Historical Nonfiction Author

They look fine on the screen, but will they print?

The Cove
This photo of the Cove, Mamie’s Baxley’s childhood home, was rejected for publication because of its poor quality.
Pic. 033
Guy Jackson is a key figure in the book, but the only picture I have of him was rejected for its poor quality.

 I sent History Press 69 pictures for this book, then waited to see if they would accept some, none, or all of them. The publisher was specific in its instructions: “No image should be submitted at a resolution lower than 300 dpi at 6 inches wide.” I confess that I have only the vaguest notion of dpi or dots per inch. I know that dpi affects print quality, and that more is better, but after that it could have been the initials of a federal agency for all I knew, the Department of Pixelated Images.

I was happy with the set of pictures that I sent them, but I didn’t know if any of them had the required dpi. Turns out most were fine. The company accepted 62 and rejected seven. Even so, it was like getting a test back in school and seeing only the seven “X” marks and not the 62 checks. What was wrong with them?

I was not surprised that four of the photos were rejected. They were inferior, but the people pictured were important to the story, so I submitted them anyway. But History Press wasn’t buying that excuse. As for the other three photos, the publisher rejected them because they were “pixelated.” Again, I don’t really understand the concept. My editor said that pixelated pictures can look fine as digital images, but “if printed on the page, they would appear as mostly scrambled dots.”

To illustrate, he sent me two versions of the same image, a downtown street from the 1920s. In the one labeled “digital view,” I could see details, such as a muddy street, church steeple, horse-drawn wagon and people looking at the camera. In the other labeled “print view,” those details were gone, blended into a gray mess. So it’s all about details? I understand details and how important they are.  As a reporter, I was told to be sure to get the name of the dog, brand of the beer, and make and model of the car. From now on, I’ll think of dpi as details per inch.


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