Feb 042012

As a typesetting and data conversion service provider, we sell on page price. No matter how much we spend on R&D and how well we may cope with difficult content or authors, in the end it’s the unit price that matters. If a customer’s procurement department only compares page prices, they will try to replace us with commodity service providers whenever possible. But this will only work well for standardized processes or less complicated manuscripts/authors. As a consequence, the relatively easy, high-volume production will be offshored while the so-called boutique production remains at our shop (because some authors or editors insist that their complicated stuff will be treated appropriately). As a consequence, our average page price even gets higher, because there is less cheap off-the-shelf  producton in the mix. As a consequence, the procurement people who only compare page prices seek to quench us out.

What can be done about it? A couple of things.

  • Establish a low-cost production line and rigidly define what is included in the price and what is not. The drawback is that the surcharges that you inevitably charge will contribute to the average cost per page, making you still more expensive. But at least the reasons become much more transparent.
  • Raise awareness that there are different production categories. The customer might already have different production categories. Convince him that the criterion whether a book is typeset in a standard layout or whether the author used a template is not sufficient.
  • Emphasize the role of the intake report. Establish automated tools for checking adherence to templates, image profiles, etc.
  • Establish a Web-based frill counter where you document the production editor’s or author’s special requests. For titles that are supposed in a standard workflow,  ask a customer’s representative to approve every single deviating requirement.

These measures will assist the customers in improving their own processes and hopefully in moving away from underparameterized per-page pricing expectations. Per-page isn’t going to work in the long run, since more and more publications will be unpaginated. However, moving from page to kilobyte metrics won’t be a solution.

To answer the initial question: a boutique shouldn’t necessarily sell commodities. However, flat, per-page price comparisons might suggest diluting boutique production prices with commodity prices.

Another reason for us as a boutique to keep standardized, high-volume production is: not only do we deliver boutique production, but also boutique workflow consultancy and automation. In order to fully understand high-volume production requirements, we have got to do it ourselves. Therefore, we as a boutique do also strive to sell commodities, against all odds.