Catalog Production Tips

Feb 29, 2012 8:56 PM  By

WHEN IS SMALLER BETTER, REALLY?
Digests and slim-jims gained appeal because of postage savings, even considering the loss of comailing discounts and the added expense of tabbing. But whether they will make sense for you depends on revenue gain—and that’s not a given. Most experts recommend testing—

  • If your standard-size catalog doesn’t exceed 48 pages
  • If it has high product density that could be lower (and easier to read in a smaller size)
  • If your products would work well with just a single image per page or spread

If your catalog matches those metrics, consider testing.

DESIGN

USE THE RIGHT TEMPLATE.
You never want to build your catalog to incorrect specifications, so make sure that your designer is working with printer-approved templates from the beginning. That way, the time and costs of adjustment—and even a possible redesign— can be avoided.

USE TECHNOLOGY TO REDUCE PHOTOGRAPHY REWORK.
InDesign has a wonderful feature called Hyperlinks that makes cross referencing automatic. There are other great features: Nested Style Sheets that make formatting SKU lines a breeze; Libraries for commonly used items; and the Book feature, which allows you to split large catalogs into smaller segments that can then be repaginated and updated individually or as a whole.

HAVE YOUR FONTS PREPARED IN 100% BLACK.
It’s the easiest to read and no other color is needed to mix with it.

CONSIDER HIRING A STYLIST FOR YOUR PHOTO SHOOTS.
Adding costs to a shoot might seem like a bad idea, but stylists can make sense in two ways. First, a good stylist will make the shoot go faster: More will get done in less time, making the per-shot costs lower. Second, a stylist can increase the quality of the photography, making it more appealing to the customers—which in turn means you’ll sell more. If you can get in an extra one or two shots per day, and your products sell 3% to 5% better, is it worth the expense? If you aren’t sure, test it.

WORKING WITH YOUR PRINTER

AVOID LAST-MINUTE PREPRESS CHARGES BY SENDING TEST-PAGE FILES WELL IN ADVANCE.
If there are any problems, or if you are providing pages incorrectly, you really need to know sooner, rather than later.

THINKING OF CHANGING SPECS? GET HELP FROM YOUR PRINTER.
For example, you may be thinking about changing your paper stock, either to lower costs or boost quality—or perhaps both. If you are able to switch to a lower grade or lighter weight paper without affecting your sales or brand, ask your printer to provide you with paper dummies and printed samples to help you make the best decision. Or, you may be thinking about changing page size, page count or the configuration of your versioned pages. Talk to your printer early on about how those changes mesh with his printing abilities, and be flexible where you can.

PROVIDE CLEAR PRINT INSTRUCTIONS.
Avoid costly mistakes and misunderstandings by giving your printer written documentation of every detail. This means not just the basics, like page count and paper selection, but specific details such as where and to whom the proofs should be delivered, how many additional samples are needed, and when and where they are needed. Be specific about manufacturing details as well as mailing details, such as what information will be ink-jetted onto the mail panel and the targeted in-home delivery dates.

PAPER SAVINGS BEYOND THE OBVIOUS

When the going gets tough, companies often look at changing their paper to cut costs. Moving to a lighter weight paper can save money and potentially lower postage costs. And it might also enable you to add more pages to your catalog without a big upswing in cost. But reducing basis weight has potential downsides. A lighter paper is usually a thinner paper, meaning that there can be more show-through from the other side of the page. If you have a heavily inked ad on the flip side of a page showing light colors and lots of white space, those heavily inked colors are going to show through onto
the more lightly inked page—possibly making the appearance of your catalog less attractive to your customer. There are other options, however:

  • Consider “bulking grades.” These are unique paper grades that give the feel of a heavier sheet, but are actually a lighter stock. Because they exhibit more “bulk,” or thickness, than other comparable sheets of the same weight, show-though may not be such a problem, and your readers might not notice the change.
  • Go counterintuitive and test heavier paper. If it lifts your book’s response rates, the increased revenue may be enough to offset rising costs.