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Reviewing Book Printing Estimates


February 14, 2021

Avoid surprises and make sure you and your printer are on the same page.

There is nothing more disappointing than to budget the production of your book project and to discover after you are in it up to your neck that it will cost way more than you budgeted.  This is why reviewing your book printing estimates and printing terms is essential. After you write and receive your estimates, review them carefully. Make sure the printer quoted on the job you want. Make sure that all the specifications match your requests. If you don’t understand something, ask. Don’t assume it is okay. 

Tips for reviewing book printing estimates

1. Review the summarized specifications

As I stated earlier, you don’t want to assume that the printer understands what you wanted. When reviewing book printing estimates, make sure you are on the same page.  Check if they will provide a physical proof or a digital proof. Doublecheck the page count, type, and weight of the paper, cover laminate, quantity, color, type of bindery, and whether shipping is included in their price.

2. Be careful of low estimates!

If you are getting competitive bids and a quote comes in really low, there is a good chance the printer does not understand the job or made a mistake and will raise the price after they get the job.  That is unless you are comparing offset printing and on-demand printing, then the low quote may indicate the most economical option for your book’s quantity and color specifications. See Print-on-Demand Vs. Offset for more.

3. Is there an archive or file storage fee?

There may be a yearly file storage fee for print-on-demand jobs to keep your files active for reordering. If you are printing offset, there may be a negative storage fee.  Today negative storage fees are unlikely since most offset printing is now direct to plate. But some old school printers may still use negatives to burn their plates.

4. Proofs

When reviewing your book printing estimates, proofing is often not considered. You will want to know what type of proof your printer will provide. Is it a digital proof like a pdf? Or is it a hardcopy printed proof? Check if the fee for creating and shipping the proof is included. If the book is in color, will you receive a color proof, or will it be black and white? If it is not color, how much will a color proof cost? Do you need to ship the proof back to the printer for them to start the job?

Typically with on-demand printing, your proof is an actual book, bound and laminated. Offset printing proofs can vary from a digital pdf file to a black and white or color copy, to a digitally printed and bound book. 

5. When reviewing book printing estimates, don’t overlook the printer’s terms and conditions.

Typically printer’s terms will not include delivery unless explicitly requested. Their quotes do not include changes by the author after the files are received. Terms usually state they are not responsible for errors or delays caused by the customer’s materials. If the customer gives their okay to the proof, the printer is not responsible for mistakes—even if the mistakes are theirs. If it is in the proof and the customer approves it, they will not take responsibility. The customer understands that color can deviate slightly from the proof. And some terms state the printer can overrun or under-run the job by as much as 10%, and the customer pays for the actual quantity delivered. So if you need precisely 800 books, you may need to either order 10% more or pay a higher rate for exact delivery. 

6. Review self-publishing services even more carefully.

Finally, if you are working with a publishing service, carefully review their fees for returns, online orders, orders through Amazon, orders from overseas, etc… Publishing services encourage you to make your book more attractive to buyers by offering free returns, lower pricing, quantity discounts, free shipping, and may have different charges for orders through Amazon and book and mortar stores. If you are not careful, it can cost you when someone orders your book. The unit cost of printing on-demand will always be higher than similar books printed offset on the market. So it is good to remember when printing on-demand, you cannot compete by price with large publishers. It is just a fact. So do not underprice your book. It is best to make your book desirable despite the cost.

When reviewing your book printing estimates, it may be a good time to explore what a different paper may cost, or if printing is offset, maybe your unit price will go down dramatically if you order 100 more. It is also nice to get prices before you design the book because sometimes a slight alteration to the page size can see some savings.

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