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How Chakra kept Harry Potter's secrets Buffalo company did prepress work for best seller

Perhaps as closely guarded a secret as the plot line of the new Harry Potter book was a local graphic company's involvement in the book's publishing.

Chakra Communications, a full-service graphic communications company on Ellicott Street, provided the book's prepress materials for Scholastic, publisher of the popular children's series.

With security of the story a concern, Scholastic requested Chakra keep its involvement in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" book a secret.

So, how did Chakra land such a magical contract?

Chakra bought the assets of another Buffalo company, Digicon, which had performed the same service on five previous Harry Potter books.

"We are a fairly new company, and we were able to hire most of the employees from Digicon after it closed. Because some of the employees from Digicon had existing relationships with Scholastic, we were able to work on the project," said Tim Lafferty, vice president of sales and marketing for Chakra.

Chakra, which opened its doors on Jan. 2, began conjuring up materials for the book in March.

"We received the original artwork for the book's cover and a digital copy of the manuscript. With them, we created what the jacket of the book and each individual page would look like," Lafferty said.

Once the layouts were finished, a digital copy of the book and materials was written to a DVD and a physical copy was printed out.

"We only had a handful of about six employees working on the project and kept it quiet that we were working on the project," Lafferty said.

On May 21 and 22, copies of the prepress materials were hand delivered to six different printers.

"One of our employees flew directly to Boston and delivered one of the packages. The other five were driven by two employees to the other five printers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Indiana," Lafferty said.

Doug Kern, supervisor of customer service, was one of the two employees given the quest to deliver the prepress materials to the printers.

"The experience was very exciting and a great road trip," Kern said.

Throughout the journey, the materials were kept under close watch., and the couriers kept a low profile.

A cloak of invisibility, perhaps?

"We didn't want to draw attention to ourselves. We just treated it like a normal business trip. The materials were kept locked in the trunk of the car when we drove and we brought them in the hotel room at night," Kern said.

To be extra careful, they never stopped to eat in a restaurant. Instead, they only used drive-throughs, he said.

Once the packages were delivered to each printer, any extra or left over materials or proofs were destroyed.

"Until all the packages were delivered safely, we kept everything we had at our office, like the garbage, under lock and key. After that, we shredded everything," Lafferty said.

Although both Lafferty and Kerns were not worried about the prepress materials making it to their destinations, neither wanted to think about that would happen if the materials were lost.

"We were very careful with the packages and they never left our side," Kerns said.

Laughing, Lafferty added, "I don't even want to speculate what would have happened if the packages were stolen or lost."

e-mail: cmichel@buffnews.com

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