Creative Cost-Cutting Strategies
With the rising costs of fuel and raw materials, it has become essential for most publishers to find ways to save money in book production and manufacturing—a task that can be quite challenging without sacrificing too much in terms of quality. However, with changing circumstances have come new strategies, some of which are riffs on past ideas, while others would have seemed unthinkable just a few years ago.
“Right now, it’s hard to realize really big savings on manufacturing costs because paper keeps going up,” notes Marie Butler-Knight, longtime publisher of Penguin’s “Complete Idiot’s Guide” series. “At the same time, stores are wanting to carry just-in-time inventory more and more. So they’re not wanting to take in large orders into their distribution centers, and that means that, with the exception of blockbuster hits, print runs are smaller—and when print runs are smaller, costs go up.”
So what’s a publisher to do? Shop around, of course, and find ways to trim materials, time or distance. All of the industry professionals who spoke to Book Business have found success with one or more of these approaches.
Production: Think Beyond the Printed Page
Cost-cutting needs to start before the presses start rolling. Good strategies on the production and prepress end can create savings throughout the entire process.
With the cost of paper so high, some publishers are finding creative ways to provide content beyond the printed page, while adding value for the reader. Butler-Knight has had success with packaging other media, such as CD-ROMs, audio CDs and DVDs, with the “Idiot’s” guides.
“The more pages you have in a book, the higher your unit cost is going to be,” she notes. “As long as we’re careful to make sure that [additional] content has real value, that it’s not just a bunch of Word files stuck on a CD, but actually has a benefit to the reader … we are able to recoup the added cost of having the media put into the book and, at the same time, it allows us to keep page counts from growing and growing, because that’s the only thing you really can control.”