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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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Commercial Printing: More Benefits of Using a Broker

Writing the last PIE Blog article about print brokering work got me thinking. Since them I’ve come up with a few more benefits of working with a custom printing broker: the kinds of services I bring to my own commercial printing brokerage work and what I have seen in the work of other brokers.

Identifying Errors in Printing Bids and Clarifying Specifications

If you review a number of custom printing bids, even pertaining to the same project, you will see that all printers approach the bids somewhat differently. The order of specs may be different; the language may be different. It’s easy to miss something when comparing bids. You might even make the mistake of assuming the low bid is actually the low bid. After all, what if a printer has left something out of the estimate or substituted something. This could actually bring the price of the low estimate above the price of all the other estimates.

Here are a few examples:

    1. On a job I brokered recently for a client, I had specified Finch Opaque paper for the text of a print book due to its brilliant, bright-white character. The printer had substituted a different paper, and had only described it generally in the bid as an opaque sheet with a certain caliper (I don’t remember the exact “ppi” number). Because I knew Finch Opaque had a caliper of 416 ppi (pages per inch), I could see that the paper the printer had specified was not Finch Opaque. Only when I called to question the bid was I informed of the paper substitution. According to the printer, switching back to the initially requested Finch Opaque would have driven up the price by about $5,000 to $8,000. This meant that comparing one bid to another was not a true “apples to apples” comparison. A printing broker can catch substitutions such as this and bring them to a client’s attention.


    1. Another job referenced a C/W paper stock. White paper substrates come in a number of shades. Some are blue-white (or cool white); some are yellow-white (or warm white). The notation “C/W” can be misinterpreted as cool white. For this particular printer, however, it meant “cream white,” which would be the same as “yellow-white.” To distinguish C/W from its blue white counterpart, this printer uses the term “B/W.” This could be confusing if you’re thinking in terms of cool white and warm white paper. When I saw this, I asked for samples of the paper stock for the client—to make sure she would be happy with the final product. If you’re expecting your job to be printed on a bright white substrate and it comes back on a cream stock, that might be a catastrophe. A commercial printing broker can make sure this doesn’t happen.


  1. What if your job is late? A client of mine recently printed a number of different titles at the same printer simultaneously. Most of the jobs went to press on time, but one did not. It went to press two weeks late. For various reasons, the print book distributor needed all books at the same time. This meant holding all titles while the final book was printed. Unfortunately, this option would not work either. The book distributor needed copies early. Fortunately, I was able to work with the printer to come up with a different shipping option and an improved schedule. This is a service a printing broker can often provide. Because he or she can understand both the client’s needs and the needs of the printer (the physical limitations of the printing process plus the printer’s schedule), he or she can be a fair and often successful negotiator.

Understanding Printing Trade Customs

Did you know that a printer can send you (and bill you for) for up to 10 percent overs/unders (i.e., more or fewer copies than requested)? This means that a printer will usually produce more copies of a print book (for instance) than you have requested to account for spoilage (each of the printing and binding operations can ostensibly damage printed books or any other printed products). For a print book, for instance, the printer produces more press signatures than needed since a certain number will be destroyed by the perfect binding process. If the printer did not do this, the final number of completed print books would almost always be less than requested.

If you don’t know about the commercial printing trade custom regarding overs/unders, you might think the printer was trying to take advantage of you when the final bill arrives. Knowing the trade custom can help you avoid sticker shock when you get the bill. Conversely, it can provide the opportunity to negotiate a lower than 10 percent overage/underage policy. Of course, you can do this yourself, but if you don’t know about printing trade customs such as overage (or any number of other standards of the commercial printing industry), a printing broker can help.

Ship Date vs Delivery Date

You may need your print books on Februaray 15, and your printer may note in the estimate that the books will ship on February 15. Obviously this will get them to you late. If you don’t know to look for this discrepancy between the “shipping” date and “delivery” date, you might be unhappily surprised when it’s too late to change the schedule. A printing broker knows to look for such discrepancies.

What You Can Learn from This Discussion

As noted in the prior blog article, you may not need a printing broker. You may have the knowledge and time to do this yourself. Then again, you may actually appreciate having someone who knows exactly where to look in a printing contract for the kinds of miscommunications that might arise. In this sense, a custom printing broker is an advocate, kind of like a printing lawyer reading a contract for you and giving you advice. Sometimes this is just what you need.

2 Responses to “Commercial Printing: More Benefits of Using a Broker”

  1. Thanks for spreading this news. As a grad student, I suppose it’s going to happen at some point in my career and I’ll be vigilant.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your comment. The key is to find a printing broker you trust. He or she can save you both money and headaches.


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