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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Book Printing: Fashion Color Book Reprint–Already

I always learn something from my clients, and the creator of both the color fashion swatch book I’ve been working on for the last year and a half and also of the color system underlying this product, is already reprinting the book.

So the initial copies have been received remarkably well.

How to Approach a Reprint

Here’s a short recap of the specs: There are 22 versions of the color books. Each is approximately 3.5” x 1.5”, with 55 color swatches and front matter. (In many cases, the colors differ from print book to print book, based on the complexion of the individual in question. The purpose of the books is to help clients choose appropriate fashion colors based on their hair color, eye color, and skin tone.

Needless to say, in order to keep my client’s initial expense under budget, she only printed a limited number of copies of each of the 22 original print books (ranging from 7 to 24 copies, depending on the expected popularity of the individual books).

At this point, some have sold better than expected and are almost ready for reprinting. What to do? And how to keep my client’s clients happy? After all, even though they are willing to wait (the books are that popular), it would be preferable to fulfill the orders immediately.

The Initial Plan

My client has a limited reprint budget since she pays all costs out of her own pocket. She wants to spend $1,000. She has asked me how many print books she can get for this amount. In this way, she has options. She can decide to reprint now; or she can wait, take more orders, collect funds, and reprint a larger batch in a few months.

I contacted the printer and was asked for my client’s list of specific books to reprint (a wish list, containing four titles, three of which were essential, and one of which would be reprinted if the funds allowed).

The whole estimating task was somewhat complex, since pages of the print books would need to fit on an Indigo 10000 press sheet (approximately 20” x 29”). The good news is that the sheet size is unusually large for an HP Indigo or any other digital press. In fact, according to this printer’s website, their HP Indigo 10000 sets this printer apart from other commercial print vendors in the mid-Atlantic area.

Based on the particular titles (the 4 books out of 22), the printer gave me a target of from 6 to 10 copies of each. This total would come in under the $1,000 budget. The reason the book totals were vague is as follows: This is an especially short press run. Therefore, it will depend on the makeready used for the laminating, collating, trimming, and round-cornering processes as to what quantity the printer will get. Six copies would be the appropriate quantity for the $1,000 cost, but the printer will need to run more sets to allow for spoilage within the other processes. Therefore, the printer’s customer service rep thinks we could get closer to 10 of each.

Plan B, for a Larger Custom Printing Run

Even though digital printing on the HP Indigo is a quick process, it still does require some makeready, so continually reprinting a job in small batches would start to become expensive and eat into my client’s profit. More specifically, the $1000 press run would yield 24 to 40 books at approximately $41 each (worst case scenario, assuming 6 copies per print book title), in contrast to the initial printing (which yielded between 7 and 24 copies per original, depending on the specific book), which cost closer to $18 per copy.

The challenge would be to keep the unit cost down (after all, the price charged minus the cost of the book would be my client’s profit, and a $20 difference per print book could add up quickly in lost profits).

Conversely, not reprinting in batches could have a cost as well. If my client’s clients paid up front and then waited longer then they might like for the books to be reprinted, my client could lose customers.

So Plan B is to secure another backer (I believe “angel funding” is the term these days). If my client can secure a loan from a partner, who would add approximately $5,000 to the pot in return for a percentage over the initial outlay, within a specified time, the total budget would jump from $1,000 to $6,000. For this amount, my client could get 7 to 24 copies of all 22 books, or even more (the same as in the initial printing), and fulfill her client’s orders immediately.

Although this is not a printing issue, per se, it is an interesting view of how both large businesses and entrepreneurs must operate. They must commit funds with the expectation of selling enough of a product to not only recapture the initial outlay but also reap a profit.

Digital Printing Benefits

What makes this a special case is twofold:

  1. Before the advent of digital printing, my client and I would not even be having this conversation. Doing a short run on an offset press of so many originals would have been cost-prohibitive. Digital printing has made printing a handful of copies of 22 books a possibility, not just for a business but for a single-person shop, an entrepreneur. And the quality is superb. My client could not otherwise sell color-critical books of fashion color swatches.
  2. The size of the digital press (approximately 20” x 29”) is unusual. Most digital presses accept 13” x 19” sheets. Therefore, the unit cost for my client’s books will be more reasonable (even if they are now approximately $41 each). Laying out 114 pages plus covers (the 55 swatches, front and back, plus front matter) would require significantly more press sheets on a smaller digital press. In short, most other printers in the mid-Atlantic region could not do this job this effectively at the moment.

So we’ll see what happens.

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