How Much Does It Cost To Print A Publication

On the rare occasion that I find a quiet hour at home to relax, I reach for a beautifully designed magazine. Whether it is Mindfulness, Real Simple, or the latest issue of Oprah, they have one thing in common: they are tangible. I know I can view them on my iPad, but ink on paper is much easier on my eyes.

If you are wondering whether you should print your next annual report in addition to distributing it digitally, consider that major donors still expect an annual report in their hands. Costs vary, and prices are estimated by considering the following factors:

1. Quantity or print run. (How many will you be printing?)

With traditional print methods, the start up costs are great, so incremental quantity increases result in marginal cost increases, so print as many as you think you will need, without skimping on the quantity.

2. Length (number of pages in your publication)

Sometimes with publications you have to take your best guess at the start of a project. Costs increase at specific break points, depending on the press. For instance, a thirty-two page document might print on two sixteen-page signatures, so when the length increased to thirty-six pages, there may be a significant cost increase (but not so if you increase from twenty-eight to thirty-two pages). Each print shop has a unique capability range, so it’s important to choose a shop with a press that fits your needs.

3. Number of ink colors (one, two, four, or more)

Print shops typically own some collection of one color, two color, four color, or six color presses. The cost of using each press increases depending on the number of colors and coating methods This is another good reason to work with a handful of print shops with varied capabilities, or a larger print shop with many types of presses.

4. Color proofs and test prints (before the publication prints)

If your publication includes photography, or a corporate color with no room for error, it’s important to request color proofs before the publication goes to print. In our shop, we gang up all of the photos on just a few pages and order “randoms” from the print shop that will be printing the final publication. We compare the printed output to what we see on our monitors, and correct any color casts. There is a small charge for the color output, and it prevents expensive corrections that might be necessary when the publication goes on press.

5. Print coordination and payment (choosing the best print shop)

Who is coordinating with the print shop to get accurate pricing and scheduling the job? Will you need help reviewing the proofs before the publication prints? Who is footing the bill? Typically you can avoid a 15–20% markup if you pay the printer directly.

6. Attending a press check (for offset printing)

Do you want your designer to go on a press check with you? How many sheets need to be reviewed? Is the print shop local, or do you need to pay travel expenses? When you are printing on a digital press, the printer will provide you with an exact proof. For larger runs, you might still want to go on a press check. Any changes made at this stage of printing will result in additional charges that can be substantial, so it’s best to release final files to the print shop.

7. What type of paper will the publication print on (cover and interior pages)

For smaller print runs, paper costs don’t factor in as much. For larger print runs, the cost of paper can have a huge effect on the overall cost of printing. Are you considering a shimmering pearlescent, a tactile surface, a satin finish, or a standard #1 sheet? If you are purchasing a lot of paper, consider sitting down with your print rep or inviting a paper rep in to talk to you about what would be the best choices.

8. Type of binding (saddle stitched or perfect)

How will you finish the publication? For smaller publications (up to forty pages), saddle-stitching is the most common method of securing loose, printed pages with staples down the middle of a folded sheaf of papers. For this type of binding, your publication will need to be in a multiple of four pages (4, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32, 26 or 40) For longer publications, perfect binding is often used. This allows for a spine and is used for hard back and paperback books, and is appropriate for a series of longer publications.

9. Cost to deliver or mail, plus the cost of postage

Consider the cost to deliver the publications to your organization, your upcoming meeting, or drop-shipping them to your constituents. You may need to pay the printer or a mail house to coordinate the delivery, and pay for the cost of postage or delivery charges, such as UPS.

There is a misconception that printing is a commodity, and sometimes people shop on price. But we know, after twenty years of printing publications, that a quality print shop is indispensable. We value our long-standing relationships with print shops, both local and national, and each shop provides a unique set of capabilities. Some handle our small, short run, digital publications, and others have bigger, six color presses for our complex publications with full color and strikethrough varnishes. In all cases, they process our live files and adjust for their presses, and they understand their craft. Many have worked in every aspect of printing before becoming a sales rep, and can advise us on ways to keep costs down and make sure that our clients get the most value out of their investment in print.

For example, I’m working on a sixty-page publication with a size of 6×9 right now. It will print in full color on the outside front and back cover, and black only on the inside covers and text pages. It will have lay-flat perfect bind and a hinge score cover, with a spine, and a heavy, gloss laminate cover. I have price quotes in front of me for 500 copies that range from $1800 – $2200. With offset, increases in quantity do not affect the price greatly, so we typically print a few more than we think we need. For small print quantities, paper isn’t a huge factor in price, so we will increase the quality of the paper. For larger quantities, paper costs make a difference.

We believe that printing is a key part of the publication process, and we don’t believe that it is a commodity. We work with highly-knowledgeable print reps who understand sheet sizes and presses, and work with us to find the most economical way to print a high-quality publication.


Heather Cox’s business, MillerCox Design, is a graphic design firm with a team of talented and expertly-trained publication design professionals. They work to help you communicate more effectively to move your mission forward. Currently, Heather is focused on launching a new business, the Mighty Little Web Shop, that serves small businesses who sell professional services. You can view her profile HERE.

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