Preparing a Request For Quotation

Below is a discussion of a typical Request For Quotation with common specifications for books. Read this page and then copy the linked blank RFQ format to your computer and open with a text editor or word processor in text mode. (Mac users may use Simple Text; Windows users may use Notepad.) Once the modifications are made to match your specifications, then save your file and then select the RFQ data and copy and paste it into your e-mail window and send it to each printer as you may wish.

Start out with the formalities of who you are:
[Company Name]
[Voice and Fax numbers]
[email address where responses may be sent]
[Date of RFQ]

Request For Quotation

Please quote your best price and delivery time for printing and binding the following book:

Title: [title of book]
Author: [author(s) name(s)]
Publisher: [name of publisher]


Quantity: Please quote: 1,000; 2,000; and 3,000 -- generally print estimating software can handle 3 quantities with one set of entries. Most beginning self-publishers should print no more than three thousand books. (You can always print more, if needed.)

Number of pages: State the number of pages, including all blank pages, but do not count end papers if hard bound. Generally, the page count should be evenly divisible by 8 as most printers print books in "signatures" of 8, 16, or 32 pages. Do not try to count the "sheets" or prefigure anything to "help" the printer. Simply give the total number of pages in the book. Be sure to include the front matter if it was numbered with Roman numerals separately from the body of the text.

Trim Size: Books are most commonly 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 or 6 x 9 inches. (The choice of trim size is driven by the market--look at books in the same genre and select a similar size for your book.) The trim size may have significant impact on the printing cost. Some presses, particularly digital presses used for "POD" printing, are more efficient with 8 3/8 x 5 3/8 inch trim. (If you leave sufficient space in the margins, you can adjust the book to this slightly smaller size, if necessary.) Indicate which edge, long or short, is to be bound--most books are bound on the long edge. A book with "landscape" orientation would be bound on the short edge.

Interior Copy: This might read: "Provided as electronic files in InDesign 1.5 and Adobe Acrobat 4.0 PDF. Files will be on Macintosh CD-ROM." You need to tell the printer what software was used to produce the book and what media will be used to send it. Most printers also have "file submission" sheets to fill out with detailed information once you've made your selection.

Illustrations: For example, "contains 12 photographs, included as part of the electronic file." Describe any photographs or illustrations and how they will be provided to the printer. Generally, it is best to include all images as part of the electronic file. If you wish to have the printer prepare photos or illustrations, there will be additional costs.

Bleeds: Bleeds, where photos, illustrations, or other artwork "runs off the page," can add significantly to the cost of printing. Often, a larger sheet size is required for the press, depending on the trim size of the book. Normally, the entry here is "none."

Paper: For example, "your house stock in natural white, 55 or 60 lb. opaque book, vellum finish. Please provide spine measurement with selected paper stock. Paper shall be acid-free and neutral pH if available." Paper is approximately 30 to 40 percent of the cost of manufacturing a book. "House stock" is the normal paper that the printer uses. For small publishers, printing in typical quantities, it is cost prohibitive to select a specific paper other than one normally stocked by the printer.

Choices of weight are 50, 55, 60, and 70 lb. weights. 50 lb. paper is the same weight as "20 lb. bond" commonly used as copy paper. It is too thin for highest quality two-sided printing, often allowing type from the back side to show through resulting in a lower quality, and thinner book. 55 lb. paper is a special grade made particularly for the books. Most 55 lb. papers are quite thick for their weight and make a good quality book with a nice heft. 60 lb. paper (equivalent to "24 lb. bond") is the workhorse of printing. Many 60 lb. papers are thinner than the special 55 lb. book paper. 70 lb. (and heavier) papers might be used where extra bulk is required or for other special purposes.

Color choices are either an off-white, cream, ivory, or natural (unbleached) shade or "bright" white. Most books are printed with one of the off-white colors as they are felt to have less glare and be easier on the eyes. If many photographs or other graphics are used, a bright white might be preferred.

Uncoated papers come in vellum (slightly rough) or smooth finishes. Vellum is usually thicker and the slight roughness further reduces glare. Again, if photographs or other illustrations are used, it may be better to use a smooth finished paper. Coated papers are usually reserved for books with many photographs or color printing. Since coated paper would require a lengthy discussion with limited application, they will not be addresses here.

Acid free and neutral pH is specified so that the book will last for a significant time. Most papers used for book printing are now made using the acid free process. Wood fiber based papers with high acid content tend to self-destruct after 30-50 years. If you wish, you may specify "recycled" paper, however recycled stock usually costs more than "regular" paper. Regular papers already contain a significant portion of wood fiber "recycled" from other forestry production byproducts (sawdust and wood chips). Adding "post consumer" material adds cost due to the expense of collecting and processing the material. Recycled papers are usually weaker than corresponding "regular" products.

Ink: "Black throughout." You may specify "soy-based ink, if available." Due to environmental regulations, printers are using products with much lower impact on air quality than those used a few years ago. There is no particular benefit to the environment for soy-based ink vs. other inks now generally used. Indeed, petroleum-based ink was never a significant contributor of volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) generated in printing plants. The primary source of VOCs in printing came from alcohol, used in the fountain solution, and from solvents used to clean unwanted ink from the press. Printers have (generally) migrated to other low VOC products for the purposes formerly filled by the alcohol and organic solvents. (On a personal note, I was shocked to discover that some of the Amazon rain forest is being destroyed to make fields for growing soy bean crops. This is hardly a positive environmental trade-off.)

Proofs: "Complete bluelines or electronic alternative from same RIP used for plates." Electronic proofs are becoming quite common as printers move to all electronic work flows. It is important that the same RIP (Raster Image Processor) be used both for the proof and for the printing plates, as this is more likely to display problems in the file, should they be present.

Cover: "Print one side only. (Front, spine, and back of book.)" There are only rare cases where you might want to print on the inside of the cover.

Extra Covers: "Please specify cost per hundred of extra covers at each quantity." It is often helpful to have extra covers for your press kit and for other promotional purposes.

Cover Copy: See the comments after "interior copy" above.

Bleeds: "all 4 sides; 1/8 inch allowance made in artwork. Artwork is not trapped. You should make necessary adjustment or use "in RIP" trapping." It is best to leave trapping to the printer, as trapping values vary by press used. 1/8 inch bleed is a common allowance for most printers. In some circumstances, the bleed allowance should be more generous. Be sure to ask the selected printer for their specifications.

Cover Paper: "10 pt C1S stock. Laminate with a lay flat gloss plastic lamination." Choice of cover weight is usually 10 or 12 point Coated One Side (C1S) paper. 10 point paper is 10/1000 inch thick.

Choices of finish include, no finish, UV or aqueous coat, or film lamination. It is wise to specify a finish as unprotected ink can easily be damaged, possibly making books unsellable. Plastic film lamination is slightly more expensive than the liquid UV or aqueous coatings. The advantages of film lamination outweigh the additional cost. "Spot" varnish, embossing, foil stamping, or other special treatments can be used with laminated covers in some cases. Other times plastic lamination may interfere with desired special effects. (Of course, such special features will add to the cost of the printing.)

Plastic film laminate is available with matte (dull) or gloss (shiny) finish. Lay flat laminate should always be specified if film lamination is used. The least expensive plastic film, polyester, tends to exaggerate the tendency of covers to curl with changes in humidity. Though more expensive, polypropylene and nylon films are more flexible than polyester and tend to allow book covers to adjust to humidity changes with significantly less of the curling associated with the cheaper polyester film. Most book printers only use lay flat film, but specifying the lay flat property is a wise precaution in case a printer makes an error. Note: If you live in Florida (or another very humid environment), some cover curling is unavoidable.

Cover curling can also be caused by the basic manufacture of the book. Paper has a grain (due to the wood fibers becoming aligned while being drawn into the paper making machine). The grain should be parallel to the spine in a properly made book. Some combinations of page size and press configuration force the book to be printed with the grain perpendicular to the spine of the book. Books printed in this manner will tend to have greater problems with cover curl and may have a weaker spine. It's certainly reasonable to discuss this issue with the potential printer and to select one who will properly manufacture your book, even if it's somewhat more expensive. (The heartbreak of having a garage full of curled books is unimaginable!)

If the book is to have a hard cover, you would specify the weight and finish of the dust jacket stock. You might also specify a foil stamp on the cover and/or spine--or a "lithowrap" cover. (Lithowrap is a printed cover, usually the same as the dust jacket or instead of a dust jacket. If you wish to do a lithowrap, get instructions from the printer to create the art as the design must (usually) extend an additional 3/4 inch in all dimensions to fully wrap around the cover boards. Hard covers are usually 1/4 inch taller and wider than the nominal trim size of the book block.

Cover Ink: "Standard 4-color process." One- or two-color printing is an alternative, but usually doesn't result in a significant savings at typical run lengths. Printers will charge extra for the time it takes to clean the press for the specified inks, reducing the impact of any savings. The marketing benefits of full color normally far outweigh any modest savings by using fewer ink colors.

Proofs: "Color match print and complete bluelines or electronic alternative from same RIP used for plates." (See the discussion with the interior proofs, above.) While digital proofs are commonly being used for interior material, most cover proofs are provided as color match prints to show what the cover looks like. Some printers are using calibrated proofing printers with various degrees of success. If color is critical, then ask for a color match print as the electronic alternatives are less likely to be as accurate.

Binding: "Soft cover, perfect bind."

Other binding choices:

RepKover or Otabind for a "lay flat" binding suitable for work books or cook books where the user may wish to have the book remain open at a particular page without breaking the spine. (Do not confuse this "lay flat" binding method with the "lay flat" plastic film lamination.)

Various metal or plastic spirals, Wire-O, and plastic comb bindings are also available. These alternatives have their advantages for certain books, but any book without a printed spine is at a significant disadvantage when sold in book stores. There are techniques with the Wire-O binding where a cover paper can wrap around the metal coil to create a cover with a printable spine. Nevertheless, this binding method is somewhat awkward.

Common hard cover bindings are adhesive bind, notch bind (similar to adhesive bind) and smyth sewn. The smyth sewn binding is the "traditional" hard cover binding method and results in the strongest and most durable book. It is more labor intensive and is more expensive than the adhesive-based binding methods. Adhesive notch binding may require extra margin at the inside of the pages depending on trim size of the book. Be sure to ask the printer about binding allowances if you choose a notch bound book cover.

Packaging: "Shrink-wrapped in groups and packed in a 275# burst test carton. Cartons shall be tightly packed and sealed and shall weigh no more than 40 lbs. each." The 275 lb burst test cartons are somewhat heavier than those commonly used by many printers, however they protect the contents better. Expect to pay a small premium. The 40 pound carton weight is to facilitate handling and re-shipping of books to wholesalers. Heavier cartons, besides being difficult to lift, are subject to more shipping damage. Optionally, you can specify shrink-wrapping in convenient bundles, usually 5 or 6 books. Consider how the books might be marketed and sold, you may want books shrink wrapped as "singles." The negative of shrink wrapping your book as a single is that many booksellers won't unwrap the book, discouraging browsers from handling and buying the book. Shrink wrapping is intended to reduce scuffing damage in transit. If the book covers have plastic film lamination and the cartons are tightly packed, potential scuffing damage should be well controlled. Shrink wrapping can add about 20 cents per bundle, so is not an insignificant expense.

Books are normally shipped on wooden (or plastic) pallets and secured with "stretch wrap" to hold the shipment together. You will need to be prepared to receive palletized delivery. If you don't have a loading dock (or have arranged to use a fulfillment service with one), you may wish to ask the carrier to use a "bobtail with lift gate" for delivery. There may be either a slight delay and/or there may be a slight extra charge for this service. Otherwise, the truck driver is likely to "flip" the pallet of books off the back of the trailer and drop them about 4 feet to the ground. It's neither good for the books or for your nerves.

Books should be stored to allow air circulation around the cartons. Remove the stretch wrap (if any). Leave the cartons on their wooden pallets. Do not allow the books or cartons to be in contact with concrete. (Concrete is not water proof and moisture will wick through the concrete into the books causing severe damage in a relatively short time.) The proverbial "cool, dry, place" is best for storing books. Try to avoid a garage or shed that gets excessively hot. Heat can increase cover curl and can dry out the glue in the spine causing books to "crack" when handled -- followed by sections of the book falling out of the cover. Extreme changes in humidity should also be avoided as much as possible.

Shipping: "Please advise cost of shipping to Your City, State, and Zip Code." Or, if you are going to be using a fulfillment service, the city, state and zip code of the service. In bidding the project, the shipping cost can make a higher priced printer more attractive once the shipping cost is taken into account. While many printers pass on the large discounts available from the truck lines, remarkably, others do not. Also, you may check for discounts available to you through trucking company agreements with publisher organizations like Publishers Marketing Association and SPAN.

Terms: "Please specify your terms." Most printers will ask for 1/3 to 1/2 of the printing cost up front with the balance when the books are ready to print. You should always carefully review a sample book page by page before making the final payment. When the books are received, you (or your agent) should carefully check several books randomly from different cartons in the shipment. If books with unacceptable printing are found, then a greater number of books should be checked. In "worst" cases, all books in a shipment may need to be inspected with unacceptable books segregated from those that are usable. Do not wait to inspect books and if a significant number of unacceptable books are found, immediately report the problem in writing to the printer. The printing contract has specific (and short) deadlines and requires written notice of unacceptable printing. Of course, you should also call your Customer Service Representative and/or sales person to discuss the problem and begin negotiations to resolve the issue. But a telephone call does not protect your rights under the printing contract.

Additional "boiler plate": "Please give a detailed quotation, including cost of overruns, reprints, and delivery charges. Please provide your best estimated production schedule. Please provide details of any other miscellaneous charges. Any item in this RFQ takes precedence over any industry trade customs and conventions. The CD-ROM and electronic files remain the property of the customer and are to be returned on completion of the job. Any fonts provided with the electronic files will be promptly removed from your system(s) after job is successfully ripped and plates made in keeping with the terms of software licenses covering their use."

Please return quotation to [insert your name, address, and e-mail address.]

Note: If you are e-mailing your response, please be sure your company name appears in the first line of your message. Thank you.

These last three paragraphs of boiler plate take care of a few details to avoid any misunderstanding with any conflicting provisions of the "standard" printing trade terms and conditions. I found, to my surprise, that some printers would send an e-mail copy of a quotation letter (to be printed on letterhead) without specifically indicating their identity.

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