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What to Pay for Printing,
or Would You Rather Have 5,000 copies for $9,000 or for $23,000?

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Every time I get ready to print one of my travel books, I wonder whether it wouldn’t be easier to go back to the printer I used last time–unless it’s been a hair-curling experience. Wouldn’t that be simpler than sending out Requests for Quotations and starting all over again?

Well, you can do that, but if I’d done it for my new book, I would have spent at least $1,200 more than I needed to for 3,000 copies and almost $2,000 more for 5,000 copies. Surprising? Yes, even to me. Despite the fact that I’ve had this experience before, I’m still startled by the wide range of prices I get each time I send out an RFQ. For the 12 books I’ve had printed, I have only once ended up with the same printer. I really don’t know why it is, but I do know it’s always worth asking for prices from different printers. I usually ask about eight.

The best source of printer information is John Kremer’s Directory of Book Printing. Compiled with meticulous attention to detail, it gives complete information about printers across the country so that you can find those who do print runs of under 1,000 or over 500,000, those who do odd-sized books, comb binding–whatever it is you need.

For my first book, I chose a printer nearby so that I could physically go and hand-deliver my precious manuscript. It was a learning experience with a sympathetic printer, but expensive–about $4 each for a book of 100 pages with a two-color cover and no illustrations.

Next, I picked a printer not too far away who offered a better price. Holding my breath,n{-ent everything to them for 1,000 copies, and they sent them back perfectly. Today, I research printers who have printed books similar to those I do, and who offer the best price. I’ve sent books out to be printed in New York, Virginia, Kansas, and Michigan as well as in Colorado, where my company is.

Here’s the REQUEST FOR QUOTATION I sent out this time for my next book.

“Please quote your best price + freight and turnaround time for the following job. Also, please send a sample of one recent book of similar format.



Total pages: 250 app.

Trim size: 8 1/2″ x 11″

Text paper: 60 lb. offset, acid-free. Also please quote best house stock.

Text ink: Black

Cover stock: 10 pt. C1S plus film lamination

Cover ink: 4-color, sides 1 and 4. Publisher will provide film composite.

Binding: Perfectbind

Material provided: Camera-ready copy pages

Packing: Pack in tightly sealed cartons not heavier than 30 lbs.

Freight estimate: From printer to Boulder, Colorado 80304

QUANTITY: 3000. 5000

Delivery: Working days from receipt of copy to shipment

Terms: Net 30. Credit references available on request.”

Donna: The RFQ ends here. RKQ

I send out RFQs by fax or e-mail, and I get replies the same way (often a real letter in an envelope as confirmation too). A couple of printers sent price-cutting suggestions–web instead of sheetfeed, or 50 lb. paper instead of 60 lb. The suggestions did bring prices down, but I’ve used web before and didn’t like the results, and I wanted 60 lb. paper. The biggest difference in price was for 5,000 copies, with bids ranging from about $9,000 all the way up to $23,000!

Here are the responses I received (Note: Prices do NOT include freight.):


3,000 5,000

Printer A $7,192.00 $9,062.00

Printer B $8,524.00 $12,029.00

Printer C $8,052.00 $11,731.00

Printer D $12,750.00 $19,060.00

Printer E $7,533.00 $10,965.00

Printer F $8,220.00 $11,700.00

Printer G $14,500.85 $23,296.10

Printer H $6,800.00 $9,980.00


The additional freight figure is helpful because I want to know if going with a printer that is close will save me a lot of money. In this case, it didn’t affect the final price.

My decision: Printer H inÉØMhigan. I have not worked with them before though I know the company, have seen their books, and feel they will do a good job. Printer D was a local printer who I’ve met and who called me a couple of times urging me to try the company. However the price was way above what I wanted to spend. If I’d gone with the printer I used on the last book, Printer C, I would have paid quite a bit more. Though they had the best price for my last book, it didn’t work out that way for this one.

The moral of this story: Printing RFQs don’t take long to send out but they can sure save you a bundle.

Evelyn Kaye, the Founder of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association, is the author of 20 books and President of Blue Panda Publications. She has worked as a newspaper reporter and magazine writer and lives in Boulder, Colorado.



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