The Benefits of Sending Pre-Press Production Work to a Vendor
by Paul J. Crecca, President and CFO of Westchester Publishing Services
A question which regularly comes up for discussion in our management meetings is, “What is the argument from a publisher’s point of view for keeping pre-press production in-house?” As the CFO of Westchester, I have been studying the numbers related to that question for nearly three years – and the answer eludes me.
Each of the 20+ expert U.S.-based production editors employed by Westchester handles approximately 15,000 manuscript pages per year which are received directly from the author. With such a large flow of client projects, we have systems and procedures in place which ensure our PEs work at peak productivity and are not distracted by non-project related tasks. As a result of the high volume of work we receive, we are able to negotiate extremely competitive rates with our network of over 300 copy editors, who are thoroughly tested, and specifically selected so their copyediting skills match the project content and style.
On the typesetting side, the publishing industry embraced an off-shore business model nearly 20 years ago, putting most U.S. typesetting companies out of business. In 2008, Westchester purchased a composition shop in Chennai, India, ensuring we could keep our composition (typesetting) production costs competitive. Our employees in India are compensated at the high range compared to our India based competitors however it is certainly not what a U.S. based typesetting position would pay. Other vendors outsource your work to third-party shops where the oversight may be lacking, causing delays or poor quality in the final product. All Westchester client composition work is performed at our 100%-owned Chennai composition shop, with significant U.S. management oversight and U.S. quality control checks. As an employee-owned company, we take prudent measures to keep overhead low across our operations in the U.S. and India – allowing us to pass those savings on to our customers in the form of lower prices.
Given these factors, I don’t see how a publisher could match our pre-press production quality or costs by using in-house resources. An explanation I’ve heard from time to time is, “Based on our production editors/project managers working on projects 60% of their time, our cost per page or project are X”. While this is the purest direct project cost, it doesn’t consider the 40% of the time which isn’t being spent working on projects, or the overhead necessary to maintain in-house staff including managers and facility costs.
There are certainly other factors related to outsourcing pre-press production which will be addressed in future posts, including vendor quality versus in-house quality, and the perceived cost-savings when using a flock of U.S.-based freelance typesetters, which given the requirements of freelance management, brings the image of herding cats to mind.
I’d like to hear your thoughts about internal production costs and keeping pre-press production in-house – please comment below.
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