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Strike the Perfect Balance: How to Maintain Book Quality Within Budget

Quality is key. It’s never a good idea to compromise quality to cut costs. However, as the cost of book publishing continues to increase, it becomes increasingly important to manage expenses wherever possible. Doing so with the least possible impact on readers is crucial. Ways to save money by making changes that affect certain aspects of books exist, depending on the type of book and your audience profile. Where can you make cuts and on which aspects should you maintain quality?

Cost-effective choices

“Really, it depends on the end use of the book,” Sheridan Eastern Regional Sales Manager John Beall said. “Some publishers produce consumable books that only have a shelf life of six months to a year — like directories — until they’re replaced with the next edition.”

As opposed to consumables, books with longer life spans and those heavily used, like reference books, need higher-quality acid-free paper to prevent yellowing with exposure to light and with age. These books also require more expensive hardcovers and strong binding for longevity. In many cases, however, choosing paperback is a perfectly fine option. You could also opt for a split hardcover and paperback run by producing only a small number of hardcovers.

“Reducing the quantities may give a higher unit cost, but you’re only printing the number the publisher projects you need for six months to a year. It’s always better to go back and do a reprint if the demand warrants more copies — as opposed to printing a lot of books to get a lower unit cost but having inventory sit in a warehouse and collect dust,” Beall explained.

For case-bound — also known as hardcover — books, you may be able to reduce stamping costs by using paper-based stamping materials and going with adhesive case binding as opposed to sewn case binding. These are less expensive than traditional cloth. However, not all designs do well with paper-based options, so it’s necessary you consult with your printer. Also, if you’re printing fewer than 1,000 copies, it’s more economical to do printed case covers than stamped. In addition, if your book will have a dust jacket, case material quality is not as important as it will be covered.

Balancing quality and cost-savings

Ensuring you deliver the quality your readers expect within budget is a give and take. It requires a lot of collaboration between publisher and printer to strike that balance. Discuss budgets early in the process and compare prices for hardcover versus paperback, trim sizes, number of pages, and other parameters.

When it comes time to decide, avoid choosing a boutique paper your printer doesn’t stock. Selecting one of your printer’s house papers tends to be much more efficient. Also, use a standard trim size. These are easier to work with, your printer likely has rolls on hand, and they won’t have to reconfigure their presses to accommodate an odd size. In addition to choosing printed case covers for print runs of less than 1,000, using digital print technologies rather than an offset press with plates will also be more economical.

“One of the most important things for publishers to ask themselves is ‘Who is in my target audience, what are their expectations, and what must I do to meet or exceed those expectations?’” Sheridan Western Region Sales Manager James Rodriguez said. “The publisher knows best what customers will and will not accept, so use your printer as a resource to best match your materials to your project.”

Consult with experts to determine the best match of materials for your book. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for samples. Better yet, partner with an expert. Publishing professionals can provide the expertise as well as the automation tools necessary to streamline your processes and cut your publishing costs — without alienating your audience or harming your reputation.

What could Sheridan do for you? Contact your Sheridan representative to learn how Sheridan experts can recommend alternative materials and options for you to balance costs when printing your next book.

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