This post answers two questions about our quoting process for custom book publishing:
1. Why do we recommend minimum print runs?
2. Why don’t we use print-on-demand services for smaller print runs?
If you’ve ever requested a quote for custom book publishing services from Orange Frazer, you know that we request five primary pieces of information: hardcover or softcover, word count, black and white or full color, book size (dimensions), and quantity (or print run). When a client discusses a project with us for the first time, he/she often has no idea how many books to print, so we offer suggestions based on unique retail goals, the targeted audience, and cost. We want a client’s book to be successful, and we do not profit by upselling clients to thousands of books: often, we find ourselves convincing clients to print fewer books when we know that the investment in a larger print run may never see its return in sales.
We also have recommended “minimums” that vary based on the other manufacturing aspects of a book project. For example, if a client is printing a book in black and white, we suggest printing at least 250 copies, whereas for a full-color book, we would recommend starting out at 500 copies. This is often to keep unit prices low. A full-color book requires special paper that is more expensive, so printing more of these books will drive down the unit cost. These are suggestions—one can print any number of books from one to one million, but we do know what does, and doesn’t, make sense, so we try to offer recommendations for minimum print runs based on our experience.
So why isn’t it cost-effective to print less than 250 books?
Over the course of twenty-seven years, we have chosen the best book manufacturers in the industry to create our books. We rigorously judge the final product, and settle for nothing less than excellence in manufacturing. We want Orange Frazer books to last lifetimes. Books of this printing caliber are not at all cost effective when printed one-at-a-time, or even in quantities of less than several hundred. Unit costs of books in a short print run—e.g. of a full-color, hardcover book—through one of our book manufacturers would be exorbitantly expensive. It isn’t until the print run reaches several hundred that you see a unit cost that offers a client any potential profit margin. We know that because we have quoted thousands of book projects (and will quote thousands more) and so, to save the client time, we recommend minimums that we know will produce a more cost-effective quote.
To answer the second question, why don’t we transition our services to digital, print-on-demand publishing? The self-publishing industry has been trending toward small print runs (or no print runs) and higher unit costs. Print on demand is very cost-effective for beginning authors because books are only printed at the time of purchase. It’s better to spend $10 per book and ensure that every book printed is sold (as it is only printed once it is sold) than spend $5 per book and never sell 500 of them.
We believe that there is a great future for print-on-demand publishing (we recommend it to a lot of potential clients that request quotes from us), but for the clients that choose Orange Frazer, it doesn’t yet make sense.
Because we work with book manufacturers, rather than commercial printers or print-on-demand digital printers, we are able to do projects that many other companies can’t—coffee table books, specialty bindings and interiors, lay-flat books with glossy pages, and so on. Quality and unit cost are chief concerns. We are able to produce books of high quality (in both manufacturing and design) and deliver unit costs below that of print-on-demand alternatives.
But this is a lot to put into an email, so often, when a potential client requests a quote for a print run of twenty-five books, I point him/her toward a print-on-demand service, such as CreateSpace. If he/she requests one hundred books, I generally suggest considering a larger print run, to make the books more cost-effective. And if a client approaches us requesting a quote for ten thousand copies of his/her first novel, I generally say, “Hold up, and let’s first talk about your goal.”