What It Takes

What It Takes

Vacation

By Shawn Coyne | Published: March 23, 2012

Thank God there is a beautiful ocean outside to cool me off.

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.

Posted in What It Takes

16 Responses to “Vacation”

  1. Tim Plaehn
    March 23, 2012 at 5:22 am

    I find it interesting you do not have a single point of contact – your sales rep – at the printer who can monitor your order and handle problems.

    I understand watching the costs, but was the printer selected on cost alone or were other factors involved.

    As a friend told me many years ago: “Quality only hurts once.”

    • P.L. Bowler
      March 24, 2012 at 9:09 am

      Excellent point, Tim, about getting a “point of contact.” Talking bodies are always better than digital go-betweens like email. Same as a trusty liaison–where are you in the maze without one?

      Paying more doesn’t always insure a return of equal quality in a transaction, but going with the low bid almost always does. (Don’t know if that’s the case here as it sounds like an expensive special production.) Reminds me of what an astronaut–Amrstrong?–once observed, something to the effect that “It’s not very comforting to know, as you’re flying through space at 25,000 miles an hour, that your fate is in the hands of the lowest bidder.”

  2. March 23, 2012 at 5:42 am

    Shawn, I don’t blame you a bit for feeling the way you do. This really is just what happens if you DON’T use the Golden Rule. Great reminder to treat others WELL. Thanks for sharing and I’m sure that dip in the ocean was very therapeutic.

  3. March 23, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Agreed Shawn, they lacked foresight by treating you that way on the typo, and missing their deadline is inconsiderate and unprofessional. I’d want to give them both barrels, but then what happens on the next project? Probably resentment and more unprofessional behavior from both sides.

    Even though it threw a massive wrench into your schedule, rest assured we’re ready for the Black Irish Books edition whenever it’s available, and look forward to spreading the word.

  4. March 23, 2012 at 7:19 am

    Shawn,

    I’m curious: Why didn’t you all go with a Print-on-Demand set-up? The up-front cost is very little; changing the interior text is also fairly easy and inexpensive. Anyway, I think a lot of writers aren’t aware of what it takes to get a book printed. Trivial pursuit, indeed. (And this Chassidic Jew says L’Chaim to the success of Black Irish Press – and the Black Irishman who wrote the column.)

    • Shawn Coyne
      March 23, 2012 at 1:07 pm

      Hi David,
      As Robert Plant so eloquently sang in Led Zeppelin’s song KASHMIR,

      “They talk of days for which they sit and wait, all will be revealed”

      There is method behind our madness. POD is excellent technology and we will use it to avoid any “out of stock” issues for BIBs, but we also want to create something special for our tribe…an “insider” edition of sorts only available at http://www.blackirishbooks.com, which we are building now.

      Despite the irritating setbacks, we’re having a blast!

      All the best,
      Shawn

  5. Linda
    March 23, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    The phrase ‘print is dead’ is something you hear frequently in NYC. Printers across the country are experiencing spells with nothing on press, which is a disaster for them. You would think that, in this climate, your printer would bend over backwards to accommodate you in any way possible. 20,000 units today could be 100,000 units 6 months from now.

  6. Consuelo
    March 24, 2012 at 8:14 am

    Many good points inthe comments…

    I firmly believe everything happens for a reason. Go through the book again, proof it, did someone read it backwards so context doesn’t get in the way of catching typos since perfection is the goal.

  7. Basilis
    March 24, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Shortsighted indeed!

    But, leaving behind all of the useful (once again) information (enriched with publishing news) of an experienced agent, I have to
    say that I love the Home life/Work life balance mix that is mentioned above.

    I bet the writer of the article loves every frustrating minute of the procedure and every page that might hide a typo.

    Isn’t it the perfect navigating system to the ocean of the publishing world?

  8. March 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    My recommendation is to move on to another printer. A flaw in procedures is possible to remedy; a flaw in company character in permanent. Life is too short to be continually annoyed by unnecessary corporate pettiness.

    Personally I have used ArtBookBindery.com for years now and, while my production runs are measured in the thousands rather than the tens of thousands like Steven’s, they have consistently under-promised and over-delivered. My point of contact there is Michael Schacht; 204/944-1000, michael@artbookbindery.com.

    And before anyone asks, no I do not have a relationship with artbookbindery other than using them for my printing needs and being a very satisfied customer. :)

  9. Ulla Lauridsen
    March 25, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    You need to put a link to your publishing house somewhere on this page. I’ve searched for the new book, wanting to preorder it, but to no avail. You are making it hard for me to act on a good impulse/for you to sell something.

    • Ulla Lauridsen
      March 25, 2012 at 11:56 pm

      Oh, I didn’t see the dysfunctional link above. But it’s not much good.

  10. March 29, 2012 at 10:15 am

    COME ON!! Help me out! I’m dying to get that book. I’ll proof read it for free if you send it to me.

    • Shawn Coyne
      March 29, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      Hi Ulla
      We should be ready to release the new book in about three weeks. I’ll let you know the second it’s ready. Thanks for the urgency!
      All the best
      Shawn

      • March 30, 2012 at 3:27 am

        Right, thanks, got a bit excited there :-)
        I’ll do my best to get a Danish publishing house to buy it and, hopefully, let me translate it.
        I’ve given up on The War of Art in that respect, the references to Tiger Woods don’t work as well as they used to.
        My company site: http://www.betydning.dk
        There’s a blog about translating also, but two links will probably trip the comment up.

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