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Small and Large Book Quantities

I'd like to share with those of you who are new to the publishing business, my experience with small quantities publishing, as I've learned it from some local printing shops that I deal with.

Obviously, the cost of printing 100 books is not the same as one- tenth of the cost to print 1000 books because the bulk of the expenses for small quantities are for pre-press operations such as making film, plates, and other preparations. This expense is the same for 100 copies as it is for 10000 copies and this is why the per unit cost drops significantly with increased quantities.

I've also learned that the printing business go through very irregular cycles, that is, times where a printing shop may be swarmed with many orders and every customer wants his job finished "yesterday," and times where the shop has nothing to do and the print shop owner neither can afford to lay off his employees since he doesn't know what the next day will be like, nor can he afford to pay them for doing nothing.

To alleviate this situation, some printers will do jobs for regular customers on a "fill-in" basis. What this means is that during slow periods, a printer will do a job for much less than a normal price just to keep his employees busy and make just enough money to pay them. Of course, if during a fill-in operation a customer walks in and he wants a job done within 24 hours, he is willing to pay a premium price, and pay COD, the printer will set the fill-in work aside until he finishes this most lucrative job.

Normally, some printers will work on a fill-in basis for regular customers and who pay COD to improve their cash flow. Other printers may not even consider it. Personally, I have established good relations with small printers where one prints the book covers, another would print the body pages, and the third does the bindery work, in my case, perfect binding. I use them to print small quantities like 300 to 500 copies. And if it is a repeat job, I negotiate for even a better price since they can use the same film and/or plates. I also use those printers for my stationery, business cards, letterheads, envelopes, invoices, and so on. Some prefer to get their stationery from places like Office Depot, OfficeMax, and Staples to save money. There is nothing wrong with that, everybody wants to save money. I prefer to have the local printers do these for me, even if I have to pay more, just to keep in touch and to take care of me when I need them.

Sure, for large quantities one should go with larger printing companies specializing in book production. But I think it also pays to establish good relationships with local printers just in case we need something small but quick.

Steve Karris
Orchard Publications

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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