In this section:
This section shows all the print runs we have organized for your book (since 01/01/2009). You can see the date the order was sent, which printer it went to and the total quantity printed (for all territories). The date that the print order was sent is not the same as the date that the text and cover files went to the printer.
There are basically three methods of paperback printing nowadays:
- Web offset; where the print runs are in the thousands; there is a unit cost improvement through to 3 or 5000 copies, after which any increase brings marginal benefit.
- Short-run printing (SDR; short digital runs), in the dozens or hundreds, which is usually costed in direct proportion to the number of pages in the book.
- Print-on-demand (POD) for single-copy printings, which is costed the same way, on the number of pages in the book.
We don’t usually use Web offset. The machines need to be booked a couple of months in advance, and shipping takes too long. We do not use POD. The quality is not so good, the cost significantly higher, and it only works for high-priced academic titles or books that are going direct from printer to reader, rather than being sold through the trade. The large majority of our titles are printed SDR. The quality is virtually indistinguishable between web offset and SDR.
Historically speaking, the size of the first print run has been a measure of the publishers’ confidence in the book. That is now only significant for a tiny number of already-bestselling authors. We keep initial print runs (before publication) small, usually in the dozens, unless we have good reason to print more copies.
From one month after publication we aim to keep stock levels at the number of books that have sold in the previous two months. We have an automatic stock replenishment system (ASR), which brings new stock in at under two weeks. We also check stocks daily on titles which could be "in the news" or where we are forewarned about likely demand - because these orders are often done manually,it can take a little longer, around ten days. We do our best to forecast print demands, but also have to avoid printing too many.
All printings can be seen on the Production page/printings section for your title. If you forecast higher demand for your title e.g. for launches, PR programmes etc., please add a post to the Author Forum/Editorial and Production/printing queries.
So we cannot tell you when we sign the contract what the print run is going to be. Unless you’re announcing to the trade something like “$250,000 advance, 500,000 first printing and £500,000 marketing budget,” nobody in the bookselling industry is interested any more in whether you’re printing 10 or 100 or 1000 or 10,000. Having an extra few thousand books in the warehouse doesn’t do anyone any good; most good quality books in the USA/UK are printed in the hundreds rather than thousands, most classic works over the last generation or more had still smaller first printings (the first printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for instance was 500 copies, and that was way back in the previous millennium, through a major publishing house), and in a few years’ time the vast majority of titles will be printed to fulfill orders rather than in hope of orders to come. In the meantime, having small amounts of stock at the different points of the distribution chain is the norm rather than the exception, the important thing is that the channels are open, orders can be responded to, and it only takes days to shift stock from distributor to wholesaler to shop.
There should not be many, if the system has been followed. But it is virtually impossible to get a completely correct finished book. Even academic publishers like the University Presses accept there will usually be at least half a dozen mistakes in every first printing. Their retail prices are an average three times higher than ours, and we have correspondingly less time for endless checking. If you are concerned about this, have a look at some of our books; the overall standard is generally good. There are a few books out there with too many mistakes in them, which have generally happened when we have accepted author files "ready to print," which is why we have tightened up the procedures on those.
We do not start changing files immediately, mostly on the grounds that there may be more to come, and it usually takes a few months for all the mistakes to be found.
Unless something has gone seriously wrong, after 2000 copies (this does not include figures from ebook giveaways) have been sold in all formats, we take a new look at the book and may make corrections. This may seem unreasonable. It does not take long to make a correction. We have this rule because otherwise we do get asked to make lots of single corrections. It is not as straightforward as it sounds. We have to ask the designers to change the files, re-upload it, tell us about it. The file has to be sent to different printers, in the USA, UK and Australia. Sometimes it affects the page extent. There is always the possibility of human error—someone picks up the wrong file at the printers. We will inevitably end up with mixed stock, some without the corrections and some with—returns of the uncorrected books will be coming back months after the corrected book is in the warehouse. Then the ebook file needs changing, and resending out in the different formats to distributors. The next week there is a correction on a different page. A correction can easily create a further error. It really is not worth it, unless it is potentially libelous, or misleading in some way. No doubt, a couple of years down the road, it will be possible to make corrections, revisions, to the book yourself, and it will travel all the way through all systems and databases around the world to the finished product—indeed, the idea of a "finished product" may seem antiquated. But for the moment, this is the way it is.
Corrections to the cover and the text are done at the same time. For a further round of corrections, we wait until the next 2000 copies in all formats are sold.
If you would like corrections earlier than that, we can do it for a cost of £10/$17 per page, if it's only a few pages that are affected, with a minimum of £100/$170. More than that, and it is likely to affect the whole book—changes affecting chapter lengths, affecting the Contents page etc. We will then send you an invoice for £3/$5 per page for however many pages there are in the book, and £100/$170 for a cover correction (if it is a change to the wording of the cover, or if the text changes mean the spine width needs to be changed; a full cover change would be charged at £250/$350). We will also charge for corrections to the ebook (charges pending). Depending on the extent of the changes, we may need to re-convert the whole book. We do not deduct correction charges from royalties.
P.S. we are not aiming to make money out of this—we would far sooner there were no corrections. Most of our cost (which this doesn't cover) is in making sure the right files end up with the right printers.
Please first check you have sold 2000 copies by going to your sales tab and looking at total number of units in all formats. If you have not sold 2000 copies keep a note of them until you reach that point. If it is something serious and cannot wait until then, please post a note in the Editorial and Production section on the forum.
If you have sold 2000 copies in all formats and want to make corrections (or if you want to pay to have them done):
- For text: For text: Download the latest PDF version of "Final Text" (in Final Files) from the Production page and mark up your corrections using the yellow sticky-note tool (speech bubble at the top or side of screen: click on it, then move the cursor to the desired place in the text, then click on it and add your note). Please then post in the Editorial and Production forum under "Other queries" and attach the corrected file.
- For cover: Please post in the Editorial and Production forum under "Cover queries."
All printers sometimes produce faulty books. 19 times out of 20 it only affects a few copies; let us know as soon as you can if you come across one. After a month or two it’s too late to seek remedy from the printer.
- Usually, these are isolated examples; a section is missing in a book, or printed upside down. We make a sample check of some boxes, and do not find any others.
- About once a year we bring out a book where something significant has gone wrong, and we have to consider scrapping the printing and starting again. Almost always, it’s with non-standard books, where it could be anything from computers not reading a file properly to books missing in Customs.
- These things are inevitable. The question is how to remedy it, and what it will cost. If some of the pages are back-to-front in all copies of course we reprint. If some diagrams have come out in the wrong shade of grey, or the last few minor corrections weren’t included, probably not; it will be amended on a reprint. It’s a question of perspective. If you’re a perfectionist, allow for more time than the schedules given here.