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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: Make Plans for the Delivery Early

A husband and wife publishing team to which I broker printing just sent a 5.5” x 8.5” perfect-bound book to press. Even though they haven’t even seen a proof, now is the time to consider delivery. Now, not at the end of the process.

Why? Most importantly, the printer will need to make some decisions regarding packaging the finished books and labelling the cartons and freight pallets (skids). The sooner the book printer has the delivery information, the more immediate and more accurate the results will be. Doing all of this at the end of the printing process risks major screw ups.

What the Book Printer Will Need to Know

I just found an old delivery form these specific clients and I had produced for a print book they had published several years ago. I sent the spreadsheet back to my clients just now, suggesting that they revise it for the new book. Here are some of the issues it addressed.

Number of Copies, Destination, Carrier, Due Date

This is a list of the categories on the spreadsheet. It pretty much speaks for itself. It actually prompts the client to think of all possible deliveries. In my client’s case there are two book distributors involved, so there are two main destinations for the bulk of the 1,500-copy press run of the 5.5” x 8.5” perfect-bound book.

However, there are also deliveries to my clients’ publishing office, and this year there will be an additional delivery to their assistant’s house. The benefit of a spreadsheet like the one I’m describing is that you can update it as needed, and all of the information will be in one place. In my case, I find that reviewing such a spreadsheet periodically during the job will jog my memory regarding additional delivery information that must be communicated to the book printer.

“Carrier” is an important line item for each delivery because in the case of my client, one book distributor prefers to send their own truck to pick up the books. The other book distributor doesn’t care how the books come, so I usually leave it up to the book printer. More specifically, the sample distribution spreadsheet I have asks the printer to ship via the “best way.” This means that he is responsible for finding the fastest and least expensive option and ensuring accurate delivery. Therefore, my client doesn’t need to worry about freight contracts.

As a point of information, when you read a printer’s contract, you will in some cases see the words “FOB printer’s plant” or “FOB destination.” The former means the printer’s liability ends before your freight carrier picks up the books at the printer’s plant (for delivery to you). The latter means the printer is responsible for shipping the books (as well as for their safety) until the books have been delivered to you.

Addresses and Contact People

This also seems self-explanatory. However, most book distributors, warehouses, and fulfillment houses must know in advance when a delivery will arrive. Think about it. Even if only one skid of print books will be arriving, unloading the truck and moving the skid into place in the warehouse requires time and labor, so advance notice is a must. Therefore, complete addresses, contact people, and phone numbers are essential. Anyone involved in moving the (usually) heavy delivery will be grateful.

Site-Specific Information

When you’re crafting a delivery spreadsheet such as this, after the general information noted above, it’s important to include all of the requirements provided by each delivery address.

For personal homes and office buildings the specifications are often simpler (but harder to actually achieve). For instance, if the truck driver must break down the skid and carry a number of boxes up an elevator to an office (or into a personal residence), it’s important to note on your delivery form that you need “inside delivery.”

Inside delivery is the alternative to a “dock-to-dock” delivery. A dock-to-dock delivery is much easier, since your freight carrier is moving a much heavier, shrink-wrapped skid (or several skids) of books using a motorized pallet mover. A wrapped skid also actually protects the cartons and their contents, which can be more easily damaged if the cartons are shipped without being “palletized.”

The motorized pallet mover allows you to lift and move multiple hundreds of pounds of print books all at once instead of breaking down a skid of books into individual cartons. An inside delivery is more expensive than a dock-to-dock delivery. Therefore, you need to note this on the manifest you are creating.

Other site-specific information involves the labelling of the pallets of books. This information usually includes the publisher’s name, title, ISBN number, number of cartons, number of books per carton, carton weight, etc. The information may need to be both in “readable form” and in “barcode form.”

In addition to the labelling of the individual cartons (and the individual skids), your book distributor will probably request a delivery form that summarizes the entire order.

In some cases, the distributor will also have physical specifications, such as the weight of the cartons, overall weight of the pallets, and even the height, width, and length of the individual pallets. (All of this depends on the storage space within the warehouse and the requirements of equipment used to lift and move the pallets.)

Your print book distributor, fulfillment house, or warehouse will provide a list of requirements, which you can then send to your book printer. These are firm requirements. You will incur an extra charge if they are not followed. Although this sounds arbitrary, it actually facilitates inventory management, which ultimately benefits you, the publisher.

The Take-Away from this List of Requirements

Ultimately, the easier you make it for your book distributor to receive, store, inventory, and fulfill requests for your print book, the cheaper your overall cost will be. In addition, the control of the inventory will be more precise and therefore more accurate. You will know exactly how many books you have in storage at any given time, and your customers will get the right books in good condition in a timely manner.

To achieve this goal, your book distributor has developed effective guidelines, which will involve your printer’s preparation of the delivery (packaging and labelling). Therefore, the earlier you can get the required information from the distributor to the printer, the better. And the more lines of communication you can provide between the printer, the shipping carrier, and the delivery point, the smoother and more accurate the delivery process will be.

So it is prudent to start early crafting a single comprehensive delivery spreadsheet to which all interested parties can refer.

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