Running a Production/Manufacturing department is a bit like overseeing the graphite rods at a nuclear power plant. That’s a bit of an extreme analogy, but you are in command of where the rubber hits the road in the complete publishing process, and anything that occurs on the title after it goes to press is yours to own and troubleshoot.
Over the past few years there have been times when titles have gone off to the printer and the end result has not been pretty (i.e.: signatures missing, books bound with the wrong cover, inserts/endsheets printed incorrectly, sigs bound in upside down, or content not matching the cover). When this happens, what are your options:
1. Alert your Customer Service department of the problem immediately. In this way they can stop a bad situation from getting worse by sending more books out into the marketplace. Have them put a hold on the entire inventory in stock until you can ascertain what the next step should be.
2. Do an internal to figure out if the printer was at fault or if you’re internal staff missed/dropped the ball as the files were being prepared to go to press. It’s always nicer if your vendor happens to have a signed PO that circumvents what you received as far as a sample copy. Printer errors are always more fun.
3. Have your warehouse do a spot check or run check to make sure there is no more bad inventory in stock. If bad inventory is found during this check, get an accounting of how many copies and prepare that information for the printer. Also, your customer service group may still get residual phone calls for errors on this book as there were advance copies that went out into the world before anyone had a chance to say anything.
4. Prepare your printer for the worst. If the fault lies with your production department, then immediately get corrected files ready to go back to press. Get these files into the hands of the printer, while you are working out the details on who will pay for the problems.
5. Once the new books come off the press, backfill books to all of the customers affected by this error and make sure they get a pristine copy. Also, give affected parties a little something extra when they call in to complain of the problems experienced when reviewing a copy.
6. If the warehouse completes a check and all the books are affected, then go back to the printer and negotiate with them to get a credit on the run, and also get a timeline on how quickly they can speed a corrected file through their shop and replace your warehouse inventory.
7. If the warehouse completes a check and only a few books are affected, then the printer should overprint the title based on the original number of affected copies and those copies that have already gone out to customers and reviewers. If you overprint then you will have stock to backfill books that may be returned when the purchaser reports the problems to Customer Service.
8. MAKE THE PROCESS AS PAINLESS AND FRIENDLY AS POSSIBLE TO THE CUSTOMERS WHO HAVE TAKEN THE TIME TO BUY THIS BOOK!
As a Production/Manufacturing professional, you will learn quickly that these issues will happen from time to time. The real test is the planning and drill on how quickly you can clean up the mess and move on. Flexibility and having a plan “B” are essential.
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