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  • Saddle Stitch Creep: Creating an Awesome Booklet

    saddle stitch creep icon
    Booklets, Digital Printing

    With multiple types of bindings available perfect for just about any book or project, one of the most popular options is the saddle stitch binding. For self-published projects, using a binding that makes your work look great while being easy to format is usually at the top of your wish list.

    Saddle stitching is the choice that many creators make when they need a professional booklet with secure bindings without the external additions to the work like coils or even a book spine that comes with perfect bound books.

    But saddle stitch booklets do have one aspect that adds to their otherwise simplistic formatting called the “creep.” So what is meant by this term and how does saddle stitch creep affect your booklet? Let’s demystify this unusual publishing term and look at how self-publishers can deal with it in their booklets.

    What Exactly Is Saddle Stitch Creep?

    When stacking up multiple sheets of paper that are the same size, it is simple to stack all of the edges perfectly straight. But when you take that same, perfectly aligned stack and fold them in the middle, something changes.

    The pages that are now sandwiched in the middle of the stack stick out a fraction while the pages that now make up the outside or “cover” of the stack appear a little bit smaller due to the bulk of the pages inside of the stack. This variation of the outer edges of a group of pages that are folded into a booklet in this way is called the saddle stitch creep.

    Paper of all types and thicknesses creates this movement to varying degrees when bound in the saddle stitch fashion. Thicker paper, as well as larger stacks of paper, create the biggest movement in saddle stitch creep. Thinner papers and smaller stacks mover or shift less in saddle stitch creep. For most saddle stitch bound booklets, the shift is very slight up until about 40 pages and then after that for an average weight or thickness of paper, saddle stitch creep becomes noticeable.

    Since pages of any type of book, project, or booklet need to be perfectly even, saddle stitch creep must be addressed by bookmakers so all pages appear uniform. Before the publishing process is complete, book publishers will trim the outside edge so that the creep is not visible when look at the booklet from the outside.

    Different Types of Bindings: Do They All Have Saddle Stitch Creep?

    The short answer is no, all four types of bindings do not have creep. But each type of binding does have its own concerns that mimic saddle stitch creep in some way. Let’s look at each type of binding to see how they compare with saddle stitch creep.

    Perfect Bound: With a firm cover and a book spine, perfect bound is how most novels are bound. Perfect bound books use glue to adhere the pages at the spine and then the cover wraps around the spine area to create the finished book.

    Inside margins (called the gutters) of perfect bound books sink down into the spine and so the format of a perfect bound book must include larger gutter margins. Rather than a graduated movement like saddle stitch, all pages have a small fraction of the page that dips down into the spine area.

    Plastic Coil Bound: Books or projects bound with a plastic coil need a larger gutter margin. The ring-shaped coils wind through holes punched in the gutter area of the page, necessitating a larger margin here than on other sides of the page but no creep is created with plastic coil bound books.

    Wire-O Bound:  This binding option is similar to coil since they both utilize a circular fastener that links through holes punched in the project’s pages. The metal ring connector on this binding needs a larger gutter but no creep is created with a Wire-O bound project.

    Strategy for Addressing Saddle Stitch Creep

    Material on the inner pages of a large booklet is affected more by this saddle stitch creep shifting than the material on pages that are closer to the front or back of the booklet. These inner pages have moved slightly and incrementally due to the folding and stacking of the pages necessary to create the booklet.

    So when the publisher finishes binding a saddle stitch booklet, they will trim off more of the page edges from those inner pages than from the outer pages to remove the saddle stitch creep. In order to save the content on the outside margins of a booklet from being sliced off, a slight moving of the margins must take place in two ways.

    1 The center pages of a booklet will need to gradually move the entire content of the pages toward the center or gutter of the pages between the beginning of the booklet and the center of the booklet.

    This will appear as if the outer margins are growing larger but this extra white space will be ultimately trimmed off by the publisher when the pages are trimmed off to give the booklet straight edges.

    2 Then, between the center and the back of the booklet, the gutter margins should be gradually shifted outwardly. This slight shift will again create the illusion of a shrinking margin or white space that will also ultimately be trimmed as well.

    What the Publisher Does for Saddle Stitch Creep

    When creating a saddle stitch binding, the publisher follows several steps to create the final product. First, the pages are printed according to the booklet author’s print-ready files. Then, the cover is also created and placed over the booklet pages.

    Next, the whole booklet is folded to create the booklet shape. Before finalizing the saddle stitch binding, the bookmaker will trim off the pages that slid to even up the outward appearance of the booklet. Last, the saddle stitch binding is applied to finish the publishing process before sending the booklet off.

    saddle stitch

    Self-Publishing and Saddle Stitch Creep

    For the self-publisher, dealing with incrementally increasing and decreasing margins can be a challenge. But when the final outcome of your efforts is a beautifully designed and executed booklet or project, the hard work put into making it look just right will be worth it. However, most self-publishers will want to make sure that they are using the right strategy for publishing their booklets so that the final product will look exactly how they envision.

    When you are considering self-publishing a booklet or project, you should first make sure you are working with a respected publishing company like Dazzle Printing. Self-publishing requires working with a company that knows exactly how to make your work look its best and how to help you produce a print-quality draft, and Dazzle Printing can help you turn your concept into a reality with their years of expertise in the publishing world.

    Consider the length of the booklet you want to publish. If it is longer than 40 pages of folded paper in its print format, then you will need to be comfortable adjusting the margins to adapt to the slight shifting that is inevitable with saddle stitch binding.

    Think about how your booklet might look with perfect bound, plastic coil,  and wire-o Binding. If your budget allows for a different binding option, if you do not want to work on adjusting margins with a large saddle stitch booklet, or if your material lends itself to having a spine (perfect bound) or lying flat (plastic coil and wire-o, consider changing your binding choice.

    Getting Started with Your Saddle Stitch Booklet

    Writers who want to get started creating their booklet may want to use a free template to help with the layout and design of their project. Using a template can help solve concerns about making your booklet look professional while still including all the necessary information. Booklets also need to have an attractive cover as well but not all authors have the skills or the time to craft one.

    If you need to, engage the services of a professional designer to assist you in composing a cover that will show off your booklet’s contents. Once the booklet is ready to print, it’s time to adjust the margins for creep if your booklet is over around 40 pages or if you plan to use heavier weight paper necessitating adapting the booklet’s format for the slight shifting that will occur. All that’s left is to send your booklet off for printing and then you will be ready to distribute your well-made booklet to friends, family and fans.


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