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Printing Industry Exchange ( 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: Complexities of the Invoice

I recently checked a preliminary invoice from one of the larger printers I work with. It was to be sent to a client of mine for a case-bound print book. Since the invoice did not match the estimate exactly, I drafted an email to my client to explain the discrepancies so she would not be surprised when she received the final bill.

Here’s a Summary of the Specifications for the Print Book

The job was a 640-page, 8-1/2” x 10-7/8” case-bound textbook, printed black-only inside on 60# Finch Opaque stock. It had a press run of 1,000 copies. The custom printing job also included a dust jacket printed in four non-metallic color(s) by the sheet-fed offset process on an 80# enamel text sheet with a lay-flat gloss lamination applied to the outside only.

Signatures were gathered with end sheets, adhesive bound, and trimmed square on three sides. Cases were made over .098 board with Arrestox B materials and stamping foil measuring approximately 30 square inches. Dies were billed as additional. Books were cased-in round, loose back with head and foot bands, wrapped in preprinted jackets, and packed in 275# single-wall RSC cartons.

Prices were quoted as FOB printer’s plant.

Here’s a Synopsis of the Bid I Had Initially Sent to My Client

1,000 copies
$13,201.00: base price
$955.00: estimated freight

Here’s a Synopsis of my Client’s Invoice (Which the Printer Sent Me for Approval)

1,242 copies
$13,201.00: base price
$901.65: actual freight
$1,035.00: authors alterations (69 pages)
$1,873.52 for 242 overs

Why I Explained the Bill to my Client

First of all, I believe that successful commercial printing sales and successful print buying require trust. I wanted to make sure my client understood the cost overrun. After all, for many commercial jobs the custom printing vendor does not charge for overs. In addition, if the printer is local to the client, the cost of freight may be included in the overall price.

That said, I have found that in most cases book printers do charge separately for freight and also charge for overs. Fortunately, both of these issues were noted in the initial bid and in the boilerplate contract my client had signed with the book printer. Nevertheless, I wanted to avoid any surprises.

Freight Costs Explained

As per the contract, prices had been quoted as “FOB printer’s plant.” That is, the prices did not include freight, and the ownership and responsibility for the books transferred to my client at the book printer’s loading dock (not at my client’s office, the delivery point). The printer had arranged for a freight carrier and had provided an estimated cost of $955.00. Fortunately, the actual cost as noted in the book printer’s invoice was $901.65, a lower amount than quoted. The printer had paid the freight company and therefore needed reimbursement from my client.

Cost of Author’s Alterations

If a client catches a printer’s error in a proof or an F&G (folded and gathered, printed but unbound, signature), the printer absorbs the cost. However, if the client finds an error (in the content, for instance) that he or she had not caught prior to submission, the client pays the cost.

My client had changed and then resubmitted 69 pages of the 650-page book. For labor incurred, the printer had charged $1,035.00.

In some cases, this can be a volatile issue. For instance, if the client had unknowingly prepared the files in error (formatting, type color, extraneous marks, type omissions—the list is endless), he or she might be inclined to blame the book printer without understanding that he or she had actually made the mistake. Conversely, a client may request a change that a printer inadvertently overlooks. (To be realistic, human error does creep into complex processes such as prepress and printing.) If the printer makes the error, then the printer absorbs the cost.

In cases in which responsibility might be unclear, it is important to have prior laser proofs, digital proofs from the printer, emails, and F&G’s to help determine the point at which the error had been introduced.

Policy for Overs/Unders

As per the contract, the printer can charge for 10 percent overs, or up to 250 copies on anything below a 2,500-copy press run. The printer had estimated a $12.201 unit cost for 250 overs but had only printed 242 overs and had billed them at a reduced rate of $7.74 per unit.

Printers do not produce extra copies to make extra money. In the course of all the printing and finishing operations required to produce a book, copies get damaged. Perhaps one is spoiled on the trimmer and another gets damaged during case binding. In order to ensure a final delivery of as close to 1,000 copies as possible, the book printer had to be able to produce up to 250 extra copies to allow for potential spoilage.

For short runs, like a 1,000-copy case-bound book, the usual percentage (10 percent overs or unders) may not be enough to prevent coming up short. Hence, this printer has a rule that 250 copies will be the acceptable overage up to a press run of 2,500 copies. Thereafter, the 10 percent overs (or unders) rule applies.

One thing to keep in mind that the printer does deliver all overs, so you’re not paying for anything you don’t actually receive.

What Can We Learn from This?

All of these items are noted either in the estimate or in the boilerplate contract from the printer. They adhere to industry standard customs (Printing Industry of America). Therefore, it’s important for you to familiarize yourself with standard industry practice, read the contract carefully, and ask your printer to review with you such issues as overage, freight, and author’s alterations.

In fact, it’s quite reasonable, if you find an error in the proof, to ask what it would cost to fix it. Depending on the cost, you may opt to leave the error in the book. For instance, let’s say you found an error in the F&G’s–not the digital proofs–that would require reprinting a complete signature to repair. If the error is insignificant but would cost $2,000.00 to remedy, you might forgo the change.

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