| Jr. Feature |

The Art of Publishing

How does ArtScroll take your manuscript and turn it into a bestseller displayed in every Judaica store around the world?

Photos: Yaakov Biderman

I have a challenge for you. Head over to the seforim shranks in your home and start counting all of the ArtScroll seforim you own. It’s hard to miss the distinct gold lettering and regal design that are part of ArtScroll’s signature look. Siddurim, Chumashim, machzorim, Mishnayos, Gemaras, the list goes on and on.

Still counting? Now head over to your other bookcases and count all the other volumes in your home that were produced by ArtScroll: children’s books, cookbooks, biographies of gedolim, inspiring short stories, general reading, all enveloped in shiny book jackets with beautiful illustrations.

Okay, okay, you can stop counting now. I know, it’s hard to keep track of all those ArtScroll titles!

The giant publishing house of ArtScroll Mesorah Publication was founded in the 1970s by Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz ztz”l. It publishes a vast amount of seforim, novels, children’s classics, and all sorts of kosher reading material. Rabbi Zlotowitz began his career with handwritten notes on Megillas Esther and, together with noted editor Rabbi Nosson Scherman, went on to build a powerhouse of Torah publishing.

How is a book produced?  Let’s say you’re an ambitious writer who has just written a page-turning novel. Or you’re a recipe developer with a tantalizing cookbook idea. Or maybe you’re a distinguished scholar who is ready to produce a sefer. How does ArtScroll take your manuscript and turn it into a bestseller that’s prominently displayed in every Judaica store around the world?

Follow us as we tour ArtScroll’s book factory where seforim and kosher books come to life:


Hi! We’re Avromi and Tuvia.

We’re nine-year-old twins who have many differences, except for two things: We both love to read, and we both hope to become published authors one day. So, we’re pretty excited about our trip to the ArtScroll publishing headquarters. Sounds interesting? Come along!

It’s a sunny day when we pull up to ArtScroll’s sprawling headquarters in Rahway, New Jersey. We’re ushered into a beautiful office building where we meet our tour guide, Rabbi Hisiger. He is warm and friendly, and bursting with information.

Rabbi Hisiger leads us down a carpeted hallway, stopping at various doorways to tell us about some of the departments and responsibilities. We pass through offices where editors are hard at work, analyzing and writing for yet-to-be-published seforim. ArtScroll is also home to an in-house shul, as well as a library with access to almost every sefer imaginable, which their researchers can use as references when writing new seforim. The sales and marketing department are handling the phone calls and working on upcoming releases.

Authors, Editors and Designers

“So Rabbi Hisiger,” Tuvia asks as we head down the carpeted hallway, “let’s say I have an idea for a really great novel. Maybe it’s a historical fiction set in the times of the Crusades, or it’s a page-turning mystery involving a yeshivah bochur who is really a secret spy and saves the world from nuclear disaster. How can I get my book published by ArtScroll?”

“Well,” Rabbi Hisiger explains, “here at ArtScroll we have meetings about once a week to discuss project submissions. If someone writes a book that looks promising, our editors will work with the author to make sure the finished product is perfect. Then our layout team formats the typewritten pages into a reading experience that’s a treat to the eye. They decide what kind of font to use in the book, how big the letters should be, and how wide the margins should look. Next, our talented graphic artist Eli Kroen designs an eye-catching cover. Presto, the almost-book is ready for print.


ArtScroll’s Treasure

We head over to meet Rabbi Gedaliah Zlotowitz, president of ArtScroll Mesorah Publication, and son of Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, ztz”l. He warmly welcomes us into his office. “There’s something special I want to show you,” he says. Rabbi Zlotowitz reaches up onto a corner shelf and plucks out a faded blue binder. “These are my father’s original handwritten notes for the first seforim that were printed by ArtScroll in the 1970s.” He caresses the worn pages covered in lines of blue ink. It’s hard to imagine that those handwritten notes from a faded binder have now morphed into a publishing empire!

Rabbi Hisiger shepherds us down the hall, telling us there’s lots more to see. “We haven’t even checked out the main factory yet,” he exclaims. But Avromi is curious about a room we pass by with glass windows and fancy equipment. “What’s that room for?” he asks.

“That,” Rabbi Hisiger says proudly, “is our in-house studio. Do you ever watch the Mishpacha magazine Take-Two videos where Mishpacha editor and writer Yisroel Besser interviews famous personalities like Yaakov Shwekey, Avraham Fried, and Rabbi Shalom Rubashkin? Or the Inside-ArtScroll clips we produce? Well, maybe you don’t watch them, but your parents probably do. Those videos and lots of other important films that are broadcasted to the Torah community are produced right here in this studio.”

We’re escorted into the studio where the line “lights, camera, action” literally comes to life. Avromi and Tuvia each take a seat in a plush chair and pretend to interview one another while the camera rolls. Afterward, they get to watch themselves on a giant screen and see how the film is edited and tweaked. It’s lots of fun, and no one wants to leave.


Production in Action

But Rabbi Hisiger hurries us on.  He leads us to a simple white door. “Here’s the most interesting part,” he says with a flourish as he opens the door. A cacophony of sounds greets us as we step into a giant room the size of a football field. Various machines snake around the room, each emitting clicks and clacks, as stacks of paper feed their way into the machines and are spit back out. Workers scurry around organizing papers, adjusting various contraptions, and carrying piles of book covers. There are seforim literally everywhere we turn.

“This,” says Rabbi Hisiger, “is where we produce our seforim and books. Come, let me show you around.”

We start our tour of production in a section full of huge rolls of paper, resembling giant paper towel rolls that are large enough to sit on. Avromi reads the label pasted on one of the massive cylinders. “This one weighs 1,069 pounds,” he announces. “And I thought my loose-leaf was heavy!”

Rabbi Hisiger explains that the room contains different kinds of papers, including super thin and extra thick ones. “We match the paper with the right kind of book. For children’s books that are subject to lots of wear and tear, we use thicker paper. For a thick sefer with lots of pages, we use a very thin, lightweight, but strong paper so the sefer isn’t too heavy.”

We head over to a row of massive machines lined up like soldiers. “These are the printers,” Rabbi Hisiger explains. “We have 13 of them that work continuously, 24 hours a day, from Monday to Thursday, in 12-hour shifts. Right now, this printer is in the middle of printing a batch of Mishnayos.” We watch as the rolls of paper are fed into the printer and the printer spits out perfectly cut and collated sheets of Mishnayos. “Here are the ink bottles we use,” he says, pointing to a bunch of bottles that look like they belong on a grocery shelf. Tuvia tries to pick one up, but it’s waaay heavier than a soda bottle.

Rabbi Hisiger explains how these stacks of freshly printed papers turn into books. The piles are fed into another device that divides the book into sections that are later bound together. “When you have an old book that is starting to fall apart, did you ever notice that it separates into sections?” He asks. “That’s because the book is originally bound into individual booklets which are glued together to become one volume.”

Nearby, we notice giant spools of thread feeding their way into contraptions that bind the sectioned booklets together to form a whole. They’re followed by a scary-looking machine with giant knives that slice away at the edges of the pages. “Most books originally have a lot of extra white space along the edges of the pages,” Rabbi Hisiger explains. “So, this machine has three knives that cut off the extra paper at the edge of the books. The shredded paper is then fed into pipes that snake above us and bring the excess paper outside the facility to be processed.”

A worker appears with a stack of brown covers imprinted with gold lettering. We watch as the covers are fed into a binding machine where they are glued onto the cut and bound stacks of paper, each forming a whole book.

“What about those covers?” Tuvia wonders. “How do you make those?”


Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

In response, Rabbi Hisiger leads us to the next section of the factory. A tall, energetic-looking man with a booming voice greets us over the sound of clacking and clicking machines. “This is Aaron Moshe,” Rabbi Hisiger introduces us. “He’s in charge of producing the covers.”

Aaron Moshe walks us through the process of cover creations. He picks up a glossy, colorful children’s book cover. “After the cover is designed, it’s printed on regular paper and laminated, just like your Succos projects,” he explains. He leads us to a machine that has cardboard papers cut to the size of the book cover. “This machine glues the laminated paper to the cardboard, thus creating a thick, sturdy book cover. You’ll notice that most ArtScroll books are covered with a jacket as well. This gives the book an extra layer of protection and also makes a good page marker so you don’t lose your place.”

Aaron Moshe hands us a piece of fake leather. “This material is used to cover the siddur you daven from each day,” he tells us. “It’s also glued to a piece of cardboard to make a sturdier cover. We then feed it into the next few machines that emboss fancy gold lettering and designs on the cover.” An embosser looks like a giant stamp that imprints an intricate design on each sefer, giving it that respectable look.

We head over to a row of shelves filled with buckets of colorful paints and sponges, reminiscent of a preschool classroom. “Did you ever notice how the edges of some seforim are covered with a colorful design?” Aaron Moshe asks. “We use sponges and different color paints to paint the edges of the pages.” This is the only part of the process that is still done by hand. There are also giant spools of various colored ribbons that are used to make bookmarks.

“Our little sister loves to paint.  I bet she would love to help with this part,” Avromi volunteers.


Our Favorites:


Favorite Title:

Avromi: The Word-Wise Adventures of Yisrael and Meir: Going Global. Who doesn’t love a good comic book? And a comic book that teaches the halachos of shmiras halashon in a fun way is definitely a winner.

Tuvia: Between You and Me: A Journal for Jewish Kids. As an aspiring author, I love a book that I can write in, instead of just read.


Favorite Part of the Tour:

Avromi: The Studio. It was awesome to get filmed and watch our faces on a big screen.

Tuvia: Choosing new books to take home, of course.  But it was hard to choose just two!


Rabbi Hisiger stops at a small fridge and desk. “Here boys, my treat. You can each take a soda and some candy.” Next, we head out of the plant, away from the constant clacking and clattering into a quiet, cavernous room that has endless shelves filled floor-to-ceiling with boxes packed with seforim and books.

“This is the warehouse where we store our books,” says Rabbi Hisiger. “And this,” he continues, leading us past rows of shelves and forklifts into another room that resembles a giant library, “is our shipping room.” The room spreads before us, rows of shelves filled with crisp new books just waiting to be read. Several workers scurry around the front of the room, collecting books and filling orders. At the front we are greeted by a row of conveyor belts and computers that resemble the checkout line at any supermarket or seforim store. “These workers are printing the orders that come in from our sales department,” Rabbi Hisiger explains.  “They then go around the room, fill up their carts with the books for each order, pack them up, and ship them off. Do you guys want to look around? You’re welcome to each take two books home free of charge!”

Did we mention that Avromi and Tuvia both love to read? They look like two kids in a candy store. The rows of tantalizing titles stretch out before them, and they meander up and down the aisles, checking out covers, leafing through novels, and exclaiming in delight.

“The Avner Gold series!”

“Look at all these cookbooks. These are perfect for Mommy.”

“Look, there’s the Maggid Stories for Children series.”

“And all of Yair Weinstock’s books. I can never put his books down.”

“And here are a bunch of little kids books. Here’s The Little Old Lady Who Couldn’t Fall Asleep and Eli and His Little White Lie. Remember when Mommy used to read us those books before bed?”

It’s hard to choose just two books to take home. And it’s really hard to leave.


But the tour has come to an end, so we head out with new books in hand and a newfound, tremendous appreciation for the quality reading material on our shelves and the sacred seforim we use each day.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 883)

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