By Shawn Coyne | Published: March 23, 2012
I’m on vacation and a couple of things popped upped for Black Irish Books. They aren’t the end of the world. Steve found a typo on one page of his next book. We both agree that it is crucial that we fix it.
No problem. I’m the liaison with the printer so it falls in my lap to have it corrected. I’ve been in charge of about a million copies of printed books in my life, so I’m not sweating it.
I’m thinking twenty minutes, four emails, and it’s done. I love what I do so the excuse to slip away from the beach is a welcome one. Perfect mix of Home Life and Work Life. The sand castles will hold up while I’m away.
We are in the “approval of final files” stage with the printer…the last chance you have to fix anything before you pull the “print” trigger. Then you pay for your books no matter what. We’re printing 20,000 copies and we ain’t skimping on materials. The bill is not cheap. We want it to look great and indistinguishable from a BIG SIX book. Better in fact.
Steve and I have gone through the book about six times each to make sure it was “perfect.” The book is about being a pro, so we don’t want any amateur mistakes in there.
But alas, one letter was switched on one word in one of the twelve proof reviews and it’s a very important word. Like head-exploding, apologizing-for-the-rest-of-your-life important.
I email the printer’s production manager. She informs me that it will cost us a couple hundred bucks to fix this one letter. Or I can send it back to my designer, have him fix it, then have him strip out the one page that had to be fixed, and send it back to her and it will only cost Steve and I…$19.00.
Steve and I are operating on a shoestring. On Purpose.
A couple hundred bucks is a couple hundred bucks that we could use for something else. And our designer is a mensch who will do it as a favor for nothing, because he knows we could ask him to do a lot more work in the future.
I’m on vacation so I don’t indulge my Black Irish temper. If I did I would have thought to myself…
Geez is a couple hundred bucks that important to a printer who could end up being our go-to company for the rest of Black Irish Books’ printings in the future? Don’t they know Steve has sold millions of books and that I have twenty years experience in publishing with scores of bestsellers under my belt? Aren’t our chances of being a long-term client better than the norm?
I mean if I were the head of that printing company, I would give my production managers’ the leeway to say.
“Don’t sweat it! We’ll take care of that one letter fix. NO CHARGE.”
Instead, the head of the printing company insists that clients be charged for their mistakes no matter how small. I mean they are running a business and every second counts. It’s no small thing to open up a PDF document and go to page 12, scroll ten sentences down and change the letter “e” to “h.”
In fact after careful calculations, the head of the company figured out that it costs the company a couple hundred bucks to do that. And they are giving us the option of just doing it ourselves and only charge $19.00 to substitute an entire page instead of just one letter. That’s fair.
It is fair, but it’s short sighted.
I swallow my “don’t they understand that Steve’s last book, which we just ordered a 20,000 copy print run from them, has sold a steady 30,000 copies a years for the least ten years? Don’t they think that his next book could do the same, which would guarantee them work for at least 60,000 copies a year from Black Irish for the next ten years? 600,000 copies…maybe more?”
Let it go Shawn! It’s no big deal! You’ll get it fixed. Chill. You’re on vacation!
While I’m doing the third email explaining what I need my designer to do in order to get the right document back to the printer as soon as possible so I don’t lose my “off the press” date, I get another email.
This email is from the printer too. But it’s not from the production department. It’s from the Binding department. The two departments obviously don’t communicate.
“We are behind in our bindery department and are not going to meet the completion date for this week…I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”
The 20,000 copy order that Steve and I put in for the brand spanking new Black Irish Books first edition of The War of Art on February 20th, 2012 would not be ready on the day the printer “estimated.” The 20,000 copies were supposed to be ready on March 23, 2012. Now they “estimated” that only half would be done by March 30th, with the second half ready by April 6th. We’ve obviously been bumped off the bindery in favor of a bigger client.
Steve, Callie, Jeff and I have been working for close to half a year on a schedule built on the delivery dates that our printer gave us. Now that schedule is obliterated. And I’m told about it a day before the books are supposed to be in our warehouse.
But at least a person I’ve never met, let alone heard of before apologized for “any inconvenience this may cause.”
Why is it that when you order something from a manufacturer, you only receive an “estimate” of when it will be delivered, but if you gave them an “estimate” of when you might be able to pay them, the company would laugh in your face.
I understand that there are some cheaters in the world who make things miserable for the rest of us. Cheaters who order something on credit, get delivery, and then never pay. So I’m cool that I have to pay for the books up front, every last penny, before we receive them. Steve and I don’t have a long history of payment with the printer, so that is par for the course when you establish a relationship with a vendor.
But here’s what the printer has done in about two hours:
1) Nickel and dimed a client for a one letter typo correction for a new print job.
2) Missed their delivery date of the client’s other print job after having a very long window to get it done (the loose interior pages of THE WAR OF ART were ready to bind on March 6th, by the way).
3) Infuriated the Black Irishman responsible for production.
What I need to take away from this experience has nothing to do with the printer or if we miss a ship date. Or typos, or how the world is out to get me.
What I need to do is work as hard as I can to make sure that anyone who has an experience with Black Irish Books does not get their blood boiled in the way mine is now.
Thank God there is a beautiful ocean outside to cool me off.