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.