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46709 Posts in 5588 Topics by 13297 Members Latest Member: - Shane786 Most online today: 26 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Designers with printed books: who do you print with and how's their service?  (Read 5382 times)
Anna Kreider
Member

Posts: 65


« on: December 14, 2008, 01:52:56 PM »

Hi, folks.

So for my initial print run of Thou Art But A Warrior, I wound up going with Publisher's Graphics. I had very vague anecdotal reports about their service ("I heard Joshua printed Shock: with them", "I heard Space Rat was Publisher's Graphics and it looks great"), but price wound up being my determining factor since I wound up going for interior color illustrations.

My initial experience with them was honestly not very good. The biggest issue among several was that there were communication problems which, when combined with lack of experience on my part, led to some minor but very noticeable layout snafus with the first print run.

Now when I contacted them to do the second print run, I expressed my reservations and told them about the problems I had the first time around. It turns out that the project manager I had worked with was no longer there, yadda yadda. They'd take good care of me. Blah blah blah. Against my better judgement, I went with them again. And am now seriously regretting it. It took them two weeks to complete and ship my proof, which I still don't have (though that's UPS's fault, not theirs) - despite their initial promise of NO MORE than 3 to 5 business days. And once I do get the proof and approve it, I'm still looking at another MONTH before my books are done.

I started the reprint process in October, and all of this means I won't have copies to sell during the holiday season. Which sucks.

SO. What I'm looking for is what printer are you using? And what has your experience with their service been? Price is an important factor, but I'm not going to continue to let PG abuse me just because they're the cheapest for what I need to do.

Thanks,
~Anna
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 2775


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« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2008, 07:09:58 PM »

A stupid question, but where do you want your printer to be situated? USA? Canada? Do you need a printer in Europe? We have some bitching printers here in Finland.

I might carefully recommend Guild of Blades. "Carefully" because I haven't had them print books, only cards, so I don't directly know about their book printing quality and pricing. But I liked their responsiveness, ability at proofing the work and understanding of the issues, which are anyway some of the most important points when choosing the printer. A good choice for the uncertain or inexperienced publisher, I'd say; if I had to choose an American POD printer where I could expect the printer to actually look at what they're doing and suggest corrections for obvious mistakes, this'd be the one. They come to POD from "below" (as opposed to large printers that down-scale their operations to achieve POD functionality), so expect a slight veneer of home office style in their choice of tools, materials and procedures. Easily enough for the average rpg, though, so I wouldn't worry.

We also had a pretty good experience with McNaughton & Gunn when we printed the Solar System. Their prices are probably not competitive with smaller runs (we did a thousand copies), but they were above average in responsiveness, had no technical issues at all and did a high-quality work within the parameters. They also do work for several rpg houses at reasonable prices. I'd say that they're a good choice for any but the first-time print service user.

Also: I agree with you 100% about the awfulness of working with the average printer. I can't understand how it's possible for there to exist a whole field of business where not responding to customer communications and messing up their projects with abandon is the standard practice. In this environment simply answering your email within a couple of business days and not making promises you can't keep is such a huge exception that I'm going to happily pay what, something like 20-30% extra over the competitor just for these basic qualities. Truly a wretched state of affairs. Apparently anybody could take this market simply by focusing on quality service with follow-through and a focus on creating long-term customer relationships.
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Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
guildofblades
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Posts: 309


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« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2008, 07:16:18 PM »

Hi Anna,

We might be able to help. We are able to do POD for books with mixed B&W and interior color pages and bill each page accordingly. That is _IF_ we can work with you to get the color profiles on your PDF set up properly for that.

Give us a call at 248-430-4980 on Monday sometime. We could potentially have your book's files all set up and ready for print by the end of this week, if we get going quickly enough. And if we get you signed up to our retailer program, the books themselves could be available for purchase both in our B&M store and on our e-commerce store by this weekend. Now, depending on the volume of books you want, if might take a bit after that before we can complete the whole run and then a bit after that to get it to you due to shipping times (especially this time of year). But individual copies of the book could be shipping to fill orders from our stores by a week from this Monday, if not before.

Couldn't really tell you about price. Other than if you are working with a standard book we are basically $2 ($1 for the color cover, $1 for the perfect binding) plus $.022 per B&W page and $.10 per color page. Minimum run of 10 books for an order shipped to you (we do print as needed to fill retail orders through). How much that would add up to for your book depends on page count and how much is B&W vs Color, and assuming we can get your color profiles set up so the printer can recognize the difference.

Thanks,
Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com
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Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
Anna Kreider
Member

Posts: 65


« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2008, 09:07:42 AM »

Eero: Good question! I should have specified.

In an ideal world, I want a printer in Canada. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a printer in Canada that has competitive rates Ė everywhere Iíve looked doesnít use POD technology. Iíve been quoted as high as $7 per copy by the Canadian printers Iíve gotten quotes from!

So, realistically, Iím looking for a printer in the States.

Ryan: Iíve got some vacation stuff to wrap up today, but I might do that. Iím already committed to doing the print run with PG, so itíll depend on if thereís money in the budget for a second small run to tide me over.
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Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
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« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2008, 10:12:42 AM »

Hi Anna,

One of the most important strategies for an independent publisher with print products is to stay flexible regarding printers. Today's excellent first-choice company is tomorrow's waste of money, time, and space. I've been using Publishers Graphics for a while now but will (a) confront them about your situation and (b) review what happens on the next job very carefully.

Check out the thread Shopping around for a POD printer ... for some useful links, including one all-the-printers page with contact information.

More recent threads include:
Can Anyone Wholeheartedly Recommend A POD Printer For me?
Printer Roundup, or Help Me The Forge, You're My Only Hope

Again, the specific recommendations aren't the point, because they're dated (e.g. Publishers Graphics comes off very well in them).

Best, Ron
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Anna Kreider
Member

Posts: 65


« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2008, 11:42:20 AM »

Ron,

Thanks for the links. I had seen those other threads, but I guess I what I was hoping for was more stories of personal experience with service. Also, the more recent thread seems to be a PG lovefest, which isn't terribly useful to me as I'm very resolved not to continue using them.

The big problem I'm having is that it's easy to find out information about price. It's very hard, however, to get information about how fast a given printer is and how good/bad their service is. Considering that I have the added difficulty of not being able to deal with printers in my own country, I'm finding that price is a much more negotiable point than service and speed. (Though price is still a factor. I'm not about to double my print costs over what I'm paying now just for added convenience.)

~Anna
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guildofblades
Member

Posts: 309


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« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2008, 04:45:41 PM »

Hi Anna,

With our Retail Program, you won't need any money. Think of it as being like Lulu, but targeted at the games industry. We would print a couple units out for display in our B&M store, but otherwise we would just print more as needed to replace those two as they sold locally, or to fill e-commerce orders.

So if you wanted to drive mail orders _now_, that could be a fulfillment option for you. Whih of course you could and likely should change to point at your own mail order fulfillment when your full print run lands. Though we would hope you would continue to stay enrolled in our Retail Program so our stores could continue to sell it as well. But yeah, you could also order a quantity to have on hand yourself, if you wanted. I would advise against a big quantity though, if you are already commited to a larger run from someone else.

Yes, dealing with any commercial printer is a craps shoot at best. There was a reason that years ago the Guild began exploration of POD and in house production. Got burned too many times ourselves. Someone mentions McNaughton & Gun. Back in 1997, we waited 9 months for them to finally print and fulfill our 2,000 book run for our Dark Realms RPG. They refused to refund the half down deposit all along the way and only completed the order, at last, when we sent them a threatening letter drafted on the letterhead of a local laywer friend of ours. lol. Not a printer I would recommend. I personally have never had any experience with Publisher Graphics.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com
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Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
Pelgrane
Member

Posts: 135


« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2008, 10:49:28 AM »

Vixen, our previous printer appears to have ceased trading, and we've switched to Publisher's Graphics. They were reasonably quick with proofs, but like most printers I have dealt with seem constitutionally incapable of managing expectations. For delivered stock, allow at least 12 weeks between setting up and ordering the first time and delivery. You may then be pleasantly surprised. They don't charge until they ship. There are many irritating hoops to jump through with lots of signing and faxing, though they are setting up an automated system.

I am hoping that once we've uploaded and had samples of all our books, I'll just be able to get reprints without too much hassle, but that's probably a pipe dream. I'm sure printers all think that publishers are fuckwits who don't know how to put together a print-ready file, and that most publishers share a similarly low opinion of printers. I do hope one day technology will allow us to bridge this divide.

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Graham W
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Posts: 449


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« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2008, 01:48:16 PM »

Anna,

Here's a link another recent experience with Guild of Blades. Not all positive, not all negative.

Graham
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Gregor Hutton
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Posts: 366


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« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2008, 05:00:57 AM »

Hi Anna

I, along with Contested Ground Studios, have most recently been using Fidlar-Doubleday. They were excellent on all fronts up until earlier this summer. They misprinted some of my books (it made them inelegant rather than ruined), while they screwed the print of Hot War and then missed out the Index from the reprint, forcing them to reprint the reprint. Net result was a lot of pulped books as far as I can tell. While I can't speak for Malcolm, Paul and John at CGS on whether they will continue to use FD, I think the whole experience will make them look around when they have more printing to do.

For me, they printed some sample copies and sent them to me free of charge by courier, and they were satisfactory. They then printed the latest run to my satisfaction and with a good discount to make amends for the earlier printing errors. I am satisfied with them and hope that they can return to their previously high level of quality control.

I will say that throughout all of this their customer service has been exceptional. They are always quick to respond to me and took my concerns seriously. Similarly, their dealings with CGS have been way ahead of other printers we have used.

So, whether I can recommend them is a tricky question. I will say that their customer service is great, and their most recent print run for me was perfectly fine. There was a slight delay of about a week on their scheduled date but I was kept informed of this at all times. (They were also very mindful to make sure that books made it to New York so that I could collect them while I was there on holiday -- so they were able to make a time-critical shipping date.)

I got a nice brochure from a POD company at GenCon (I think it was Quality POD: http://www.qualitypod.com/). They printed the colour Heavy Gear Blitz! book and their prices and quality looked good. I have no experience with them at all, though. Can someone confirm this? I think Nathan or Kevin took away the brochure we got handed on the DesignMatters booth.

I hope this helps, and I do sympathise. Being in the UK and having a market in the US means we encounter similar issues to you.
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Anna Kreider
Member

Posts: 65


« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2008, 10:34:23 AM »

Hi, Gregor

Thanks for the feedback.

Follow-up question: Do you do all of your printing through American printers? Or do you ever print stuff with local printers?

Thanks,
~Anna
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Gregor Hutton
Member

Posts: 366


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« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2008, 10:58:21 AM »

Oh, I should clarify that despite Fidlar-Doubleday's multiple printings of Hot War meaning it wasn't available for a number of weeks, the end result was the books that CGS paid for printed to a good standard. I don't know what the compensation they received was, but given my treatment by FD I assume it was generous.

I have printed almost all of my books in the US. The only run I have ever made outside of the US was a very short run of Solipsist through LULU here in the UK. The quality of the LULU books was good and the higher cost of printing in the UK was partially offset by the cheaper shipping. We were selling the books at a convention so all of the money from customers was coming to us, so we (David and I) could live with a slightly higher unit cost.

I have experience of printing with Lightning Source in the UK. Contested Ground Studios printed a supplement (that I helped write and edit) exclusively for a convention through them. In my opinion (again, I won't speak for CGS) they were terrible. The quality of that book was shot, the customer service was terrible (trying to pay them was a nightmare) and to this day you can find the book through online retailers such as Tesco (a Walmart equivalent in the UK), Blackwell's Bookshop, and so on. Whether they would deliver a book should you order one is an unanswered question. But despite repeated information that it was a limited run for only this convention (30 copies, ever),  they still put its details into the distribution network. I would rather give up printing than use Lightning Source. (I know that's irrational, perhaps, based on one experience, but there you go, they were that bad.)

In my day job we used to use UK printers (in fact, my favourite one went bust last week costing hundreds of jobs in Oxfordshire) but now we use the global market (Singapore/Malaysia/China ... Vietnam will be next). UK printers are not cheap in my experience, especially when compared with these overseas printers, so I have yet to find a good, cheap short-run printer in the UK.

Perhaps I should investigate Finland?
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Jason Morningstar
Member

Posts: 1467


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« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2008, 03:00:43 PM »

Oh man, I was just waiting for someone to tell me Publisher's Graphics had slipped.  They've been good to us but printers appear to be a moving target in terms of consistent quality and service. 
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Pelgrane
Member

Posts: 135


« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2008, 01:52:23 AM »


In my day job we used to use UK printers (in fact, my favourite one went bust last week costing hundreds of jobs in Oxfordshire) but now we use the global market (Singapore/Malaysia/China ... Vietnam will be next). UK printers are not cheap in my experience, especially when compared with these overseas printers, so I have yet to find a good, cheap short-run printer in the UK.

Perhaps I should investigate Finland?

I can echo this - UK printers are very expensive, even taking into account the weakness of UK currency, and any shipping savings.
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lorry
Registree

Posts: 2


« Reply #14 on: January 05, 2009, 07:14:06 AM »

If you are looking for a short run printer in the UK, would you please take a look at the company I work for?

www.inkylittlefingers.co.uk

All short run books (i.e. under 1,000) are depatched within a week and I think our prices are pretty good?  I don't want to try your patience with any sales patter, but would be very happy to chat if anyone has questions.
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