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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 171 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: A List of POD Publishers  (Read 3205 times)
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 569

Joe Thomas McDonald

« on: November 22, 2006, 09:35:25 PM »

Okay, here's the deal: I have a printer I use, Avalon. But... maybe Avalon isn't my best possible choice. I don't really know, because I have a weak handle on the publishing industry.

Ron talks about how important it is to "shop around"...

I will offer a word of unsolicited advice. The big lesson for me from 2007 was to learn to let go of my favored printer, when I realized that I was compensating and re-compensating for less and less value from them. It opened my eyes enough to see, as well, how many fellow publishers were also being over-tolerant.

The beginning of my situation can be found in [It Was a Mutual Decision] Case study for discussion. You can see there that I was encountering hassles but was willing to forgive. The problem was that this was beginning to be a repeated situation - it always got fixed, but I was always inconvenienced. Before this year, that company had been excellent for me, but now, a negative pattern had begun to appear.

Now, I had a crucial print job in the early summer, for non-Forge stuff. I nailed down the deal with the owner of the company, being explicit about the dates. Guess what ... I didn't see a proof, I didn't see anything. I waited (like an idiot) in good faith until the crisis-date came, then called to discover that the company didn't exist any more, and that the guy had been calling in a favor from someone who did have a company to get the books printed. And he'd totally screwed up the date.

Snap. I'm dumb, but I do learn eventually. I hit the search engine and found some printers easily and quickly. Their prices were as good or better. The one I chose, Publishers Graphics, did an amazing job just in time. Since then, they've reprinted Elfs and It Was a Mutual Decision for me, and in this case, the books themselves were better made and better printed from their original versions.

The lesson I learned was that many POD printers exist. They all want your business and you really can pick and choose ... and we should not cease to do so, as an ongoing part of doing business. That goes against my inclinations. I tend to find a company I like and stick with them through nearly anything out of a sense of mutual professional alliance. That's a personal feature of mine that often serves me well, but in this case, is a really bad idea to be stuck with. I think a lot of you guys are similar. Also, it's a pretty big psychological step, in self-publishing, to enter into a printing contract. Changing printers feels like starting all over, or taking a step backwards. Which it's not.

So, here's my proposal:

In this thread, post the name of a printer you've used, what size print run you had, tell us whether you liked using them and why, list problems you faced, and list any comments you have.

I'll start.
I've only used one printer to date:

Avalon Innovations
Two print runs so far, of 50 and 85.

I dealt exclusively with Lance Williams. He was friendly and approachable, helpful, but also lax on communication. Sometimes an email wouldn't get answered, and would take a follow-up phone call or email. If you're setting deadlines (which, I learned, isn't a good idea) then make sure to budget some time for waiting by the phone.

Problems: Communication was slow and occassionally required follow-up inquiries.

Print quality: Great. Perfect looks really good, I'm happy about the price, and I think they did a good job.

Additional Comments: I feel like Avalon was a good choice, but also want to take the time to see who else is out there. Avalon offers a lot of other services too, and has a few in development... They are useful if you have a bunch of other products or items you need developed.

Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Posts: 16490

« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2006, 09:03:01 AM »

Hi Joe,

This was the biggest such thread I remember: POD printer roundup. However, it's become clear that the evaluations can't be relied upon for very long - the POD guys evidently appear, disappear, and rearrange themselves as often as RPG "industry" people do. We should do it again now.

(I lifted the following italicized text from my post on another thread because it fits so well here)

I recently needed a new printer very quickly, and found two good local companies simply by Googling "print on demand Chicago," which turned up this awesome page:
Ind-e-pubs POD list compiled by GLB E-Books.

From calling and assessing printers from that list, I found Publishers Graphics and Total Printing Systems, and although I used the former, both were extremely good, fast, and affordable.

So there's my contribution to the new roundup thread. Everyone, let's do it again! I think this will have to be an annual or semi-annual ritual.

Best, Ron
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters

Posts: 2591

« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2006, 09:57:10 AM »

Oh, well, in case you ever want to print in Finland, here's my experience in a nut-shell:

Sokonet is a large, reliable digital printer in a convenient position at the capital. Their core business is project management and POD printing for engineering companies, I understand, but the people there, starting the executives, have been healthily interested in making game books, and quite able and willing to discuss our specific worries. Their quotes for perfect-bound books are competitive compared to other Finnish printers, communication is prompt and delivery thus far has been very reliable. I recommend Sokonet for a perfect-bound run of at least 30+ books (not exactly POD, but closest you can get in Finland). I last had dealings with them concerning Essen Spiel just a while ago, and I don't expect their performance to really change; they're large (over 50 employees) and established.

Another printer that does equivalent work is Kotkaset, where we printed our TMW translation. Not as much experience with them, but the prices are about the same, and that one project went well. The only concrete minus compared to Sokonet is their location, which is far enough from the capital to necessiate mailing the books.

Kopijyvä is my current printer of choice for saddle-stitch work: they're large (over 100 employees and five locations, mostly in eastern Finland), competent and reliable in my experience. Their quotes for saddle-stitch are in the lower end of the scale. My last dealings with them were before Essen as well, and they delivered promptly, with minimum hassle. As with Sokonet above, I don't really expect their fundamental quality to take any sudden dives in the near future.

In general I've gone through a couple dozen other printers for quotes in our various projects, of which I've actually used to some degree less than ten. Of those printer experiences the great majority were negative; quality problems with greyscale images are typical, with cover finish problems taking the second place. I prize the good experiences very highly after having had to change printers in three projects in a row, all after the first printer proved crucially lacking when the proofs came. I will probably continue asking quotations in some width in the future, but the above mentioned printers will be my first pick, barring significant differences in prices quoted. Maybe they'll get bought out by Russians or something at some point, but I hope that their large size and obvious long-term business plan keeps them from turning crap overnight.

On the other hand, what I really should be doing is investigating Estonian printers, which I hear are very competitive price-wise. If any of you have inclinations to print in Europe for some reason, Estonia might be a good bet; it's close enough to a western country (Finland) to go check out the printer / pick up the books yourself if you feel like it, while benefiting from clear cost-breaks compared to western Europe. (Incidentally: if any of you reading this DO have experience with Estonian printers, that's some practical info I'd be interested in.)

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Posts: 297

« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2006, 11:35:40 AM »

I would think about POD printing in Europe and shipping other products to Europe in modest quantity if I could find some sort of reasonable fulfillment company to warehouse and ship those products. What would be great would be a key20 type operation that could service most of Europe, but also fulfill individual mail orders as well.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
Jake Richmond

Posts: 220

« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2006, 12:29:26 PM »

Avalon is the printer for Panty Explosion. They also printed Travis Browns nature of Magic book which I was heavily involved in. I've had a fair amount of experience with Lance and find him to be friendly and helpful We've printed 2 runs of PE with him for a total of 350 books (I think).

Good: Lance is very friendly and accomidating. The books he prints look very nice. He offers affordable and competitive prices. He's a nice guy. he's never lied to me or shipped my a book late. He also was the one who suggested doing the rounded corners on PE, which turned out to be a big hit.

Bad: He often dosen't respond to emails right away and can be difficult to get ahold of on the phone. He does always eventually respond, but its not always as soon as I would hope. This has yet to result in a problem.

As far as book quality, the only complaint that I've had with Avalon so far was that the most recent run of PE came out noticably darker then the original. Not enough to be a problem, but enough that it was noticable.

In any case, my experience with Lance has been good, and I will use him for my next book.

Inbetween print runs of PE I printed a few copies thru Lulu to fill waiting orders.

Good: Very nice print quality, good binding, good paper quality. I'm as pleased with those aspects as I am with the books Avalon printed for me.

Bad: No rounded corners. The cover, while still fine, printed much lighter then I would have hoped. I like the Avalon version of the cover better. The Lulu version also costs about twice as much to print.

I'll continue to use Lulu to fill orders when I'm short on books or to print custom books (l;ike the recent PE Hardcover).


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