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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: Thinking Creatively to Meet a Budget

I wrote a blog entry a while ago about a print book consisting of about fifteen diecut pages of various sizes attached by an “O” ring, the kind used in printed 3 ring binders. The total run was to be 5,000 copies spread over three separate mailings (a few pages sent out with each mailing that the reader could add to the “O” ring).

The pricing came in at approximately three times the budget (approximately $21,000). Here’s what my client and I are doing to bring the cost and available funds more in line with one another.

Background of the Custom Printing Job

The initial estimate included about $4,000 in foil stamping costs. Fortunately the commercial printing vendor had broken out this cost, which I found very helpful. The printer also had noted that the total cost included about $3,000 for paper and $1,000 for the binder “O” rings. Again, this was quite helpful. Finally, he said that putting all elements of the booklet on the same paper stock would save money. After all, having two different paper stocks (interior pages vs. covers) would require elements to be laid out on two press configurations for two separate press runs.

To put my thoughts in order, I created a spreadsheet listing all the elements of the job. I separated out custom printing, die cutting, assembly, envelopes, and mailshop. I wanted to be able to focus on each line item, whittling away the cost as I could.

Changes in the Paper Coating

First we dropped the idea of foil stamping or laminating, and instead chose to go in the opposite direction. We chose an uncoated sheet with a “tooth,” a rough-surfaced paper called Finch Vellum. Not laminating or foil stamping (and thus creating a more subtle and understated look) would save a lot of money.

My client did not want to have all elements of the print book produced on one thickness of paper. She liked the idea of incorporating both covers and interior pages into the book design, as well as a few, heavier-stock short pages. I agreed. It was better to spend money on this component of the job than compromise the print book design.

Mailshop Changes

My client is a freelance designer. Her client, the end-user, offered to do the mailshop work in-house to save money (in-house mailshop would be spread over all in-house departments and would therefore not directly affect the budget for this job). This removed $6,000 ($2000 x 3 mailings) from the total.

In addition, my client’s client (the originator of the job) elected to do only one mailing instead of three.

Format and Press Run Changes

Since there would only be one mailing, some of the otherwise redundant information (elements of the print book that would be sent out in the second and third mailing as well as the first) could be eliminated. It was therefore possible to reduce fifteen book pages to ten book pages.

(Let’s go through the math: 5,000 copies x 15 pages = 75,000 pages total. In contrast, a 10-page booklet would be 50,000 pages. Furthermore, the end-client cleaned the mailing list and reduced the press run to 4,500 copies: i.e., 5,000 more pages eliminated from the total.)

Reducing the amount of paper for the custom printing job (from 75,000 to 45,000 pages) is significant. Although I don’t have final pricing yet, I know that the paper cost (and cost for press time) will drop well below the initially quoted price.

Reducing the number of book pages might also allow more pages to be imposed on a press sheet (maybe yielding fewer press runs). This savings could add up (even if we will be printing two runs: one on the 130# cover stock and one on 80# cover stock).

Breaking the Job into Component Parts / Finding New Vendors Through the Printing Industry Exchange

To reduce costs, I brought in a smaller printer to bid only on the envelopes.

Since the print book would be bound with a looseleaf binder “O” ring through a drill hole, we chose a tear-proof synthetic envelope. The printer advised against printing directly on the envelope. (He said the synthetic envelope fabric might move during the commercial printing process and compromise the image on the paper.) So we agreed on a small custom label press run.

The mailshop work that the end-user (my client’s client) would do would include stuffing the envelopes, affixing the mailing labels (already printed digitally with the variable data address information by the smaller printer), and mailing the job.

(In your own print buying work, you might want to break the job into component parts–book printing and custom binding, printed envelopes and/or custom labels for envelopes, mailshop, etc.–and list the separate components of the job on the Printing Industry Exchange website. Once you have selected your custom printing suppliers, you can then coordinate their various activities yourself to save money.)

Final Outcome: TBD

At this point, my client (the designer) and I have reduced the overall price from about $21,000 to about $12,000. Fortunately my client’s client (the end-user) has also committed more funding to the project since it is a membership effort (an investment in future cash flow). We’ll see what happens. I’m waiting for revised pricing.

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