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What to Put in Your RFQ

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Printing prices vary not only
by the nature of the project but also by the amount of work in a printer’s
shop. If the shop is fully scheduled, the price is likely to be relatively
high. If it isn’t, the price is likely to be lower (printers are in danger of
losing skilled workers if they don’t keep them adequately busy—that is,
paid). To get the best deal, therefore, you should create and submit a Request
for Quotation (RFQ) to a reasonable selection of printers specializing in


The elements of an RFQ for trade
books are listed below with information and advice from me in italics. Some
projects, including full-color books, may require more elaborate
specifications. You can find more detailed information and advice about RFQs
and related subjects on my Web site (<span
) and in my new book, <span
class=95StoneSerifIt>Book Design and Production.


I usually submit RFQs by email.
Formatting is simple—flush left with extra lines to separate sections.
Send your email RFQ to various printers individually or use the BCC: line for
addresses. Printers are likely to ignore an RFQ that shows 10 or 20 addressees.


If you want to submit an RFQ by
letter or fax, use your letterhead and format it the way you would format most


An RFQ Outline


[Company Name]


[Voice and fax numbers]

[Email address for responses]

[Date of RFQ]


Request for Quotation


Please quote your best price and
delivery time for printing and binding the following book:








style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Please quote: 1,000, 2,000, and 3,000.


Or whatever quantities you wish<span


Number of pages:


Include all blank pages and the
page count of any front matter identified with roman numerals, but do not count
end papers for hardbound books. Digital printers can usually print any page
count, as long as it is an even number, although sometimes the page count must
divide evenly by 4. For other printers, the page count should be evenly
divisible by 32, 16, or 8 (in descending order of desirability). Most printers
print books in “signatures” of 32 pages, and adding a few pages to fill out a
signature may make a project more economical. You might place these pages at
the back of the book and use them to promote other works or services that you
offer; and/or you might put them in the front and use them for quotes.


Trim size:


Trade books are most commonly 8
1/2 × 5 1/2 or 6 × 9 inches. Indicate which edge, long or short, is
to be bound. Your entry here might read, “6 × 9, bind on long edge.” The
trim size may have significant impact on the printing cost. Some presses,
particularly digital presses, are more efficient with 8 3/8 × 5 3/8 inch
trim. If you leave sufficient space in the margins, you can adjust an 8 1/2 ×
5 1/2 book to this slightly smaller size, if necessary.


Interior copy:


This might read: “Provided as
electronic files in InDesign CS (ver. 3.0) and Adobe Acrobat PDF. Files will be
on Macintosh [or Windows] CD-ROM.” You need to tell the printer what software
was used to produce the book and what media will be used to send it. The use of
Acrobat PDF files has become almost universal—and has some cost-saving
advantages. I always provide the underlying program file just in case there’s a
problem; however, I haven’t encountered any in the past few years.




Describe any photographs or
illustrations and how they will be provided to the printer (e.g., “Contains 12
photographs, included as part of the electronic file”). Generally, it is best
to include all images as part of the electronic file.


style=’font-size:11.0pt’> None.


Because photos, illustrations,
or other artwork that “bleed” off the edge of the page can add significantly to
the cost of printing, “none” is the normal entry here.


style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Your house stock in natural, 55 or 60 lb. book,
vellum finish. Please provide spine measurement with selected paper stock.
Paper to be acid-free and neutral pH if available.


style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Paper accounts for 30 to 40 percent of the cost of
manufacturing a book. “House stock” is the paper that the printer normally
uses; other papers are too expensive for small publishers printing in typical
quantities. Vellum means an uncoated paper that is usually thicker and slightly
rougher than “smooth” uncoated stock (the slight roughness reduces glare).
Acid-free and neutral pH are specified so that the book will last for a
significant time. Most papers used for book printing are now made using the
acid-free process. If you wish, you may specify “recycled” paper. [See
“President’s Report,” December 2004 and January and June 2005.]




“Black throughout” is one
example of an ink specification. Due to environmental regulations, printers are
using products with much lower impact on air quality than those used a few
years ago. If your work includes full-color material, the specification would
be for “process color.” If you have spot color elements, you would specify
“black plus PMS XXX” (where “XXX” would be the color number from the Pantone
Matching System color chart). A color project with two spot colors might read
(as an example), “black plus PMS 187 and PMS 485.”




Specify complete
bluelines—that is, proofs made from traditional negatives on blueprint
paper (which shows blue-colored type)—or electronic alternative. In the
now more common all-electronic work flow, the proof is provided as a laser
print, and reviewing it is relatively simple. The main frustration with
electronic proofs is that you can’t determine the actual quality of halftone
photos, as electronic cover proofs are printed on inkjet printers, and
electronic proofs of interior pages are created on laser printers.


style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Print one side only.


Publishers almost never want to
print on the inside of the cover. If a dust jacket is used, add instructions
for it, such as “Print one side only, 4-color process, full bleed.”


Extra covers:<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Please specify cost per hundred of extra covers at
each quantity.


It is often helpful to have
extra covers for your press kit and other promotional purposes, and it’s
considerably cheaper to print a couple of hundred extras with the main
production run. If your book has a dust jacket, print 10 to 20 percent extra
copies of it so returned books can be refreshed.


Cover copy:


Follow the guidelines for
“Interior Copy,” above.


Cover bleeds:


This might read, “All 4 sides;
⅛ inch allowance made in artwork. Artwork is not trapped. You should make
necessary adjustment or use ‘in RIP’ trapping.” Ask your designer and/or the
printer for help with these technical terms.


Cover paper:<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> 10 pt C1S stock. Laminate with a lay flat gloss
plastic lamination.


This is the most common
specification. You might choose 12-point paper if your book will be larger than
6 × 9 inches, see heavy use, or have a spine more than 1 1/2 inches
thick. Choices of finish include no finish, UV or aqueous coat, or film
lamination. It is wise to specify a finish, as unprotected ink can easily be
damaged, possibly making books unsellable. If the book is to have a hard cover,
you would specify the weight and finish of the dust-jacket stock and the
thickness of the “binder’s boards” (the heavy card stock used for the cover)
and the fabric used to cover the book; 80- or 88-point binder’s board are
typical. You might also specify a foil stamp on the cover and/or spine. Fabric
is often described as “equivalent to Arrestox B grade” in your desired color.
(Arrestox is a particular brand of book cover fabric.)


Cover ink:<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Standard 4-color process.


Although you could specify
fewer ink colors, the marketing benefits of full color normally far outweigh
any modest saving you would realize.




This might read, “Color match
print and complete bluelines or electronic alternative from same RIP used for
plates.” If color is critical, ask for a color-match print, and if it is
especially critical, request a press proof, but bear in mind that this requires
complete setup of the job and is likely to be quite expensive.




Usually this reads “Soft cover,
perfect bind,” although there are several other binding choices for paperbacks,
including RepKover or Otabind for workbooks or cookbooks that the user may wish
to leave open at a particular page without breaking the spine. Common hardcover
bindings are adhesive bind, notch bind (similar to adhesive bind), and smyth
sewn. The smyth-sewn binding is the traditional one for hardcovers and results
in the strongest and most durable book that will open and lie flat. It is more
labor intensive and more expensive. Hardcover books may also be made with a
“library” binding, which is a modified smyth-sewn binding with an additional
fabric tape used to strengthen the connection between the spine and the covers.
It is generally only
worthwhile to
do as a combination job with regular hardcovers.


style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Shrink-wrapped in groups and packed in a 275# burst
test carton. Cartons to be tightly packed and sealed and to weigh no more than
40 lbs. each.


The specified cartons are
somewhat heavier than those used by many printers, but they protect the
contents better. Expect to pay a small premium. The 40-pound carton weight
limit is to facilitate handling and reshipping of books to wholesalers. You can
specify shrink-wrapping in convenient groups (usually 5 or 6 copies) or as


style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Please advise cost of shipping to [city, state, and
ZIP code of the delivery location].


Books are normally shipped on
wooden or plastic pallets and secured with “stretch wrap.” If you don’t have a
loading dock or a fulfillment service that has one, you may wish to ask the
carrier to use a “bobtail with lift gate” for delivery. This may cause a slight
delay and/or a modest extra charge, but without it the truck driver is likely
to flip the pallet(s) of books off the back of the trailer and drop them about
4 feet to the ground. It’s not good for the books or your nerves. After you
have narrowed the field to a couple of printers, you can discuss other delivery
options, including “inside, residence delivery.”


style=’font-size:11.0pt’> Please specify your terms.


Please give a detailed quotation,
including cost of overruns, reprints, and delivery charges. Please provide your
best estimated production schedule. Please provide details of any other
miscellaneous charges. Any item in this RFQ takes precedence over any industry
trade customs and conventions. The CD-ROM and electronic files remain the
property of the customer and are to be returned on completion of the job. Any
fonts provided with the electronic files will be promptly removed from your
system(s) after the job is successfully ripped and plates made in keeping with
the terms of software licenses covering their use.


Please return quotation to [insert
your name, address, and email address.]

Note: If you are emailing your
response, please be sure your company name appears in the first line of your
message. Thank you.


Most printers will ask for 1/3
to 1/2 of the printing cost up front and the balance when the books are ready
to ship. If you’ve done business with the printer before, you can apply for a
“30-day” account. Printers are usually quite conservative in granting credit.
Think about it. If you buy a car and don’t pay, it can be repossessed. But if
you don’t pay the printer, what can they repossess? Books are a custom product
and have no value to the printer.


Post-RFQ Pointers


Underruns and overruns surprise
many people new to publishing when they receive their books and their bills.
The standard offset printing contract allows the printer to deliver and charge
for up to 10 percent over your requested quantity, on the theory that losses
may occur during binding, so the printer needs to print extras to ensure there
will be enough to meet the order quantity. This reasoning isn’t all that
convincing. However, you should expect the extra quantity and related charges
unless you have worked out some accommodation beforehand.


When you receive a response to an
RFQ, immediately check to see that it reflects what you submitted and notify
the printer if you see an error.


Once you’ve selected a printer,
ask what it would cost to run bookmarks or business card–sized cover
images along with the book itself. Often such artwork can be piggybacked on the
cover run for a nominal charge, if there is room on the press sheet.


This article is derived
from Book Design and
Production: A Guide for Authors and Publishers
by Pete Masterson.
To order, visit www.aeonix.com, or order through Amazon.com


Pete Masterson, who has
been an independent book and cover designer since 1996, has been involved in
publishing and printing since 1982, when he pioneered a computerized production
and on-demand printing system for railroad tariffs. He has also owned a print
shop, managed a typesetting service working with major publishers, and
supervised graphics and publication production at NASA Ames Research Center.



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