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Both Dick and Jeff have provided excellent lists of things to keep in mind.
I have only a couple things to add:
1. find out how the agency wants to sell this book and what it would like to
sell it for and what kind of profit they want to make on the book.
2. find out how many books they are interested in printing up front.
Money is a big item when designing, printing, and in general working on a
If they don't want the book to cost more than $10/book and only are going to
print 1000 books, then your printing specs change considerably from a $15
book with a 5000 book run.
Here is an example, you have contracted to write the book for 40/hour with
an estimated 500 hour investment. The book will be about 150 pages. The
agency is paying you $20K. They think they need 5000 copies of the book.
They would like to break even on the book.
Cost of your work/book: $4
Cost of printing/book in one color 7x9: $4.50 (these are made up figures
based on my experience)
Cost of printing and binding cover/book in 4 color: $0.50 (layflat perfect
Cost of book = $9
Total outlay, excluding advertising, etc.: $45,000
Here is a second example. everything the same except for they only can
print 1000 copies.
Cost of your work/book: $20
Cost of printing/book in one color 7x9: $4.95
Cost of printing and binding cover/book in 4 color: $055 (layflat perfect or
Cost of book = $25
Total outlay, excluding advertising, etc.: $25,000
Economy of scale is great, but the agency needs to understand how it works
and how pricing, profits, etc. all play into how the book will be bound.
Then go back and work out with the printer all the details that Dick and
Jeff have provided.
Director, Vidiom Systems