(By Christina Anne Taylor of Middle Island Press)
Though there are many elements that contribute to professional-looking chapbooks, there is one that I (the eyes and hands of Middle Island Press) am particularly proud to employ, and that is trimming. Many micro-publishers don’t do it. This is evident whenever I walk into bookstores and have a browse at the chapbook racks. What I usually see is 8.5 x 11 sheets of paper folded in half and stapled. The top and bottom edges are usually haphazardly edging toward being flushed, and gutter creep is evident on thicker chapbooks. These problems are rectified by both horizontal and vertical cuts done by an industrial-quality cutter.
Where craftsmen sometimes differ from one another in making chapbooks is in basic practice. Some make horizontal cuts before folding and stapling, and others (like myself) don’t make any cuts until chapbooks have been folded, stapled, and tightly pressed. My way results in an overall flushness that rivals in quality with actual books. On thicker chapbooks, however, tiny fissures can occur when making all cuts the final process, and this is more likely to be noticeable with glossy covers. That is one reason why I prefer standard 110-lb cover stock. It is sturdy and smooth and does the job better than the more commonly used 90-lb cover stock.
Of those micro-publishers who make horizontal cuts before stapling, the problem is in the likelihood that one half of the chapbook (either front or back) will be ever so slightly off in size. Usually about a millimeter, but I notice it and would rather see a millimeter-sized fissure in an inner corner than a millimeter-sized cut discrepancy. One looks careless, and the other (if it does happen) looks unavoidable. In that, it is my opinion that professional-looking chapbooks require careful trimming: the right finishing touch that can be both seen and felt before a chapbook is even opened.