Q&A with McNaughton & Gunn President Julie A. McFarland
The December Issue Book Business featured the re-launch of the Top 20 Book Manufacturers, a ranking that lists the largest book manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada by revenue. To accompany that ranking, we interviewed top printing executives to find out how the printing industry has changed and the issues they think publishers should be most mindful of in the future. Printing experts shared insights on digital printing, minimizing supply chain costs, and integrating publisher and printer systems. The Q&As we published in the December issue were just snapshots, but following you'll find the full-length interview with Julie A. McFarland, president of McNaughton & Gunn.
What are some of the changes or trends you've seen emerge in the book printing market over the past year?
We have seen customers investing more in the printed product, creating showpieces. Some customers are adding more color into their projects and investing more in design. One of the most common things people cite about the printed book is the feel of holding it. Customers are playing that up by investing in tactile cover treatments and materials that further enhance the reader experience.
How do the services you offer to publishers differ from what you were doing five years ago?
As the barriers for self-publishing have diminished, we have become more of a consultant, sharing our knowledge and expertise in book manufacturing. We are providing assistance with design, typesetting, file setup, material selection, specifications, and packing and shipping. We have resources and skills to provide technical assistance with their books.
Have you been impressed by any specific strategies your customers have employed to grow their print revenues?
We have customers that have found success by focusing on their connection to their readers, researching and then directing their message to the places where their readers visit both online and in real life. Publishers recognize that readers have to be aware of their titles first and then they are providing added value through the opportunities to interact with authors or to access content that builds on the book. Some are providing ancillary services such as seminars or products such as workbooks to further support their story. Others have worked in conjunction with their local bookstores to promote commerce within their communities.
How are you working with publishers to help them save money, increase efficiencies, and drive revenue?
We are seeing increased variations in trim sizes and special finishes. We advise publishers on trim sizes that are the most cost effective or recommend additional operations such as flaps, deckled edges, or rounded corners that can set their books apart. We also are able to provide savings in both production and shipping by ganging titles together.
How is the continued rise and evolution of digital book printing affecting the industry?
Digital printing makes it easier to get books in print because it lowers the investment cost. Publishers can produce fewer copies to test a title and manage their inventory. They can also produce various editions for specific audiences or test different covers to see which is better at attracting attention and driving sales.
What would today's book publishers find most surprising about where digital book printing is today versus 5 years ago? When digital printing first started it was about producing lower quantities economically and shorter turn-around times. Most initial offerings were standard trim sizes and material options were limited. Today, along with lower quantities and greater speed, improved quality and color enhancements are apparent. In addition, more paper options, cover treatments, and finishing options are being developed and introduced. This allows publishers to produce unique and cost-effective books.
What should publishers be thinking about when it comes to printing in 2015 and beyond?
Publishers should continue to focus on their message and how their readers want to receive it. Print can enhance a publisher's message through design and provide value for some readers through a physical product. Both printers and publishers have evolved to a place of inter-dependence and together we can utilize social media to promote reading and the printed book to consumers.