Some time ago, a client asked me to assist in sourcing the printing of a large book project overseas, rather than in North America, where it had previously been printed. We had a great experience with the printer we used in North America, but as a start-up, the company’s biggest challenge was their budget for the project. The client wanted to see how printing overseas would compare to printing in the USA again.
Here's how I found a reliable overseas printer.
1. Submitted quote requests
At the recommendation of a former colleague who has also printed overseas, I checked out a website called Print Industry, where you can describe what you need printed, and different printers can bid on your job. You can get a wide range of quotes without having to find and approach each printer yourself. My former colleague had used the site successfully in the past to find an offshore printer for a large project.
Filling out all the details at Print Industry took some time, but after submitting them, we quickly got quotes from a few printers in the USA and from other countries (China and India). The prices provided by the overseas printers were about ½ or ⅓ of the price of the North American printers. We also requested quotes from a printer in Canada and from the printer in the USA whom we had used previously, for comparison.
2. Sifted through the quotes
Between the quotes from Print Industry and the other quotes I requested, I received 8 to 10 quotes. I looked through them, primarily checking:
if the printer understood our project
how the printer’s price compared to the others’ prices.
I tried not to take into account the less-professional face of the Asian companies (their logos, websites, URLs and graphic design don't usually convey the Western idea of quality), but if their English was difficult to understand, I took that as a red flag.
If there was a printer that I felt didn't understand what we were asking for, but I wanted to give another chance for them to provide a quote, I wrote back with a request for adjustments to the quote.
3. Narrowed it down to the best prospect, a printer in China
In communication with my client, I eventually picked a printer who seemed to have understood our request and whose price was competitive, and started to communicate with them by e-mail about the project.
4. Communicated regularly by e-mail with the printer in China
It was important to me that this company on the other side of the world be able to communicate clearly in English. Some overseas suppliers I’ve worked with can’t really understand and reply to specific questions and are not able to describe a problem or what they need. But we realized that we had found a professional guy with good English, who responded within a day or so to emails, and answered questions specifically. Green light!
Next, we wanted some proof that the company was real and that they were capable of doing the kind of work we needed. They offered to print a sample for us of the full-colour book file, and to send it to us with some other samples of their work and paper samples. The printing company requested $100 to send us two full-colour samples of our book, other book samples, and paper samples to two addresses (one in the USA, and one to me in Germany). The packages arrived quickly on our doorsteps and the quality of the printed samples was excellent. The cover paper samples they sent us matched the texture of our cover from the last printing.
We always had good communication with the printer. Over the months that we worked together, we had to change some deadlines and request new quotes, but our rep was always good to deal with. If at any point he had become difficult to deal with or hard to get an answer from, we would have taken that as a definite red light and looked for a new printer, but there were no such warning signs.
5. Committed to the printer in China
When the project was finally ready, we pulled the trigger. The client paid the first lump sum to the printer in China. I think the printer asked for an $800 downpayment to order the paper for the project, and then 50% of the balance before the printing began, and 50% before the books were shipped.
The project experienced various delays on the client’s end, and when the files were finally print-ready, it was Chinese New Year and the factory was shutting down for two weeks for the country’s biggest celebration. This was a significant delay at the end of the project, but it was not the printer's problem, because we had expected to have the book done months before. This was the first time my client spoke on the phone with the rep in China (previous communication had always been by e-mail), and he spoke great English, was apologetic about the delay, and did his best to push the book through as quickly as he could once the factory was running again.
6. Received the printed books from China
We had 500 books sent by air to the USA (about a week for delivery) and the final 4,500 books sent by sea to a port in the USA (about five weeks for delivery). The client had to handle getting the books from the port to the company warehouse, but there may have also been a way to have the books delivered to the client’s doorstep. All in all, we were extremely satisfied with the final product and with the price, which was about ⅓ of what the project would have cost at the printer we used the year before.
I hope this play-by-play is helpful to you if you're looking for a reliable overseas printer. If you use a bit of caution and common sense, you may find that an overseas printer that fits exactly what you're needing for a particular project.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post! If you'd like me to know the contact information of the printer we used in China, or would like me to be your liaison for a large overseas print project, please write to me through my contact page. If you'd like to talk to me about a book project, please take a look at my Book Design services page.