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What Should Things Cost?

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I am going to list here some prices that my publishing company has paid for
various book-related goods and services during the last year or so. We all
worry about being taken to the cleaners when we need to work with outside
suppliers. My hope is that you can match some of these numbers with your own
experience and be reassured that the prices you are paying are fair and
reasonable, or else identify areas where there may be room for you to reduce
your costs. (There is also the possibility that these prices are not as good
as they should be.)

  1. Editorial freelanceproofreader — $12/hr.

    copyeditor — $15/hr.

    cookbook copyeditor — $16 to 18/hr.

    indexer — $2 per book page, provided on disk with hard laser copy


  2. Cover designno purchased illustration required — $800 to $1,200

    purchased illustration or photo — $500 to $800

    food shot for cookbook cover with help of food stylist — $2,000 and up


  3. Outside typesettingfor 6 x 9 book page, straight text, provided in PostScript files with laser printout — $6 to $7.25 per page

    for 8 1/2 x 11 book page or for complex text — $10 per page and up

    The prices cited for the above services come from individuals (located all
    over the country) who produce very professional work and have earned a
    reputation for reliability. There are certainly less expensive alternatives,
    but I believe that the editorial and design quality of any book (especially
    those jackets and covers) are the last places to cut any corners.

    (An aside to very new publishers: Have this work done by experienced book
    specialists; and do not expect a proofreader to do the work of a copyeditor,
    or a cohe author to shape the content of the manuscript–cutting, adding,
    changing the tone or point of view, etc. Next a copy editor takes over to fix
    missing or faulty transitions, check for consistency, regularize the grammar,
    spelling, and punctuation. A proofreader works with the book after it is set
    in type to catch typos and any other embarassments that must be changed at
    this very late stage.)


  4. Printing and bindingblack only, 50# stock, 224 pages, perfect bind, 5,000 copies, exclusive of cover, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 or 6 x 9 — $1.20 per copy

    same specs as above but 8 x 10 or 8 1/2 x 11 — $1.30 per copy

    black only, 50# stock, 400 pages, casebind, 5,000 copies, exclusive of jacket — $2.50 per copy

    2-color interior, 70# coated stock, 128 pages, 10.88 inches by 8.5 inches, oblong, perfect bind, 7,500 copies, exclusive of cover — $1.65 per copy

    4-color interior, 70# coated stock, 224 pages, 10 x 10, perfect bind, 5-color cover, 10,000 copies, exclusive of filmwork (print & bind only), printing in Asia — $3.76 per copy cover included

    4-color interior, 70# coated stock, 96 pages, 11 x 8 1/2 oblong, casebind, 5-color jacket, 10,000 copies exclusive of filmwork, printing in Asia — $3.20 per copy, cover included

    film charges for 4-color 10 x 10 image from slide transparency, filmwork done in Asia — $100 per separation, text film included in printing price

    Bound galleys (prepublication copies for advanced reviews) 6 x 9, 30 copies — $.034 per page

    The above printing prices were quoted by very well established companies with
    a reputation for high quality. There are cheaper alternatives. On the other
    hand, my company has provided a fair amount of business to the printers we
    work with over the years, so the prices I have cited should be lower than
    those charged to a less established customer.

    (An aside to publishers just starting out. Don’t even think of placing your
    book work with anything other than a printer who specializes in book
    printing. Job printing shops will have higher prices and lower quality. Also,
    I believe it is entirely fair for printers to charge higher than average
    prices to customers who have no or limited experience in book production. All
    printers have found through experience–some of it disastrous–that neophyte
    publishers can be very time-consuming to deal with, and that they also pose a
    higher credit risk. However, this “hassle” premium should go away after the
    first few jobs have been completed. Be sure you make it disappear by always
    soliciting competitive bids.)


  5. Cover printing4-color paper cover, 5,000 copies — $1,200 to $2,200 depending on specs and coating

    4-color jacket, 5,000 copies — $1,800 to 2,800 depending on specs and coating

    Cover printing is listed separately here because my company almost always has
    its covers and jackets printed by companies that specialize in that work
    rather than by book printers. Many book printers do a very capable job on
    covers and jackets, but I have found that the specialist printers offer a
    very attractive mix of quality and price, and they also have the ability to
    handle difficult jobs.


  6. Entry level employee salaries (full time)editorial assistant — $18-20,000/yr

    marketing assistant — $18-20,000/yr

    customer service — $14-16,000/yr

    These salaries (which include company medical and 401K plans) may only be
    relevant for a large metropolitan area like Chicago. (An aside to publishers
    just starting out. One of the best things about the book publishing business
    is that it attracts very smart and engaging young people (all those liberal
    arts graduates!) even though the pay is low. And why shouldn’t they be
    attracted to publishing? It is interesting and valuable work.

This article is from thePMA Newsletterfor March, 1997, and is reprinted with permission of Publishers Marketing Association.

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