AddMe - Search Engine Optimization Book Printing Forum: March 2005

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Printing Promotional Books From the Public Domain

When I owned my book printing company, we gave away blank books as promotional items. Each book had a 4-color cover with our contact information, logo, etc. The interior pages were blank so the book could be used as a notebook or journal. This idea was fine, but I think it can be improved upon.

If I had it to do over again, I would reprint titles in the public domain, customize them with my logo and contact information and distribute them to my clients. Naturally, I would choose titles that I thought would benefit my clients and prospects. If they read the books, it would make them think of me. Even if they didn’t read the books, each book reinforces the fact that I print books.

The titles I would choose are business titles since most of my book-buying customers were business people. There are many good business titles in the public domain. Among my favorites are Acres of Diamonds by Russell Herman Conwell and As a Man Thinketh by James Allen. These titles, and more, are available from Project Gutenberg at The texts can be downloaded for free since these titles are in the public domain and produced without paying a royalty.
The titles would require the book printer to format, typeset, customize and print the books. These steps cost money. The finished book, however, would be a one-of-a-kind promotional item that any sales person would be pleased to distribute.

The idea needn’t stop with promotional items for one’s own book printing business, either. The same book can be customized and offered to non-book printing customers for their own promotional use. Thus, a free asset from the public domain can generate revenue for book printers willing to invest the time to sell the concept.

Some book printers use samples of their customers’ books as promotional items. This practice is fine, but you must obtain permission from the author/publisher to use their books as samples. Titles in the public domain don’t require any permission to use.

When thinking about promotional items for your book printing business, don’t overlook the obvious—reprinted titles from the public domain. They are easy to obtain, produce and distribute.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Opportunities Are Everywhere

I visited a book printer today who reinforced my belief that there are many book printing opportunities right under our noses every day. The key is to ask enough questions and think clearly enough to see them all.

The book printer I visited was Bill Kirsch, PIP Printing in Burbank, CA. He currently prints several books for different customers and is considering expanding his book printing business. We had a pleasant visit during which he told me of several of the books he currently prints. We discussed his capabilities and opportunities for growth. By the end of the conversation, we had identified several printing opportunities based on the customers he already was serving.

To give you some examples of how I expanded his thinking into more printing products, let’s examine two of the titles he is printing.

The first is a spirituality book for a local publisher. The book is nicely designed, but the cover lacks the EAN barcode required to sell through the traditional book trade. Without the EAN barcode, the bookstore scanners cannot read the ISBN number or price. The first idea was to suggest adding an EAN barcode to the book. Adding the barcode will give the book more credibility to readers (readers expect the book to be sold through bookstores and the barcode is an outward sign of a “good” book). Furthermore, an EAN barcode will allow the publisher to sell the book through the bookstores, without going back to print, if she decides to in the future. Does adding an EAN barcode result in a large sale? Probably not. An EAN barcode costs around $25. What Bill gains, however, is respect from the publisher for thinking of ways to improve her book. What is that worth? And it gives him the opportunity to reprint the cover, too.

In further conversation, I learned that this was the third book this publisher has printed with Bill. If a publisher has three titles, the opportunity exists to create and print a catalog for that publisher. A catalog for a publisher of this size may be as simple as an 11 x 17 4-color sheet, folded to 8.5 x 11. The back panel is an order form and the first three panels tell about the publisher’s history along with a brief description of the three titles. A catalog like this is no different than product sheets or small newsletters that Bill prints everyday in his business. To this publisher, however, it is a new product and she will think better of Bill for recommending it.

Another book printing project we discussed was for a local high school. Bill prints the high school’s football program for each game. He has earned the confidence and respect of the school officials to print this highly visible program. What other products can he leverage from this? Schools are always looking for ways to make more money. Fundraisers are a staple every year. One product we discussed was to approach the school about printing a cookbook of recipes from the mothers of the boys playing football. Each mother would submit a recipe printed from a computer. Bill would collect the recipes, typeset them, lay them out as a book, print the book and deliver them to the school. The school would then market and distribute the books to the students and parents. If Bill sells comb or spiral bound book for $2 or $3, the school can sell the finished book for $8 or $10—making a $6 to $7 profit on each book.

This project is a win-win-win for everyone involved. The school has a novel product for a fundraiser that earns significant profit on each sale, the parents feel a part of the project by contributing to the recipe book and Bill sells more printing than he currently sells to this group.

The outcome of this visit is a lesson for all book printers. Look for ways to sell more books for your publishers. The opportunities are numerous. All it takes is asking questions and being open to new possibilities.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Distributed Book Printing Network

For years, the idea of a distributed book printing company has appealed to me. Ever since I did the preliminary research for Kinko’s on the book printing market, I knew that an opportunity existed for one company to jump in with book printing plants throughout the country and capture significant market share. Why? For the simple reason books are heavy. It costs money to ship them; sometimes nearly as much to ship them as to print them. Printing the books closer to where they will be distributed reduces shipping costs for publishers.

For any company embracing this opportunity several challenges must be overcome. First, how many printing plants are required? The actual number depends on whether the printer is targeting trade or industrial book publishers. For instance, if the printer targets trade book publishers, there are five Ingram warehouses, four Baker & Taylor warehouses and four Amazon warehouses located throughout the country. The printer would want to be close to these warehouses to minimize shipping expense.

In the past, printers have centralized their production in one facility because of the heavy capital expenditure of duplicating equipment in multiple locations. Centralization also eased the management, quality control and customer service issues. With today’s digital printing equipment, the capital needed to duplicate printing facilities in multiple locations is a fraction of what it once cost. For instance, a Xerox Docutech may be $500,000 but a traditional web press might cost $5 million.

Second, the quality of printing must be consistent from plant to plant. With a distributed network of printers, it is harder to control the quality on each shift in each plant. Once again, digital technology comes to the rescue. Creating the digital original in a standardized format, such as Adobe Acrobat’s PDF format, and running it on standardized digital output devices, improves quality control. Standardizing the digital original allows the quality control to be performed on the digital file before sending it to the output devices. While by no means perfect, a well-made digital file increases the chances the file will printing consistently on any output device.

Third, pricing the printed product must be fast, easy and consistent at each plant. Using standardized pricing and management software overcomes this shortcoming. Concentrating all the pricing and estimating and customer service functions in one location greatly aids consistency, too. Software makes creating an estimate faster and more accurate than creating one by hand. Fast turnaround on estimating is a requirement in the marketplace today. Furthermore, the pricing must be competitive with “traditional” book printers. And, while each printer’s cost structure varies, combining digital printing techniques with state-of-the-art pricing and estimating reduces the differences between traditional and digital printers in quantities up to 3,000 copies of a book.

Finally, fast turnaround of the printed book is paramount to the success of a distributed printing network. Scheduling work becomes one of the big constraints for any distributed book printer. Those printing plants closest to the largest warehouse, such as Ingram’s main warehouse in TN, will receive more work than plants nearer the remote warehouses and distributors. Fortunately, digital printing equipment is scalable and additional capacity can be added relatively quickly compared to adding additional presses.

The market is waiting for some company to offer a distributed book printing solution. Large chains, such as Kinko’s, have the potential to capitalize on the opportunity quickest. Franchise printers, such as Sir Speedy, PIP, Kwik Kopy and others, can capitalize on the opportunity too, but it is difficult to organize and coordinate independent franchisees to act as a coordinated group. The traditional book printers are too heavily invested in legacy printing presses and procedures to start completely new businesses. So, which company will step up to the challenge? Only time will tell.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


I was in the Hudson Bookstore at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and saw something unusual on the counter. It was something that I had seen at the Book Expo of America but never in a retail store. The cover read: “Free Preview Excerpt” for two of Phillip Margolin’s novels, "Lost Lake" (on sale March 1, 2005) and "Gone, But Not Forgotten" (1993).

In the trade, this is known as a BLAD (Book Layout and Design). They are available at the Book Expo of America for bookstore buyers to sample a few chapters of a novel before buying. There is just enough storyline to pique the reader’s interest, but not give away the plot. The BLAD has the exact cover art and interior page layout that the final book will have.

This particular BLAD is very interesting. It is four by five and a half inches in dimension, printed on newspaper-grade stock. It has a four-color cover with a glossy film laminate. The BLAD is 96 pages. All these dimensions make the BLAD easy for the printer to run.

What makes this BLAD clever is the way in which the publisher, HarperCollins, differentiated the two novels in the same BLAD. One novel is printed right-side up and the other novel is printed upside down. The reader can read the first 48 pages of "Lost Lake" and then flip the book over and read 48 pages of "Gone, But Not Forgotten."

We printed only one BLAD for a customer. It was entitled The Healthy Hedonist by Janet Bridgers. We printed it for her immediately before the Book Expo of America in 2001. We also printed several books with the right-side up and upside down method. Mostly we printed these books for bi-lingual books where one story was in English the other in Spanish.

When I saw this BLAD from HarperCollins, I immediately called Ellen Reid at Little Moose Press. She has an author, Louise Gaylord, who has two fiction titles that are the first two in a series of mystery novels. The first novel is entitled "Anacacho" and the second is entitled "XS." I suggested to Ellen that she print a BLAD with “Preview Excerpts” of both novels. This may be a key component of reaching bookstore buyers.

The opportunity is available to any book publisher that wants to promote one or more titles. Sometimes all that is needed to generate more printing for the book printer is to suggest ideas like printing BLADs, particularly as we approach Book Expo of America each year.

For a copy of Phillip Margolin’s BLAD, contact HarperCollins or visit a bookstore near you. HarperCollins is located at 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Value of PMA University

Each year, the Publishers' Marketing Association holds a university to train book publishers and their staff. This year’s theme is "Inventive Publishers Reinventing Publishing." Each course taught at the PMA University will examine the critical need for publishers to examine their publishing model and creatively reinvent their company and their products on a regular basis.

This year PMA University is the largest educational event for book publishers in the United States and, perhaps, the world. There are more than 70 courses during the three-day event which will be held May 31 through June 2, 2005. PMA University will attract more than 600 attendees from through the US, Canada and the world.

In addition to the courses, there are two major attractions: the Benjamin Franklin Awards Gala and the Trade Show. The Benjamin Franklin Awards honor the best in book publishing for the previous year. There are first, second and third place winners in each category. Being nominated or winning a Benjamin Franklin Award propels book sales of that title for the publisher. The Trade Show is an exhibition of different trades catering to book publishers. The PMA encourages the publishers to visit the Trade Show which means that each exhibitor may be visited by as many as 600 attendees.

This year there is a special Mid-Size Publishers Event on June 2, 2005. It is designed to be a forum for top management professionals within the book publishing community to discuss opportunities, challenges, achievements and successes for their businesses. A prerequisite for publishers is 50 or more titles in print and/or a minimum of $2 million in annual sales.

There are several reasons why PMA University is important to any book printer. First, it brings together the ideal target audience for a book printer—the small to medium sized publishers looking for innovative solutions to improve their business. Among these publishers are several who will be changing book printers within the year. Second, there is no better gathering to understand the issues facing book publishers. Understanding the issues book publishers face opens up potential solutions you can offer. For instance, in 2001 I participated in a panel discussion on variable data printing at PMA University because I learned the year before that it was an interest to some publishers. Third, the Trade Show is an exceptional place to exhibit your printing company. Fourth, the Benjamin Franklin Awards showcase the best books publishers produced the previous year. I always examine the winners to better understand printing quality, new techniques and what my competitors are producing. Fifth, the Mid-Size Publishers Event is an opportunity to mingle with the brightest prospects among the 600 people attending PMA University. Sixth, the educational courses provide insight into next year’s trends in the publishing industry. And seventh, working with publishers is a long-term relationship. Attending and participating in events like the PMA University demonstrates a printer’s commitment to the market.

If you are not a member of the Publishers' Marketing Association, then consider becoming one to augment your business. If you are a member, then make plans to attend the PMA University for as long as you are in this market. The time and money you invest with PMA will yield dividends for your business.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Book Expo of America

Book Expo of America is the “greatest show on earth” if you are involved in the book business. As book printers, it is the most important trade show in the United States. Booksellers, retailers, librarians, educators, rights professionals, international publishing executives, publishers and people interested in books will descend on New York City June 2-5, 2005. Jacob Javitts Center will host over 2000 exhibitors covering over 300,000 square feet of floor space. If you have never been to a Book Expo of America, you owe it to yourself to attend one.

Book Expo of America was established for publishers to offer their products for the fall season to the bookstore buyers. In recent years, the buying and selling of International Rights to books has become equally important to the publishers.

Book Expo offers five key attractions. First are the exhibit halls and pavilions. All major U.S. publishers have a presence along with publishers of all sizes from the U.S. and around the world. The publishers will exhibit a wide variety of book, non-book and gift items such as bookmarks, reading lights, etc. as well as technology products.

Second, there are conferences and educational programs offered to address topics of interest to all segments of the book industry. Many of the sessions are free to anyone registered for the event.

Third, there is the International Rights Center. Rights business takes center stage in the Rights Center. Agents, scouts, publishers, packagers and acquisition editors will be looking to buy or sell rights.

Fourth, there is an autographing program that features over 400 authors. The autographing program is a highlight of Book Expo of America. These authors sign books in special autographing areas as well as in exhibitor booths. The halls are filled with celebrity authors and dignitaries for the autographing sessions.

Fifth, there are special events and networking opportunities including author breakfasts, luncheons, receptions, special lounges and more.

To make the most of Book Expo of America requires a plan. The size and scope of the event can be overwhelming. I recommend focusing on the areas that will generate the most value for a book printer. Be respectful of why the publishers are at the BEA, however. They are there to sell books to booksellers. Any intrusion by a printer is a distraction for them.

I always spend time in the Small Publishers’ section. These publishers offered the most potential for obtaining new book printing. This section of Book Expo of America is typically separated from the main exhibits. I meet and greet publishers that fit my criteria for a good customer. See my earlier blog for what makes a good book printing customer.

Next, I tour the aisles for other book printers. Many international book printers exhibit at BEA. I scope out the competition and take brochures and information about their businesses to study back at my office.

I always visit the International publishers area. The publishers in this area are divided into sections by the countries of origin. I search for titles that may be a good fit for my domestic publishers and suggest a rights sale.

Finally, no BEA is complete without visiting the large publishers. I tour them to see what new books will be available in the fall. I also pick up the BLADs and Review Copies of books for my personal reading. Finally, I look to see where the large publishers are focusing their marketing efforts. Occasionally, seeing the trends of the large publishers gives me ideas of ways my smaller publishers can piggyback on their marketing efforts.

Overall, no book printer can fully understand the book publishing market without attending at least one Book Expo of America.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Segmenting Trade Versus Industrial Book Printing

The book market is not homogeneous and a printer cannot serve the needs of all types of publishers. There were over 175,000 books published in 2003. These books were published by over 55,000 publishers ranging in size from one title to hundreds of titles. Yet, the average print quantity for a book over the entire lifespan of the book is only 7,500 copies. What determines the different types of publishers and their revenue potential to a book printer?

There are many different types of publishers: trade book, children’s book, scientific, technical and medical book, cookbook, travel book, foreign book, royalty, subsidy, vanity and self-publishers. With this many categories, selecting a segment is difficult. The choice needn’t be that hard, however.

First, books fall into one of two larger categories: trade books and industrial books. A trade book is sold through a traditional book distribution channel such as bookstores or retail stores. One defining characteristic of a trade book is that it has an ISBN (International Standard Book Number). A trade book typically has an EAN barcode so it can be scanned at the checkout counter. An EAN barcode combines the books ISBN number and its price bar code into one. Selling through traditional book distribution channels is difficult and competitive. Trade book publishers may be open to additional marketing pieces printed by the book publisher that will help promote the book.

An industrial book, by contrast, is not sold through traditional book distribution channels. It is generally targeted for a niche market, not the general population. It may, or may not, have an EAN barcode. Many book publishers are including an EAN barcode, however, because these barcodes give the book legitimacy in the reader’s eyes or the publisher may elect to sell the book through the book distribution channel in the future. For the most part, industrial book publishers have established channels to distribute their books and need very little assistance from the book printer for marketing ideas.

Examples of trade books include hard and soft cover fiction and non-fiction, children’s books, cookbooks, foreign language books, travel books, etc.

Industrial books include publications in the following areas: medical/healthcare, insurance, automotive, educational (including training but excluding schools), financial and directories.

In my book printing company, the average invoice for a trade book was $1,127. The average invoice for an industrial book was $1,765. We printed industrial books in the medical/healthcare, insurance, automotive and educational categories. For example, we printed healthcare directories of doctors for Blue Cross and automotive parts manuals for Nissan and Suzuki. Our industrial book printing was the base on which we built our business. Industrial books were predictable, repetitive and consistent printing for us.

Trade book printing was more varied and more inconsistent. Trade book publishers required more assistance and support throughout the printing process. In many cases, the trade book publishers printed once and never returned because their books never sold. On those occasions when they did sell, however, the trade book printing was a profitable as the industrial book printing. We had one book, “A Christmas Dozen,” that sold 7,500 in its first year—a success story for the publisher.

Don’t be fooled by the average invoices, however. Trade book printing offers more opportunity to print ancillary items for the publisher to support the sale of the book including items like review copies, bookmarks, postcards and the other items mentioned in the posting entitled "Printing Marketing Items for Book Publishers." Industrial book publishers have a more defined idea of the way in which they will market their books and may not need any assistance (or additional printing) from you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Preparing to Print Books (part two)

Preparing to print books is a serious task. It takes the right equipment, systems and people to print books successfully. In the previous blog, we discussed equipment and people. We will discuss the important systems that must be in place before entering the book printing market.

The first is a solid pricing and estimating system—preferably one that is automated. There are many packages available on the market including: PrintSmith, Printer’s Plan, Logic, Haagen and many “home-made” programs. Regardless of which package is selected, it must be able to track customers, their orders, track customers’ buying history and present a professional looking estimate and invoice. Equally important, the estimating package must present the final price in total dollars and the price per book. Several of the packages must be reconfigured to include the price-per-book. Publishers evaluate printers on a price-per-book basis. Make it easy on the publisher and include the price-per-book clearly in the body of the estimate.

The pricing and estimating system must also produce a clear, easy-to-understand job ticket. In addition, there should also be a comprehensive Notes Section to the job ticket to help clarify important points. The job ticket should have a Change Order feature to allow the printer to note changes and charge appropriately for them.

Every book printer should have a Quality Control (QC) system in place. The QC system should be flexible enough to catch mistakes early in the printing process. It should also be adaptive enough to account for each customer’s unique production requirements. In addition to a QC system, a book printer should have a customer feedback system. This system can be manual or computer-based, but it should allow the customer to track the progress of a job throughout production and to make changes (communicated through the Change Order forms in the Pricing and Estimating program) easily. Finally, in the event of a problem, a book printer should have a Problem Recovery system. It has been my experience that most printers have good Problem Recovery systems when a customer complains. Statistics show, however, that only 12% of the customers with a problem complain. The others simply don’t do business with the printer again.

A profitable book printer will have a good shipping system. Such a system adds to the book printer’s profitability. See the March 15, 2005 blog for a complete discussion on shipping and profitability.

Every book printer knows that printing is a small part of a publisher’s value chain. To add value above the printing, most good book printers keep a current supplier list for their publisher customers. Included on the supplier list would be typesetters, book packagers, book shepherds, cover design artists, editors, international rights specialists, distributors and wholesalers. If the printer has the publisher’s confidence, the publisher will rely on the printer for recommendations. The suppliers want to be on the list that printers recommend for the business that is referred their way.

Finally, each book printer should have a sales system to systematically contact and follow up with current publishers and prospects. There are many software programs to help this system including ACT!, Now Contacts, Outlook and new, web based applications. Regardless of the software used in the process, a printer must constantly be communicating with existing customers and prospecting new ones.

These are the necessary systems a book printer should have in place before entering into the market. Many printers have several of these systems already in place but, to be successful, one must have all the systems in place. If a printer is unwilling or unable to commit to having all these systems, then consider another niche to grow the business. As Vince Lombardi said, “The will to win isn’t as important as the will to prepare to win.” Be prepared with all the necessary systems if you expect to win.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Preparing to Print Books (part one)

Vince Lombardi, legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, said, “The will to win isn’t as important as the will to prepare to win.” This is especially true for printers considering entering the book printing market. If you do not prepare properly before you enter the market, book printing could be highly unprofitable, even disastrous, for your business.

Preparation is required in three key areas: equipment, systems and people. No one area is more important than the other two, and all three must be ready before entering into book printing. What’s more, the key areas need to be addressed in the order presented: equipment, systems and people. Most printers are equipment freaks. They buy the necessary equipment and think they are ready to print books. This is similar to “Field of Dreams” thinking—buy it and they (the customers) will come. By neglecting the other two areas, systems and people, the equipment-minded printer may disappoint his book publishing customers.

Preparation Chart
Originally uploaded by Bill Frank.

The right equipment is the first step to establishing a successful book printing operation. Beginning in pre-press, one must have the latest pre-press computers and Raster Image Processors (RIPs). The new digital printing equipment, both black & white and color, makes printing short-run, digital books possible. In-house perfect binding and coating equipment are necessary. Most publishers today prefer a film laminate coating to an aqueous or UV coating, so a film laminator is preferred. As book printing grows within a business, one of the next upgrades is to move from a single-pocket perfect binder to a multiple-pocket perfect binder. In my business, we used a Müeller-Martini Amigo, 4-pocket, perfect binder. Finally, a packing system, such as a tunnel shrink wrapping machine, is necessary.

There are so many different systems to consider before beginning book printing, that it requires a separate discussion to adequately address them all. Please see the March 22, 2005 entry for the details.

People considerations begin with a commitment from the leadership team to book printing. Once that is established, qualified, trained and knowledgeable Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are a requirement. It is my experience that publishers like dealing with dedicated CSRs for the book trade instead of CSRs that deal with stationary one minute and books the next. Competent pre-press employees are key to a book printer’s success. I don’t necessarily mean talented graphic artists, but rather pre-press operators who can process digital files quickly and can solve problems when they occur. Finally, a position key to a book printer’s success is the bindery operator. This individual must have knowledge to operate the equipment and to solve problems and to make minor adjustments to the cover or text pages to make the book look professional when it’s completed.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Cost Curve Comparisons

The Old Book Model of publishing is antiquated and vulnerable to a new, more attractive model to take its place. What will that new model be? I do not have a crystal ball to say for certain what it will be. All I know is that printing 3,000-5,000 copies of an untested book and trying to sell them through the existing distribution chain is less and less attractive.

Today, there are many short-run, digital printing solutions available to publishers. The opportunity exists to print a smaller quantity, 500-1,500 copies, and market them. The total expenditure to print fewer books leaves more money available to market the books. Then, if the book sells well, the publisher can return to the printer for another printing.

The prevailing wisdom in the book-publishing world has been to print between 3,000-5,000 copies at the first printing to keep the unit cost of each book as low as possible. Publishers know how much money they must give to the distribution channel to get the books into bookstores (70% of the list price). Keeping the unit cost low was one way to maximize profit. What happens when the books didn't sell, though? Most often, the books are sold in remainder stores or destroyed–a waste of the publisher's money.

In the old model, the exorbitant set-up costs for the printing press and bindery made printing smaller quantities expensive. If the set-up costs are spread over 3,000-5,000 copies, however, they are much lower and the price-per-book is more attractive.

Digital printing equipment and new bindery equipment make producing smaller quantities of books possible. The new equipment requires less set-up time and expense, so the set-up costs can be spread over a smaller number of books. The cost curve for digital printing flattens out quickly, however, and traditional presses and binders become more cost effective at about 2,000-2,500 books. See the diagram below to compare the cost curves of three printing methods: traditional, Print on Demand (POD) and digital (labeled Print Quantity Needed or PQN). The left axis of the diagram is cost. The bottom axis of the diagram is number of books.

Printing Cost Curves
Originally uploaded by Bill Frank.

The large curve in the diagram represents the traditional printing cost curve. It starts out very high because of the large set-up costs but drops quickly as the number of books increases. The flat curve is the Print on Demand (POD) curve. The cost-per-book with a POD printer remains the same regardless of the number of books a publisher buys. Xlibris and Lightning Source are two of the top POD printers. The smaller curve is the digital printing (Print Quantity Needed, PQN) curve. The set-up costs for digital printing are less than traditional printers so the cost-per-book is less from a digital printer for smaller quantities of books. The digital printing curve flattens out around 2,000-2.500 books and, at that point, traditional printing becomes more cost effective.

For many publishers the digital printing model is ideal. The shocking truth about book publishing is that most books print only 7,500 copies over the entire life of the book. That means for every John Grisham or Stephen King who sells millions of books, there are many publishers that only sell hundreds. Digital printing is designed for such publishers.

The future model of Book Publishing is uncertain. What is certain, however, is that digital book printing will be part of that future. Book printers who embrace the digital technology early will benefit from the new Book Model whenever it occurs.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Economics of Trade Book Publishing

To understand the opportunity in book printing, one must understand how the trade book publishing industry makes money. How much money each member of the book publishing value chain makes will help determine whether or not it is economically feasible to enter this market.

The trade book publishing model is 20th century thinking. It is based on bookstores distributing the books. Bookstores rely on distributors to supply the books. Distributors are relatively new intermediaries. They became important to the distribution chain in the past 25 years because bookstores prefer ordering from and paying one single source for many publishers’ titles rather than numerous publishers.

The entire value chain of trade book publishing looks like the illustration below. I entitle it “The Old Book Model” because it represents old thinking. Newer forms of distribution, such as the Internet, may supplant this model in the future.

Old Book Model
Originally uploaded by Bill Frank.

The author of a book earns only 5%-7% of the list price of a book. Most of this money is paid in the form of an advance against royalties. Typical advances for lesser known authors amounts to $5,00-$7,500. Most books sales do not cover the advance that publishers pay to authors, according to Publishers Weekly.

The publisher earns 13% of the list price of a book. The publisher assumes all the risk of paying royalties, typesetting, printing, marketing and promoting the book.

Book printers earn about 10% of the book’s list price in The Old Book Model. Their role is to print the final product and deliver it to the distribution channels.

The distribution channel for trade books is where The Old Book Model becomes complicated. There are two types of companies from which a bookstore can buy books: wholesalers and distributors. Wholesalers, such as Ingram for bookstores and Baker and Taylor for libraries, simply ship books to bookstores when the books are ordered. They do not have an outside sales force promoting books to bookstores. Distributors, such as Publishers’ Group West or Koen Brothers, have sales forces that actively sell to bookstore buyers. The bookstore buyers then have the option of buying the books from the distributor or from the wholesaler. If the bookstore buyer elects to buy from the wholesaler, then the distributor sells to the wholesaler who then sells to the bookstore.

Most wholesalers today will not buy books from a publisher that has less than 10 titles. This forces smaller publishers to use a distributor to sell books to bookstores. Distributors take a large piece of the action—typically buying the books for 30% of the list price. They take this 70% discount because they must sell to either the bookstore at a 40% discount or to a wholesaler for a 55% discount.

To use an example of a trade paperback book selling for $19.95 (which I will round up to $20 to make the math easier), the author earns up to $1.40 per book. The publisher earns $2.60 per book. The printer earns $2.00 per book. The distributor earns $3.00 per book. The wholesaler earns $3.00 per book. The retailer earns the remaining $8.00.

The lesson for book printers, therefore, is that they are only 10% of the value chain for a trade book. This impacts they way in which publishers view book printers, as a necessary evil, and a small part of their overall picture. More importantly, each book printer must decide whether or not they can make a profit being only 10% of the value of the book. If yes, then this can be an exciting and profitable market. If not, then consider industrial books as an alternative market or get out of book printing altogether.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Book Printers Should Be Curious

Good book printers are curious. They have to be. They know that printing a book is a small part of what concerns a publisher. Furthermore, they understand that many publishers dislike working with printers, but view it as a necessary evil. So the successful book printers are the ones that are curious about all the ways they can help a publisher be successful.

Book printing represents only 10% of the value in the publisher’s value chain. Most of the other 90% is taken up in marketing, distribution and profit. The curious book printer asks questions to understand how to help the publisher with marketing and distribution that, in turn, improve profit. Book printers know that by speaking the publisher’s language, they will gain more credibility, respect and become a valued partner rather than a “necessary evil.”

Marketing and distributing a book is no different than any other product. The publisher needs to make potential readers aware of the book and find ways to get it into their hands.

The curious book printers ask questions about how the book is to be marketed and distributed. They ask who will be the distributor or wholesaler. They ask if the books will be sent to multiple locations or one central location. They ask if the publisher has multiple titles. If so, does that publisher have a catalog? If so, does the catalog need updating and, if not, does the publisher need a catalog? They ask what marketing events are going to support the book: book signings, a book tour, direct mail, advertising, and so on. What items will the publisher need to support those events? Posters? Flyers? Bookmarks? Each answer leads to additional products a printer might sell the publisher. For a more complete list of marketing products, see the blog entry: “Printing Marketing Items for Book Publishers.”

At first, the publisher may be cautious, even suspicious, of a book printer asking so many questions. Many publishers do not know all the ways in which a printer can help them sell their books. The good printers know to back off the questions. They work on building more rapport before continuing on.

Still, the curious book printer continues to think of ways to help the publisher sell the book. One recent example from a book printer in California exemplifies this type of thinking. The printer was printing 600 books for a metaphysical book publisher. The publisher had distribution, but hadn’t thought about how the salespeople were going to demonstrate the book to potential buyers. Book salespeople do not carry all the books they sell with them. The books are too heavy. Instead, they carry samples of the book’s cover (as a flat sheet) to show to buyers. This book printer asked the publisher how the book salespeople were going to sell the book and got an order for an additional 250 covers after explaining the situation.

To be successful as a book printer, one has to be curious, ask questions, become interested in the publisher’s business and earn the trust of the printer. Only by doing these things will a book printer protect against his publishing clients leaving for another printer solely based on the lowest price.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Value of Review Copies

Do you know what the least expensive form of marketing and advertising is for a book publisher? According to Dan Poynter, self-publishing guru, it’s review copies. It makes sense, when you think about it. To send a review copy to a key publication costs the price of a book, some marketing materials, a cover letter, an envelope and postage. The effect on sales from one good review is immense.

To get the maximum effect, a publisher must “cast a wide net” by sending as many review copies to as many different publications as possible. The problem is that too often a publisher doesn’t see all the possibilities. Most authors and publishers know which publications reach their desired audience. For every topic there is a specialty magazine or newspaper targeting that group of readers. There are also the general interest publications such as Time, Newsweek, Businessweek, the local newspaper, etc. that are well-known to publishers. The value you provide is helping authors and publishers recognize the cross-over possibilities that certain other publications may have for their book.

In an earlier blog, I mentioned the book Computer Baby Steps written for senior citizens learning the computer. The publisher, Leonard, identified the general and computer media as a key target for reviews. We sent out review copies to Time, Newsweek, LA Times, Chicago Tribune and other general circulation publications. We also sent review copies to ComputerWorld, PC World and other computer periodicals. The Chicago Tribune wrote a review of his book which translated into 25 book sales to local bookstores.

We failed to help Leonard identify cross-over media that might also be interested in reviewing his book, though. In retrospect, some other key publications for reviews may have been AARP Magazine, computer retailing magazines, general retailing magazines, nursing home management magazines, hospital management magazines and senior center management magazines. Any publication that is targeted to senior citizens, to retailers that sell to senior citizens or to people and organizations that assist seniors are potential reviewers. For instance, senior citizen center managers may be interested in Leonard’s book as a resource to help elders learn the computer at their centers. A good review in a senior citizen center management magazine increases the awareness of the book to potential buyers.

Sending review copies was a win/win situation for my business. Sending more review copies initially meant selling more books on the first print run. We also made money packaging and mailing the review copies to the various publications. (We charged an additional $7 above the book printing costs to send review copies) The author/publisher won by receiving reviews. And, if the reviewers wrote good reviews for the book, it meant more book sales for the publisher which meant more book printing for us.

Help your publishers find reviewers for their books. You do them a service and it will lead to more book printing sales for you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Quality Control

Quality control in book printing is a big subject. There is no way I can cover all the aspects of it in a short article like this. There are as many different quality control methods as there are book printers. Regardless of what quality control process you use, don’t forget that it takes key people to assume responsibility to make it happen. In my business, I found the two most important people for catching quality mistakes were the lead graphic artist and the perfect binder operator.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the quality of the finished book is vital to the publisher. When we were first working with a publisher, we had to overcome the perception of poor quality because we were new to book printing. After working with us on a few projects, however, this perception disappeared.

One may think, as I did, that quality control is the responsibility of the Production Manager. While the Production Manager ultimately must be accountable, quality is really everyone’s responsibility.

In my business, quality control relied on the lead graphic artist to get the project started correctly. Our graphic artists were not “artists” in the truest sense. They were production artists. That is, they made sure the computerized book files were arranged to run optimally on our printing and bindery equipment. Our lead graphic artist was our first quality control check point in the process. He made sure the files worked first time, every time.

One of his biggest challenges the graphic artists faced was verifying the spine size on the books. Often times the publisher’s cover designer created a spine that did not fit the book, despite our best efforts to give correct measurements during the design process. Our lead artist checked for proper spine wrapping. He also checked for bleeds and proper centering of the book title and publisher’s logo on the spine.

The graphic artists were also responsible for producing the proof copies of the book. They created the text pages and sample covers. They trimmed and scored the covers to fit the book block. The only thing they did not do was coating the cover and gluing it to the book block. Our publishers liked the loose pages because it made proofing the book easier.

The other critical person in quality control was the perfect binder operator. In my business, this person was a woman. She was responsible for coating the book covers and for binding them. She was able to identify issues with the cover fitting the book blocks after the run had been printed. She took it upon herself to inspect the quality of the book blocks and the printed covers before they came to her. If there was a problem, she caught it early in the bindery process. She saved many embarrassing situations with publishers because she caught problems before the customer did.

Sometimes the lead graphic artist and the bindery person would work together on a book before we began printing. They teamed up to ensure that the book was set up correctly, would run properly and finish smoothly. For me, this teamwork was an indicator that the quality control system worked because all departments were cooperating to produce the best product possible.

Spend time developing a fluid quality control system in your business. Train key people to be responsible and let them be the check points for quality. It improves profitability by reducing rework to a minimum.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Shipping Impacts Profit. Pay Attention

The biggest surprise I had when I began book printing had nothing to do with printing. It was an obvious fact that I overlooked but it impacts profitability as much as any printing process.

Books are heavy.

I completely overlooked this fact. The weight of the books impacts shipping, storage and fulfillment. When setting up the business, I did not pay enough attention to the details of shipping and storing books. As a result, I scrambled to “beef up” the shipping department to improve profitability.

My background was in printing centers that served the local community. Fulfillment consisted of local pick up and delivery. When I began printing books, however, I had customers from all over the United States. Most of the customers were from California where the plant was located, however. This was a function of two dynamics. First, California has more publishers than any other state. By the last count in a book published by the Publishers’ Marketing Association entitled, The Rest of Us, there are 55,000 publishers in the United States—12,000 of which are located in California. Second, books are heavy and shipping costs are high. When competing with book printers in other parts of the country, factoring in the shipping costs from California often made my books more expensive.

At first, the shipping department consisted of a loading dock and a delivery vehicle. Shortly after opening, we added Fed EX and UPS delivery. We also added common carriers to ship long distances. And, finally, we added an overnight shipping company to delivery proofs and finished products within the state. Each shipping company had its own paperwork and, often times, its own computer system. After we added all the shipping options, the shipping desk resembled Mission Control at Cape Canaveral rather than a shipping department.

To compound matters, not only did we have a variety of shipping options, but we had a variety of delivery options depending on where the publisher wanted the books delivered. The easiest situation is when the publisher wanted the books shipped to one central location such as their warehouse. Often it wasn’t that simple. If the publisher wanted the books shipped to a wholesaler such as Ingram or Baker & Taylor, we had to know the delivery code for each of the warehouses around the country. Furthermore, we had to know how to prepare the shipping documents and shipping labels. If the publisher wanted the books shipped to a distributor, they often times split the delivery between a wholesaler and their own warehouse. We had to know the delivery codes for each. If the publisher was shipping to a fulfillment house, such as Book Clearing House, we not only had to know the delivery codes, but we also had to telephone to notify them of delivery 24 hours in advance of the shipment arriving.

Each of these nuances added to the cost of doing business. Mistakes in shipping were absorbed by our company and negatively impacted profitability.

There were lessons we learned the hard way, too. We had one title that was an erotica novel by a female publisher. We were sending the printed books to a distributor and we made the mistake of printing the exact title on the shipping label. When the books arrived at the distributor, the shipment was short one carton. We know we sent all the cartons. The shipping company shows they delivered all the cartons. As best as we can tell, someone at the distributor read the label and decided these books may be of interest and intercepted one carton. After that, we learned to abbreviate the title so no one receiving the books would decide to keep them for themselves.

So, if you are considering entering into book printing, or if you are already in book printing and are looking for ways to improve profitability, pay attention to the shipping department.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Analyzing a Publisher's Potential

Evaluating a publisher’s potential for future printing business is one of the hardest things to do. I learned early in my career not to make judgments about future potential because I never got it right. The authors or publishers that I thought would become successful disappeared and never returned to reprint their books while the ones I thought wouldn’t make it kept returning for reprints. The best strategy, I found, is to treat all author/publishers equally. The trick to success is to learn as much as you can about their marketing and find ways to help them reach their audience.

There are rules of thumb that help determine if the author/publisher will have sufficient demand for the book. Gordon Burgett, author of the book Publishing for Niche Markets, suggests that the minimum reading population for a book should be 200,000 readers. So, in my conversations with author/publishers I ask, “Who will read your book?” When I hear “Everyone will want to read my book,” I sense an unsophisticated author/publisher and I know I have an opportunity to influence the choice of printed marketing tools they select.

Another way to measure potential demand for a title is to determine what quantities are similar titles selling. If the author/publisher hasn’t already done so, send them to several bookstores (including to search for similar titles. Give them a spreadsheet to capture data on the various competing titles. Ask them to capture: the title, the author, the publisher, the ISBN number, the trim size, the page count, whether it is hard cover or paperback, whether it has a 1-, 2- or 4-color cover or dust jacket, the price of the book and the publication date. If you want a sample data capture form, contact me.

This completed form serves many purposes, the first of which is to determine the numbers of competitive books sold. I will discuss other uses for this form in future articles. Books are sold in a variety of distribution channels. Bookstores and Amazon are the easiest to track and make to use to estimate. To estimate how a book is selling through the bookstore channel, use the ISBN number to track its sales through Ingram. Ingram is the largest wholesaler of books to the bookstore trade. Call their automated telephone system at 615-213-6803 and follow the prompts. If the ISBN number you are inputting includes the letter X, press star instead of X. If the book is from a major publisher that sells directly to bookstores, then Ingram represents about 20% of total book sales. If the publisher is small without its own sales force, then Ingram may represent as much as 40% of a title’s sales. Since most bestsellers come from larger publishing houses, multiple Ingram’s sales figures by five to get a rough estimate of book sales.

Amazon sales are easier to estimate, the sales ranking is placed on the web page for each book. Enter the ISBN number into the search dialog box and it will take you to the web page for that title. Scroll down until you see the sales ranking. Interpreting the sales ranking is easier when using this chart:

Amazon Ranking Chart
Originally uploaded by Bill Frank.
This chart goes with the March 14, 2005 post.

Another rule of thumb is the number of titles the author/publisher already has in print. There is no hard-and-fast rule, but my experience indicates that if the author/publisher has three or more titles in print, there is a higher probability of repeat business. Three titles is also the “tipping point” where the author/publisher stops being a hobbyist and becomes a businessperson.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

2004 Children's Books Top Picks (part two)

Children's books

A world of wonder
Dec 9th 2004
From The Economist print edition

The pick of the crop

Six- to ten-year-olds

Two new editions of classic books head the list for children at the younger end of this age range. Naomi Lewis has produced an excellent new selection from the “Tales of Hans Christian Andersen” (Candlewick Press, $22.99 and Walker Books, £14.99). All the favourites are here, from “Thumbelina” to “The Little Mermaid” and “The Emperor's New Clothes”, along with lesser known stories, such as “The Flying Trunk”. Joel Stewart's illustrations bring out the many moods in Andersen's stories—their darkness, their vertigo-inducing strangeness, their wild flights of humour.

From the same publishers comes Martin Jenkins's sensitive abridgement of Jonathan Swift's “Gulliver” (Walker Books, £14.99; to be published in America by Candlewick Press in March). The illustrations of Chris Riddell, formerly with The Economist, show his characteristic flights of fancy.

Admirers of Philip Pullman for his “Dark Materials” trilogy will be pleased to discover that he is no less adept at writing fantasy for younger children. “The Scarecrow and His Servant” (Doubleday, £10.99; to be published in America by Knopf next August) has familiar elements of plot and characterisation, from the perky and comical scarecrow himself to the serendipitous journey he takes in the company of a small, hungry boy called Jack. Yet the familiar is transformed by the engaging and unpredictable way in which the story unfolds. Sheer delight.

“Magical Children” (Dolphin Paperbacks, £7.99) brings together three short novels by Sally Gardner about children who have magical gifts—the strongest girl in the world, a boy who can fly and another who just happens to be invisible. Ms Gardner's strength lies in her ability to combine the extraordinary with the utterly unexceptional.

“Christopher Mouse: The Tale of a Small Traveller” (Bloomsbury, $15.95 and £9.99) is a wonderful first novel by William Wise for readers with growing confidence. It is about the adventures of a mouse who moves from family to family and—after much travel and heartache—finds a happy home. The delight of this book is in the deft humour of the first-person storytelling.

Two novels not to be missed at the upper end of the age range are Linda Newbery's “At the Firefly Gate” (Orion, £7.99) and Shannon Hale's “Enna Burning” (Bloomsbury, $17.95 and £12.99). The first is about an unconfident urban boy, newly displaced to rural Suffolk, who makes strangely magical links across the generations. The second is an historical fantasy which circles around the mysteries of fire.

Eleven and above

Children's fiction for this age group has long been dominated by fantasy published in series. This season two authors with an excellent record have new titles to their name. Herbie Brennan adds to his “Faerie Wars” series with a new book, “The Purple Emperor” (Bloomsbury, $17.95 and £12.99). In it, a son has the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of a father who has returned from the grave. Mr Brennan's manner is both brisk and amusing.

Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell have again collaborated on the latest novel—the seventh—in the “Edge Chronicles” series. “Freeglader” (Doubleday, £12.99) is set in foot-slogging, mist-choked Tolkien/Pratchett country. A young knight-librarian, Rook Barkwater, inches his way through peril, meeting ferocious birds, treacherous blowholes and bogs, and much else to keep him on his mettle.

Ursula Le Guin is a distinguished author of fantasies for older children. Her new novel, “Gifts” (Harcourt, $17 and Orion, £10.99), feels rooted in the folk tales of some distant, mythic tribe. The intricate plot is plainly yet absorbingly written.

Frank Cottrell Boyce has written a delightful and quirky thriller, set in Ireland just before the introduction of the euro. “Millions” (HarperCollins, $15.99 and Macmillan, £5.99) is quite unlike anything else recently written for this age group. The narrator, Anthony Cunningham of Year Six, has a direct and beguiling voice: funny, odd and compulsively readable. This is a story about money—how it arrives out of the blue, and how it needs to be to spent, fast.

More poignant and inward-looking is “Private Peaceful” (Scholastic, $16.95 and Collins, £5.99), a novel by Michael Morpurgo, Britain's children's laureate. A young private, trapped in the trenches during the first world war, reflects upon his peaceful rural childhood. The closer danger creeps, the more he faces backwards into the past to retrieve some sense of inner tranquillity.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

2004 Children's Books Top Picks (part one)

Children's books

A world of wonder
Dec 9th 2004
From The Economist print edition

The pick of the crop

BOOKSHOPS are piled higher than ever with lavishly illustrated children's books tricked out to look like instant classics. What to buy? The Economist offers its own selection of new titles for children of all ages.

Five years old and under

Whether to be read alone or to be read aloud, a good picture book for young children strikes a balance between words, which must not be too plentiful, and images, which must not shout too loudly. “ How Many Miles to Bethlehem? ” (Scholastic, $16.95 and Orion, £9.99), is a deft re-telling of the story of the Nativity by an English poet, Kevin Crossley-Holland, with Peter Malone as illustrator. The words are spare and well chosen (every actor in the drama, from the ass to the angel, has a page to present his point of view), while the rich pictures are almost Giotto-like in atmosphere and choice of detail.

Also ringing the changes on a seasonal theme is “ Santa's Littlest Helper ” (Bloomsbury, $15.95 and £9.99), a collaboration between Anu Stohner and Henrike Wilson as illustrator. One of Santa's undervalued assistants stumbles upon a startling fact: animals, unlike children, don't usually get presents.

Alexis Deacon is one of the finest of a younger generation of English illustrators for children. In his third work, “ Jitterbug Jam: A Monster Tale ” (Hutchinson, £10.99; to be published in America by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in March), Mr Deacon collaborates with an American writer, Barbara Jean Hicks, to produce a gentle morality tale about the nature of strangeness. His horned monsters, alarming to look at but gentle in character, seem distantly related to Maurice Sendak's wild things.

The best animal picture book of the season is “ Lord of the Forest ” (Frances Lincoln, $16.95 and £10.99) by Caroline Pitcher and Jackie Morris. Ms Morris's illustrations are lavish and painterly, and the story—who exactly is the king of the jungle?—holds the reader in suspense until the very last page.

The funniest new picture book is Posy Simmonds's “ Baker Cat ” (Jonathan Cape, £10.99), the tale of a baker's cat who manages to outwit his owner, a thoroughly punitive and miserable fellow, by forging a cunning alliance with the very mice he is supposed to be keeping out of the bakery. Children will adore the fussy detail and the hilarious dialogue.

New in Britain, “ The King of Capri ” (Bloomsbury, $16.95 and £4.99) is a tale by Jeanette Winterson, who is better known for her novels for grown-ups; it is illustrated with panache by Jane Ray. The wind blows away the clothes of a greedy king, but they land on the roof of a tender-hearted woman. The story has all the ease and surprise of an old folk tale.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Children's Book Printing Opportunity

Printing children’s books may be the biggest opportunity for short-run book printers today. Few options exist today in the United States for publishers to print short-run, color children’s books.

Most children’s books are printed overseas. Cost savings overseas are impressive for four-color printing. Primarily the books are printed in Hong Kong, Mainland China or Korea. Most children’s books are also printed in quantities of 3,000 or more to justify printing them offshore. Once printed, the publisher also has to contend with importing them back into the United States.

The only book I published personally was a children’s book entitled Princess Sarah. I published it in 1984 when there were few book printing options. I had hoped to print the book as a “board book;” a color hard cover book with color text pages. My challenge was I only wanted a limited number of copies. The price was prohibitive. I ended up printing black & white books with a velo bind at a quick printer. I was a neophyte and didn’t know that the bookstores would not accept a velo bind spine on a book. Had the printer consulted with me on why I was printing the book, perhaps we would have decided on a different type of bind.

Fortunately for me, I sold (or gave away) all my books. There are horror stories, however, of publishers that go out of business because of the high costs of printing abroad. One such case is a friend of mine, Adam Abraham of Phaelos Publishing. He printed 5,000 children’s books in Korea. He imported them into the United States. The entire project cost him over $20,000. Adam had a hard time selling the book through the bookstore channels and he didn’t develop alternative channels of distribution. Adam struggled for two years selling his title. In the end, his business failed and he declared bankruptcy.

Digital color printing options change the necessity of printing overseas. It no longer makes sense to print 3,000-5,000 copies of an untested book. Print fewer books and find a market for the title. It is economical to print 500 color children’s books on a color copier or digital press. The challenge is the hard cover. There are short-run options for that, too. Check out Exactbind West for one such hard cover binder (also known as a “case” binder).

The format of most children’s books is what makes them appealing to book printers. Typically children’s books are 32- or 64-page signatures on a coated stock with a printed paper, hard cover. Each book has end sheets and head and foot bands. Each book must be durable enough to stand up to a child’s constant use. The pricing on children’s books is usually less than $15.95 for a 32-page signature book.

I had the opportunity to print two children’s books. One was Dragon ABCs by Joan Selwyn and the other was other was The Children’s Question Book by Esther Pearlman. Dragon ABCs was 32-pages, full color printing on glossy stock. We printed 100 copies of the book each print run at a cost of $21.88 per book. The Children’s Question Book was a 64-page book, 2-color text pages and a 4-color cover. We printed 50 copies of the book at $16.88 per copy.

The cost of each printed book exceeds the commonly accepted price for children’s books and that was fine. The books were sample books. Each author was exploring distribution channels and marketing techniques to reach their audience. In larger quantities, these titles may have even been economical to print for sale and distribution using digital techniques.

There are many more opportunities to print children’s books in the marketplace today. It is one of the most underserved target audiences by US printers in book printing today. Consider using 4-color, digital printing technology to recapture some of this market share. You will find it is profitable work.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Suggested Reading List

Book printing and book publishing are subjects that require some background knowledge. Fortunately, there are many books available on the subjects. As a print professional serving the publishing market, you will want to understand your target audience. You may also want to make resources available to your customers, should they need them.

Below, you will find my list of basic reading on the subjects. You may want to familiarize yourself with these books. In fact, you may even want to make the books available to your customers; either by providing them a bibliography or by becoming a dealer for one or more of these books. To become a dealer, contact the publisher to purchase copies of their books for resale. Typically, the publisher will offer a 40% discount off the list price. You can sell the books to your customers at full price and create some profit.

Suggested reading

For Book Printers
The Self-Publishing Manual by Dan Poynter, 14th edition
1001 Ways to Market Your Book by John Kremer
The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing by Ross & Ross, How “U” Can Compete with the Giants of Publishing by Danny Snow & Dan Poynter
Make Money Self-Publishing by Suzanne Thomas
The Author’s Toolkit by Mary Embree
The Rest of Us by the Publishers’ Marketing Association

For Publishers
All of the above plus:
The Complete Guide to Book Marketing by David Cole
The Huenefeld Guide to Book Publishing by John Huenefeld
How to Start and Run a Publishing Company by Peter Hupalo
Publishing for Profit by Tom Woll
Publishing for Niche Markets by Gordon Burgett
Jump Start Your Book Sales by Ross & Ross
Book Blitz by Barbara Gaughen & Ernie Weckbaugh
Book Publishing, A Basic Introduction by John P. Dessauer

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Printing Marketing Items for Book Publishers

Using the example How to Make the Most of College, The Essential Guide for College Students, what marketing products can you sell this publisher? Certain items immediately come to mind such as:

Review copies. These books are sent to various publications for review and praise that can be used in other marketing efforts. I had one example of successful review copy marketing for a book entitled Computer Baby Steps. It was a book written for senior citizens on how to use computers. The publisher printed the book with me. He did not consider review copies. I suggested that we send out 150 review copies to various publications, including the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune wrote a review of the book that immediately resulted in 25 book sales to various bookstores in Chicago..

Publishers, particularly smaller ones, overlook the value of review copies in their marketing. Review copies are the cheapest form of advertising a publisher can do, according to Dan Poynter in The Self-Publishing Manual.

The other part of the story about Computer Baby Steps is that my printing company fulfilled the review copies in addition to printing them. The books cost $2,615 to print. We fulfilled them for $7 per book. For the price, we printed a cover letter, folded and inserted it with a book, along with a marketing piece and an acknowledgement postcard, into a book envelope and mailed the package media mail rate. That $7 per book resulted in $1,325 in revenue against less than $500 in cost.

Letterhead, envelopes and business cards. Each publisher may want separate letterhead and envelopes for the new title. At the very least, the publisher will need business cards. My printing company had success printing business cards with the picture of the book’s cover on the front and the contact information on the back.

Direct mail advertising pieces. Since this book was being marketed directly to students and their parents, direct mail was used. Printing and mailing the marketing pieces is another revenue opportunity.

Postcards. Some publishers like to print postcards to mail to potential buyers. This is particularly effective if the publisher is selling to the bookstore trade. A postcard to independent bookstores and specialty stores is more cost effective and provides more impact than sending a sales letter. The postcard typically has the book cover on the front, some marketing verbiage on the left side of the postcard and space for the address on the right side. We printed 4 x 6 postcards on the same stock as the cover. We typically gang printed the postcards.

Bookmarks. The publisher is marketing to readers so a good promotional tool is a bookmark. The most effective bookmarks were 2 inches wide by 8 inches long. The picture of the book cover plus the publishers’ contact information is on the front of the bookmark. Nothing is printed on the back. We gang printed the bookmarks when we printed the covers. We also laminated them at the same time we as the book covers.

Posters. We also recommended the publisher print posters of the book cover for book signings, trade shows and lectures. We printed the posters on our large format printer. We sometimes laminated the posters and put Velcro strips on the back so the posters can be affixed to air walls in hotel meeting rooms.

Buttons. Maybe it’s my Kinko’s background coming out, but we also recommended the publisher produce buttons to wear at trade shows and media events. The button is the cover of the book. Typically, we had these produced at a nearby Kinko’s.

Booklets or pamphlets. A less obvious printed piece that could be produced for How to Make the Most of College, The Essential Guide for College Students is a booklet or a pamphlet. There are reasons to print a reduced version of the book in pamphlet or booklet form. A booklet or pamphlet gives the publisher another product to sell from the same material already in the book. Some specialty retailers may not have the space to sell a book. The publisher may want to use the booklet or pamphlet as a “teaser” to entice the reader to buy the book. Or the booklet or pamphlet could be distributed to college placement offices in high schools for counselors to use with students that may also lead to additional sales.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Basic Book Design Considerations

Using yesterday’s example, what lessons can be drawn from printing the book How to Make the Most of College, The Essential Guide for College Students?

First, the length of print run may have been ideal for a low unit cost, but the total, out-of-pocket cost of printing was too high. Maury never sold out her first print run. The books were either remaindered or given away as gifts. I still have two and gave one to my daughter when she left for university.

A shorter initial print run would have allowed the publisher to test the market’s acceptance of the book. It would also have allowed her to test her distribution channels and her direct marketing efforts. A shorter run would also have allowed her to obtain positive reviewer comments and add them to subsequent printers. The reviewer comments may have helped sell more books.

But even more fundamental than all this is that a shorter print run, while costing more per book, would have cost much less overall providing the publisher more money to spend on marketing the book. As short run book printers, this is where the opportunity lies. You can make money in two ways: printing the short-run books and printing marketing materials with the money saved from the longer print run.

Second, whenever possible invest in a good book cover designer for the cover and the interior pages. A book needs to be noticed regardless of how it is distributed. A good cover makes a difference—thus debunking the myth that a buyer doesn’t judge a book by its cover. The money a publisher saves on a shorter print run of books can be invested in the design and layout, which is a form of marketing.

Here are two simple, but effective rules of thumb for cover design. One, take the cover design across the room (at least 20 feet away) and see if you can read the title and judge if the design is appealing. If it is, then the design is good and will sell well through the distribution channels. If not, consider redesigning the cover. Two, reduce the digital cover art to the size of 1 x 1 inch. If the title is legible and the design is appealing at that size, it will also appeal to the distribution channels.

Third, always assume that the book will become a solid seller and may move from your print shop to a more traditional, long-run book printer. Advise the publisher to make the number of text pages for the book divisible by 16. Sixteen pages is the typical size of a traditional book printer’s plate. If the number of pages is divisible by 16, then the book will transition easily to a traditional book printer. Add extra, blank pages, notes, order forms or other material to increase the page count. This decision is the type issue to discuss with your customers. Maury’s book is 112 pages, which is divisible by 16. The number of traditional book printing plates needed to produce this book is seven.

Fourth, include an EAN barcode even if the book will not be sold through the trade book distribution channels. The barcode makes the book appear more credible and gives the publisher the option to sell through bookstores, should the opportunity arises. Adding the EAN is another service you can sell a publisher.

It should be apparent to you that selling book printing is a very collaborative sale. This is particularly true for small publishers and first-time publishers. Offering advice on how to construct the book may lead to additional opportunities to sell more services.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Age of Enlightenment

Today is Maury Hanigan’s birthday. Maury is a friend and the first small publisher I ever knew. She published her first book in 1986 entitled How to Make the Most of College, The Essential Guide for College Students. Maury’s publishing company is National Placement Press.

Maury successfully used the book as an entrée to get more business. The book was, in essence, a 6 x 9 business card for her. She sold the book to high school seniors and their parents. In many ways, Maury epitomizes the small publisher customer today, printing a niche book that is marketed directly to consumers.

Dark Ages versus the Age of Enlightenment
At the time the book was published, Maury asked me what I thought of the book. I was already in printing, but not book printing. If I knew then what I know now, I would have been more help to her.

If there had been more options available, if printing equipment was more sophisticated, if layout and design software had been more advanced, then the finished product may have sold differently. As it was, she made the best use of the resources available.

The book is 112 pages (including six blank pages), 6 x 9 trim size, perfect bound. The cover is two-color with no graphics, only text. The back cover has good marketing text and a short bio of the author. The interior pages are black & white text using a 12-point, Times Roman font. The text pages were set using a word processing program. There is an ISBN number but no EAN bar code. Maury had visions of selling the book through the bookstore channel and achieved some local success doing so.

Back then, my advice was simplistic, “Yeah, it looks good.” If I had it to do over again, I would have made a few different suggestions. The cover needs to sell the book. Don’t skimp on the cover designer. A book needs to stand out on the shelf of a bookstore. Use a four-color cover. It costs more, but it also is proven to sell more books. Include an EAN barcode on the back of the book. Maury had written good marketing copy for the back cover, but I would suggest losing the author bio and putting it on one of the blank interior pages. Replace the author bio with testimonials or additional marketing verbiage. The number of interior pages was a good selection, but use an interior page designer for setting the text. Or, at a minimum, use a different font for the text.

The first print run of the book was 3,000 copies. Why? Because she was told to keep the unit cost down, she would have to print a larger quantity. Printing technology did not offer a cost-effective way to print short runs. Nineteen years later, she still has copies of the book that she never sold.

Today’s technology allows shorter print runs at cost-effective prices. Pre-press and post-press offer more options, too. We are truly living in the Age of Enlightenment when it comes to short-run book printing.

There are numerous publishers like Maury. In fact, the Publishers’ Marketing Association published a study that counted 55,000 publishers in the United States. There are the Big Five publishers in New York City, another 300 mid-sized publishers over 54,000 small publishers. A surprising statistic is that there are over 12,000 publishers in California, making it the state with the largest number of publishers. That debunks the myth that New York is the publishing capital of the US.

Your opportunity is to locate publishers who will benefit from the new book printing options available in the Age of Enlightenment in which we live. Help them to see the benefits of printing fewer books and spending more on marketing. And grow your business through consultative selling.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Best time to be a book printer

The time has never been better to be a book printer. This may seem like an odd statement since book printers like RR Donnelley, Central Plains and McNaughton & Gunn are feeling the pressure of shorter print runs from their traditional customers. Or the fact that Phoenix Color has left book printing and farms out its printing to RR Donnelley. So why, then, am I so optimistic?

I have been studying the short-run book printing market since 1999 when I was at Kinko’s. At the time, Kinko’s was looking for new product lines. My analysis showed that there was a burgeoning market for a printer to produce short run books for small and medium sized publishers. Furthermore, the large printers were slow to react to new digital technologies because of the heavy investment they had made in traditional book printing presses. At the time, Kinko’s passed on the idea and elected to purchase a dot-com company that, several years later, turned into a dot-bomb.

When I left Kinko’s, I pursued my vision and became a partner in a small, digital book printing company. We had customers ranging from Bertlessmann, the world’s largest publisher, to self-publishers breaking into the market with their first book. I saw, firsthand, the opportunity and the challenges of working in the short-run, digital book printing market. And, had it not been for a disagreement with a partners over the direction of the business, I would still be there today because the opportunity has grown.

More books were printed last year than in any year in human history. Yet readership is down and bookstore sales are moribund. What’s happening to all the books that are being printed? Some are being remaindered on sale tables in bookstores while others are reaching their audience directly through the marketing efforts of their authors. And this is where the opportunity lies.

As printers, you have an unparalleled opportunity to partner with publishers to find innovative ways to reach their readers directly. you have been helping your business customers with their marketing efforts for years. Now you can take that accumulated knowledge and apply it to publishers and the book printing market. In fact, you get a double boost to sales: printing the books and printing the marketing collateral that sells the books.

For many printers, printing books generates higher sales than other, more traditional, printing products. Some printers are seduced by these sales alone and overlook the opportunity to sell add-on products or marketing products to these same customers—hence my reason for starting this blog.

I will suggest ideas to help book printers better serve this market. I will discuss add-on products, marketing products and ways in which a book printer can help authors and publishers grow. I will also discuss tips and techniques to make book printing easier and more profitable. But this is not intended to be a monolog. I value input from those participating in the blog. We all benefit if each one of us contributes.