was The Night Rainbow being born. Author swoons.


Then Jonathan whipped a finished book off the line and handed it to me.

“Can I hold it?” I said.

He looked at me. “Um, it’s *your* book!”

So there is was. 3 years after first putting pen to paper. *My* book.

I learned all sorts of interesting things about how the books are put together, including how the spines become curved not flat, how books are born as twins and separated at birth and how the thousands of covers are so neatly folded onto the hardback books.

The other thing I learned is the thought that goes into producing a book that is durable and beautiful.

And here are the first copies coming off the line.


My oldest daughter, who is 7, was planning on doing a talk when she goes back to school about what she learned. The children were allowed into a restricted part of the plant but no further, as obviously it’s too dangerous (but it was enough to cause dropped jaws and excited exclamations).

Since they couldn’t see as much as we did, as we went along the line, watching the book go from one step to the next, Jonathan from CPI kindly put together a pack of the book at its different stages of the process, so that Amélie could take them in to show her class. How kind and thoughtful is that?

All in all an utterly magical day for us all. What a special privilege none of us will forget. Thank you so much to Bloomsbury for making it happen, and to CPI Mackays for hosting.


15 Responses

  1. Cornflower says:

    How exciting, and how lovely that both publisher and printer were kind enough to arrange it for you!

  2. Alison Wells says:

    That is so amazing, Claire. Wow. I’m oohing and ahhing here. Very touching!

  3. Claudia says:

    What a fabulous experience for you and the girls. They must be so proud of you!
    And I’m dying to know… how *do* they get the shiny bits onto the book covers?

    • Claire says:

      The shiny bits are coloured foil. As part of the production of the cover, a ‘brass’ is produced (in my head it looks like a metal potato stamp) which stamps the heated foil onto the cover. In my case leaving purple shiny stars 🙂

  4. Kate Brown says:

    What craft there is in every stage of making a book… Beautiful. Doubt the kids will ever forget it.

  5. That looks like such fun! I would have gone mad for that kind of visit when I was seven. The book looks gorgeous. Can’t wait to buy it.

  6. Lindsay says:

    I think it must be absolutely wonderful to go and see the end product of all your work being produced like this! What a lovely day and how great that your children went along too. I love the picture of the book at different stages of the process, great to be able to take that away to keep!

  7. This is amazing stuff – loved reading – feel-good in the extreme. Happy Christmas to you all x

  8. Oh, how amazing – for you and for them! And somehow Christmassy with all the goodwill and adventure and excitement. It must have been quite something to pick one up and hold it.

    Have a lovely Christmas.

  9. Good luck with the book, it’s comforting knowing people are still keen printers.

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