This May, Mark and I took a trip to the printer where our tabletop RPGs come to life! We have been working with Taylor Specialty Books for a long time and this was an exciting opportunity to see how it all comes together first hand.
A short flight away in Dallas, TX, dwells Taylor Specialty Books, which entered the industry in 1939 during the era of copper plates and photo engraving. The company thrived and since then has continued to grow, today being among one of the few domestic operations fulfilling start-to-finish printing demands. On our visit, we toured their state-of-the-art facility, massive in scale and employing skilled personnel in order to efficiently produce high-quality books.
Our guide through the amazing paper palace was Rick Parra, who handles inside sales, administration, and customer service. That means he works regularly with RPG publishers like us! Rick also introduced us to Julie Kacala, the Lead Customer Service Representative. After countless emails and phone calls with her, coordinating our needs with functions of the production plant, it was a real treat to get to thank Julie in person for all her help.
The pleasant smell of fresh print hit us as soon as we entered the massive climate controlled building. But nothing could have prepared us for just how impressive it would be to be inside the belly of the beast. Gigantic stacks of freshly cut paper, colorful basins of soy-based ink pumped through pipes in the ceiling to the hungry machines waiting below.
As if seeing one of the largest sheet-fed offset pressrooms in North America wasn't impressive enough, we were able to look around at all of the other parts of Taylor's operations. The building also houses other components for book projects — including contents/press sheets, soft or case bound covers, end sheets, tip-in inserts, and dust jackets, the works. We've made use of several of these over the years for Bluebeard's Bride, Masks and others!
Although we were they to proof the interior of a book—Wicked Fate—Rick was kind enough to answer all our question about where and how they create the amazing covers we all see and love. The shelf appeal of our games has always been a fun place where we can show off new and exciting designs. Drawing people into the game starts with a cover and as one of only a few domestic printing/binding operations with significant cover making capabilities, and getting this glimpse behind the curtain also allows us to stay on the cutting edge of enhanced covers, like foil stamping, screening, embossing, debossing, graining, flood or spot UV, and toning/antiquing. Each step completed with impressive machines that clearly belong in their own science fiction novel.
Meeting the people behind printing our books and witnessing the process they use was truly a sight to behold. The printing, folding, cutting, binding, and all that they do often seems like magic to us on the creator's side, so the knowledge we acquire from seeing just how our books come together will help us continue to deliver the best products we can, as long as we can!