47 Tips for Cutting Costs Without Cutting Staff
With a battered economy dragging down just about every retail sector, a salient fact making headlines has been the ability of discounters to maintain sales growth—a sure sign that the “Wal-Mart Effect” has permeated every corner of the business world, and that raising prices is probably not the way to realize profits. This leaves cost-cutting, which, for obvious reasons, book publishers would like to pursue aggressively without sacrificing either product quality or valued employees. Here are some tips from a cross-section of the publishing world for reining in costs without sacrificing too much in the process.
Dwight Baker, president, Baker Publishing Group
Baker Publishing Group instituted a series of cost-cutting measures this fall and plans to review their effectiveness after 90 days. Baker says the company has not been forced to lay off staff despite the trying economic climate and is doing “everything possible” in formulating a comprehensive strategy to prevent future layoffs.
1. Reduce employee travel.
2. Reduce marketing budgets.
3. Freeze all hiring for new and vacant positions.
4. Reduce inventory levels.
The company is moving to smaller first printings and reprint quantities in offset. “We usually print a 12-month supply of trade books, and a 12- to 24-month supply of academic books. We’re reprinting smaller quantities lately,” Baker says.
Baker Publishing also has a digital component that handles about 15 percent of backlist titles, he adds. “We call the program short-run, because it is not technically an ‘on-demand’ model. We carry stock through the entire year, but never more than one carton,” he says.
5. Reduce book-packaging enhancements.
These include fancy covers with foil or embossing.
6. Reduce exposure at trade shows and conferences.
7. Make a push to sell overstocked inventory more rapidly.
8. Transfer work from outside suppliers/freelancers to in-house staff.
9. Hold off on all new equipment purchases.
10. Prohibit all overtime hours.
11. Avoid high-risk and expensive book projects.
12. Pace new book releases to match capacity of current staff.
13. Defer publishing expansion into uncertain sales categories.
Cären Yang, creative and production manager, Saint Mary’s Press
Winona, Minn.-based religious publisher Saint Mary’s Press has worked with vendor Transcontinental to realize savings in manufacturing and production by adopting lean manufacturing principles. “It affects how we make decisions,” Yang says, “by considering what’s the best way to implement [a practice] so it’s efficient for my upstream and downstream customers.”
14. Add a print-on-demand (POD) center.
For some publishers, it makes sense to add an in-house POD center, which reduces inventory and simplifies order fulfillment. (Saint Mary’s maintains its own shipping/fulfillment area.) “Eighty percent of the products we produce are produced internally,” Yang says. “So it’s a huge cost savings. We keep about one to two weeks of inventory on our shelves for those products.”
15. Set up an electronic inventory and warehouse management system.
Smaller publishers benefit from this as much as bigger ones, Yang says. It allows publishers to coordinate efficiently with printers in order to ship to their docks only what they need at a given time.
16. Use software to streamline workflow.
Saint Mary’s Press saves time and money by uploading documents via the Web for proofreading and other preflight work, eliminating costs for mailing hardcopy proofs. The system also allows errors to be fixed quickly and efficiently.
17. Drop the off-site warehouse.
Thanks to a well-coordinated printing, shipping and fulfillment program, Saint Mary’s now uses a small warehouse in its own facility rather than paying to rent a larger off-site facility.
18. Standardize your paper stock.
With so much volatility in the paper market, Saint Mary’s has worked to standardize the paper it uses. “We are ordering larger quantities of one stock for our products. … That’s been huge,” she says.
19. Print during off-peak times.
Work with a printer to utilize equipment at a discounted rate when not much business is coming in from other clients. With peak times tied to the religious/education schedule rather than other seasonal determinants, Saint Mary’s has gained significant savings this way.
20. Create more efficient PDFs.
Yang recommends asking your printer to share its PDF settings with your preflight specialist. Being in synch with a printer on settings for a print-ready file allows for smaller file sizes and fewer steps in the production process. “These are just little things, but sometimes the little things really add up,” Yang says.
Jim Kalajian, president & COO, Jenkins Group Inc.
Jenkins Group is an independent custom book publisher in Traverse City, Mich. President Jim Kalajian believes a cost-cutting campaign should be coupled with (and hopefully mitigated by) renewed efforts to boost sales—in his case, through lowering margins, offering new services and giving special incentives to smaller publishing clients that might be slashing their promotional budgets. “The bottom line, we have had to look at everything we do and determine if we can save money in some areas without affecting client service,” he says.
21. Ask for cost concessions from freelance designers and editors.
“Essentially, we have said, ‘If you want to keep getting work, you will need to do it for 20- to 30-percent less than last year.’ These changes are hopefully temporary during these slower times,” Kalajian says. Gaining a small concession on freelance costs can greatly improve margins and allow the company to keep in-house staff employed without reducing salaries or benefits, he says.
22. Shift work from freelancers back to salaried staff.
Staffers are now covering some design and editorial work that a year ago would have been sent to freelancers. Kalajian’s creative director will begin helping the marketing team with promotional material, rather than sending it to outside designers. “We also write 24-30 press releases a month for small publishers as part of our publicity-service offering,” he says. “Instead of sending all those to a freelance writer, we now have an in-house staff member write half of them.”
23. Reduce UPS costs bysending files to printers via FTP.
24. Use digital proofing more often to save on the cost of creating and shipping proofs.
25. Cut marketing spending that is not showing a positive return.
Kalajian recommends giving campaigns such as lead-generation or Google AdWords no more than six months to show results.
26. Switch Web site-maintenance services to a firm that bills in quarter-hour increments.
Jenkins Group has found that some firms charge $100/hour in half-hour increments, while others charge the same hourly fee, but allow quarter-hour increments—a significant savings when only a small tweak to the Web site is needed.
27. Cut office cleaning staff from once a week to twice a month … and do more clean-up yourself.
28. Modify a phone plan.
Money-saving measures can include cutting unused 1-800-number fax lines, and eliminating cell phone and pooled minutes across the company.
29. Reduce monthlycompensation of principles.
30. Reduce travel costs.
Kalajian reports a dramatic reduction by eliminating all marketing trips to New York.
Susan Spilka, director, corporate communications, John Wiley & Sons
STM publisher Wiley has been on the cutting-edge of cost-cutting, lately forming partnerships with other publishers and institutions to deliver services and information efficiently.
31. Electronically disseminate comp copies.
Working with other higher-education textbook publishers, Wiley has developed CourseSmart, a service providing digital course materials to consumers. Spilka says Wiley saves money by using Course-Smart to fulfill comp-copy requests, rather than having to mail print copies.
32. Offer supplementalmaterials on-demand.
Wiley has put textbook supplement transparencies in an on-demand program, whereby professors choose a transparency online, and orders are printed and shipped one at a time. This avoids inventory obsolescence for these expensive-to-produce items.
33. Institute a well-functioning content management system (CMS).
“Developing a companywide content management system … allows us to cost-effectively repurpose our assets” Spilka says.
34. Offer online options.
For journal customers, Wiley promotes the option of online-only subscriptions, which helps move toward shorter print runs and lower materials costs.
35. Move CD content to a Web site.
Some publishers have found savings by taking expensive four-color graphical elements and putting them on accompanying CDs. Wiley has taken this a step further by moving such content to Web sites associated with textbooks and other releases.
Dan Tucker, president, Sideshow Media
Sideshow Media is a small, independent book producer, creating illustrated books for publishers and corporate entities.
36. Expect more from your employees.
With today’s efficiency tools at hand, publishers should expect employees to wear more hats than in years past. Sideshow hires smart people and trains them well, says Tucker (who is also president of the American Booksellers Association), allowing them to work more efficiently and do more in less time than would have been possible a few years ago.
37. Keep an eye open for new suppliers.
“We are always looking for [lower-cost] suppliers,” he says. “We do a lot of manufacturing in China, and with costs going up, we are looking at other possibilities, such as India and Egypt.”
Tucker says he is willing to consider suppliers closer to home if the value of convenience and time/cost savings in shipping equals or exceeds the lower manufacturing costs available in Asia.
38. Be flexible.
Smaller publishers should leverage the assets that come with maintaining a leaner, more malleable supply chain, Tucker says, meaning they should always be on the lookout for better deals in printing or shipping, and ready to take advantage of these, especially in a volatile world market. “The difference between how we operate from a [major publishing house] is that, for them to alter the supply chain, I imagine is like trying to turn an aircraft carrier around in a pretty narrow straight. We are more like a small powerboat.”
39. Consider alternate staffing arrangements.
Sideshow has had success with employees working in remote locations and other positions being converted to half-time. These arrangements have led to some cost savings, according to Tucker.
Alex Holzman, director, Temple University Press
Temple University Press specializes in books on the humanities and social sciences. Holzman says university presses are used to operating frugally, but nevertheless can be subject to unexpected budget mandates from their parent institutions. “When cuts have to be made … they aren’t always made wisely,” he notes.
40. When you cut, cut judiciously.
Holzman advises thinking through the impact of any cuts on net revenue, noting that an in-house efficiency that results in declining sales is not a good idea (unless it somehow increases margins). “This probably sounds mundane and obvious, but it’s necessary to at least make an effort to avoid encountering unexpected consequences,” he says.
These consequences can ostensibly be non-monetary, yet affect sales and profits in the long run, he warns. An example would be a cost-cutting measure that damages author relations.
41. Embrace POD.
POD and “born digital” printing allow for tighter inventory control and fewer write-downs, Holzman says. “POD [also] helps with distribution overseas as one can print a book … [overseas] rather than shipping across the pond.”
42. Use electronic marketing tools.
Holzman reports success in steering people to online seasonal catalogs, thereby reducing runs for printed versions. Temple has also experimented with sending PDFs to book reviewers, though Holzman notes such practices must come with appropriate safeguards to avoid the risk of piracy. Marketing efficiencies are also realized by having books on Google Book Search and Amazon Search Inside the Book, he says.
43. Incremental workflow efficiencies add up.
Temple University Press uses Blackboard technology to transmit projects to its editorial board, cutting paper use. It also utilizes electronic copyediting tools and is starting to use XML workflows. “The former, of course, saves time and paper; the latter saves coding later,” Holzman says.
44. Leverage institutional talent.
University presses can sometimes benefit by drawing expertise from other departments, avoiding expensive consulting or service fees that commercial publishers often face when introducing new efficiencies. “For example, a university IT department can often provide very helpful guidance whether or not it also implements any change being contemplated,” Holzman says.
45. Trim paper costs.
There are many ways to incrementally decrease the amount spent on paper, such as, in manufacturing, considering alternative stocks and eliminating jackets for some hardcover titles. For in-house paper use, he says, “We use two-sided copying wherever possible. We try to send electronic files rather than create and then have to ship printed manuscripts. None of this is earth-shattering; you just take every bit of incremental saving you can get.”
Larry Bennett, vice president, Spanish language materials and POD, Replica Books
Replica Books, a division of Baker & Taylor, provides solutions for publishers looking to combine short-run printing of older titles with marketing and distribution services.
46. Use POD to automate the reprint process.
Work with a digital printer to save money by setting up an automatic reprint system for some “long-tail” titles, whereby books are printed and orders fulfilled without passing through a publisher’s hands. Bennett says this makes the most sense for expensive, low-volume titles such as textbooks and art volumes. “Your cost savings comes in avoiding inventory obsolescence and remaindering, and in the inventory-carrying costs. The more expensive the book, the more it makes sense,” he says.
47. Shop around for the best POD solution.
Different publishers have different needs, and one printer’s fee structure, manufacturing and shipping capability, and distribution network may make more sense from a cost-saving standpoint than another’s, Bennett points out.