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.