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Thoughts on Two Reprint Jobs

As a printing broker I recently had two clients come to me with reprint jobs. I thought the questions and issues each situation raised might be instructive to you, so I am offering them here as guides to those of you who buy printing.

A Client Error (Typo) on the Front Page of a Booklet

The first job was a 12-page, 8.5” x 11” booklet that had been saddle stitched. This is a good example of how the eye can fool any number of people. One word on the front page had too many syllables: “Commisison.” Two letters had been repeated and one omitted, yet all those who had proofread the book had missed the error until after the job had been printed and delivered. Ouch.

My client asked about her options. I said the printer could tear off the covers, reprint them, and rebind the job. A better option, I noted, would be to reprint the entire job. I said that in tearing off and replacing the covers, the finished product would have to be retrimmed, and in addition to the books' being smaller than before (which might mean that the margins would be uncomfortably tight), there could be minor alignment issues.

So I said I would get prices from the printer, and my client asked that the printer be fair but charitable in his pricing.

The first good news was that the printer would offer a 20 percent discount on the reprint, even though the error had been made by the client. I also discounted my broker's commission. The client was pleased with the pricing. It turned out that reprinting and replacing just the covers would yield a savings of less than $100.00 when compared to the cost of completely reprinting the job, due to the labor-intensive and precise trimming work involved. In addition, the client would need to retrieve all printed books and ship them back to the printer so he could reprint and reattach the covers. This alone would have used up a good portion of the $100.00 savings.

Therefore, my client chose a full reprint of the booklets.

The question then arose as to how many copies to reprint. My client asked about printing 500 copies. (The first printing had been 1,000 copies.) I told her the following: It's cheaper to print too many and throw some away than it is to print 500, use them up quickly, and reprint another 500. Even with digital printing (with its minimal make-ready), it still costs money to set up the job for a reprint. The client understood, and since the book was “evergreen” (not dated material), she chose to reprint 1,000 copies.

Her digital proof arrived quickly. I had encouraged her to forgo a hard-copy proof to save time and postage costs, since she had already seen a hard-copy proof of the initial print job and had approved the images and color. I also suggested that she take a little time to review the proof in its entirely. I asked the printer to hold the schedule, which was no longer urgent, so the client could make absolutely certain everything was right.

A Direct Reprint of a Perfect-Bound Textbook

The second case study involves a 264-page-plus-cover, perfect-bound government textbook, which had been printed last summer. Apparently the distribution went well, since my client came back to me for pricing several months earlier than had been expected. (The book is written and published yearly.) My client asked for the price difference for reprinting the book “as is” (a direct reprint) vs. printing it from entirely new art files.

I assumed the cost would be close, but I nevertheless asked the printer for a complete cost breakdown for each of the two options. During our initial discussion, the printer said he also thought the cost would be close (with perhaps only a few hundred dollars' savings for the direct reprint). Only the client's proofing stage would be omitted from the workflow, since all prepress, press, and finishing work would need to be redone for a reprint (from existing art files) or a new print job (from new art files).

I received the pricing the following day. The direct reprint actually cost about $1,000 less than the new job printed from new art files. This amounted to a little over a ten percent price difference between the two options.

I found this to be an enlightening experience, since the two-option estimate showed exactly which processes would still be involved in (and which processes would be excluded from) a direct reprint of a book.

An Example of Fine Arts Printmaking Plates

It's easy to forget that printing is a fine art as well as a craft. Fortunately I have a background in both, so I'm always pleased to see examples of fine art printing.

A few weeks ago my fiancee brought home a wind chime made with impressions of plants and flowers pressed into clay slabs. The pendent slabs not only had the indented patterns of foliage in the clay, but the impressions of leaves and plants had been treated with (presumably) a green firing glaze. Therefore, all slabs of the hanging wind chime were a brownish color, and all images of plants were stained a deep forest green. The kiln-fired clay slabs had then been connected with string to create a hanging musical instrument that would be played by the wind.

What intrigued me about the item were the images themselves. Not only did they have a tactile appeal, but due to their recessed nature I immediately recognized them as intaglio plates.

Intaglio plates are the opposite of relief plates. Intaglio images are cut into the plates, whereas relief images extend up above the plates.

More precisely, on relief plates (letterpress would be an example), when you ink the image, only the raised type and art hold the ink and then transfer the image to the paper substrate during the printing process.

In contrast, you first ink an intaglio plate and then wipe off any ink surrounding the recessed image (i.e., any ink on the flat surface of the plate). When the paper and inked plate come together in the press, the recessed image on the plate transfers ink onto the paper.

Granted, running a ceramic printing plate through even a hand-press would crush the clay under the weight of the rollers, but the concept was sound. The wind chime pendants were in fact intaglio plates, and I personally think that, inked and printed with a hand roller (a brayer) applied softly, the clay plates could yield an interesting print—just as the leaves, flowers, and twigs had left an intriguing impression in the wet clay.


[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]

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