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Apples and Oranges and Grapes—Oh, my!

Putting your magazine out for bid isn’t always fun and games. While, there is no right or wrong number when it comes to how many bids you request, here’s how to get the most out of your print bid process.

Putting your magazine out for bid isn’t always fun and games. There is no right or wrong number when it comes to how many bids you request, but I can share with you my experience.When bidding with six or more printers including the incumbent, the month-long process you were hoping the bid would take will now last an additional month, without any other unforeseen circumstances. However, by making the most out of your bid process, and making it as informative and efficient as possible, you can then make the best decision for your organization.

A good bid package to get the closest apples to apples comparison should include the following; anything more is unnecessary and anything less might leave you confused.

  • A sample of your publication(s). Printers often times call things by different names. For example, one printer might use the term UV coating while another uses Snap coating, etc. If you send a sample of your magazine along in the bid package, the printer can see for themselves.
  • Blanked out invoice. Include a blanked out invoice (remove pricing from a current invoice) that matches up with the issue of the sample of your publication(s). This way the printer can go through the blanked out invoice and make sure to give you an “as is” cost.
  • Mail file that matches up with the sample of the publication(s). If you feel uncomfortable providing this, you can always have the printer sign a non-disclosure clause first. This will allow printers to produce a co-mail or co-pal analysis for your organization, if you qualify for it. Also, make sure to ask about expected increased delivery times if co-mailing or co-palling.
  • Expected production schedule. Including a production schedule will allow a printer to analyze whether they can meet your expected turnaround time as well as improve it. Many times printers will offer you an incentive if your production schedule fits a hole in their press schedule. If you are open to a change in your production schedule for an incentive, note this in the bid package.
  • Questionnaire. This could be a list of your ten most important questions.You would interview a new employee; why would you not interview your printer? For example, included in a bid package developed by Eric Reese, managing editor for hfm magazine (the flagship publication of the Healthcare Financial Management Association),was a list of questions that were designed to help them pick the best partner that fit their organization. Questions ranged from “In what percentile, roughly, would hfm fall across the publications you print, from smallest to largest?” to “What are your capabilities for handling specialty advertising vehicles?”

“We wanted to include in our RFP questions that would address our future goals for hfm (such as co-mailing) and questions that into areas that have proven to be a concern for us over the years,” says Reese. “Deciding which questions to ask was, in part, just taking time to look for potential ‘bumps in the road,’ based on our previous experience.”

Ask questions that are relevant to your organization. It does not have to be ten questions, but you want to have a pretty good understanding of who would be the best fit for your organization other than “the best price.”

  • References. Ask for references!! Make sure to ask for references that are similar to your publication, i.e., another “like” organization they print or an organization similar in size and paper stocks.
  • Ask for samples. Get samples of publications they currently print that are either an exact match or comparable to the paper stocks you currently print on so that you can review the quality of the printing.Now I am not being naive here: We all know samples are the “best of the best”, but at least now you have something to refer to should the printer print anything of less quality than what they have sent you.

To get a good feel for who is going to be the best fit for your organization, ask thorough questions about technology such as social media, digital magazines, etc. It is clear to see that the publishing industry is moving in this direction, and although print will be around for some time to come, you want a printer that will be able to help you grow in all aspects of publishing.

Finally, all publishers should have the best possible relationship they can with their printer. Yes, the questionnaire should give you a pretty good feel for who might be the best fit for your organization, but it is still a very important step in this process to meet with your top selections face to face. After all, the true foundation for a great relationship starts with a hand shake.


September 16, 2010 - Posted by | Publishing | , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Very informative as usual Noah!
    Keep these gems coming!
    Paul Castain

    Comment by paulcastain | September 16, 2010 | Reply

  2. Love that final tip! I had not thought of that for a printer, but it makes perfect sense. Good article, thank you.

    Comment by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga | September 17, 2010 | Reply

    • Glad you found value in it! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

      Comment by noahknoble | September 17, 2010 | Reply

      • Sorry, I didn’t mean the last tip, I meant the tip on the questionnaire. Knowing where you stand in someone’s client base is a great thing to know, for every vendor. Thanks, Noah!

        Comment by Jeanne Marie Tokunaga | September 17, 2010

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