Bound to Succeed
our infatuation with all things electronic will never diminish our true love for books. They provide us with a full sensory experience, immediate gratification and sometimes, the inclination to cherish. In comparison, CDs and Web browsers, as Ms. Ella Fitzgerald would opine, just “ain’t got that swing.”
In fact, a 2005 survey by Phoenix-based Publications Management indicated that custom publications grew for the fourth straight year, increasing by 18.7 percent. The survey noted companies are using custom publications as direct-response marketing tools to communicate to a variety of external audiences, reaching out beyond employees and current customers. Not only are page counts climbing, but the use of four-color and full-color images increased from 39 percent of publications in 1999, to 59 percent in 2005.
This isn’t news to Paul Parisi, president of Charlestown, Massachusetts-based Acme Bookbinding. Parisi was vacationing in France when he graciously agreed to speak with Print Professional. As luck would have it, Parisi had just left the gift shop of the Musee d’Orsay in Paris when reached on his cell phone. He commented on the number of people queued up to buy books depicting the artwork they just enjoyed. “You can buy CDs, but it’s not the same,” said Parisi. “People want pictures so they can remember, and a book is a simple way to do that. In fact, a book is one of the simplest inventions—it’s right up there with ... the wheel.”
Artistry and Technology
Acme Bookbinding specializes in manufacturing hardcover and paperback books for large, well-established publishers with rigorous manufacturing requirements and discriminating audiences, as well as small shops and individuals. “We have no minimum, but as you might expect, prices are better if you buy more books,” Parisi commented.
“I like to say our business is packing parachutes and delivering wedding cakes,” he continued. “We can’t make mistakes, and everything we do is time-sensitive. The big challenge in our business is doing it right and getting it done on time, which requires a combination of equipment, technology, skill and organization.”
Parisi noted it’s often tough getting approvals with enough time to make due dates. “The biggest problem is ... clients do not review content when in PDF format—they [like to] wait until they have print[ed] proofs before they look carefully at the content they have provided,” he said.
He recalled the day Mike Hawley from the MIT media lab called with a request to print and bind a book 5' tall and more than 80" wide, weighing 133 lbs. and consisting of 400' of printed paper. Oh, yeah, and Hawley needed it in a hurry. Titled Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom, the book was part of a philanthropic endeavor to help build schools. According to the Guinness World Records, it is the largest published book.
“It was a huge challenge, but for a good cause. We partnered with HP, FedEx, Amazon and Friendly Planet to sponsor this [project], and to share the amazing story of the country of Bhutan. It required inventing the technology to bind such a book, and overcoming the significant challenges to print a file of such enormous size—many terabytes and large physical dimensions—in a quantity of one book at a time,” explained Parisi. “We came up with a prototype book that Mike approved and we then had three days to produce the first four copies that were to travel to New York, Washington, D.C. and Tokyo. We have produced nearly 100 copies of the book at $15,000 per copy.”
Make it a Magalog
Of course, books need not weigh 133 lbs. to have a significant impact on the marketplace. The Publications Management survey reflects the increasing use of magalogs in direct-response marketing.
Mike Klassen, president of Klassen Communications, Ferndale, Wash., and owner of the website www.magalogguy.com, is a leading authority on the product’s design and usage. He described magalogs as “sales letters on steroids.” “Magalogs also remind me of theater actors who have to project and make bigger movements so people all the way in the back can see and hear,” Klassen added.
Essentially a combination of a magazine and catalog, and typically featuring bold headlines and large cover photos, the ultimate goal is to sell a product or service without coming across as a blatant ad. In addition to sales copy, a magalog frequently contains inspirational articles or tips related to its target industry. It may start with a big idea or promise headline, and include graphics and charts, sidebars and an order form. “The hope is that people won’t throw the magalog away as junk mail, but will find the articles useful and keep the magalog or pass it on to others so their name is visible throughout the year,” observed Klassen.
Magalogs are particular favorites among alternative healthcare and financial services providers. “These two areas have to deal with a lot of skepticism. Having a long-form magalog allows the space to ‘build your case,’ and include all your supporting information, such as testimonials, charts and graphics,” Klassen added. “A magalog is well-suited [for] people who really want to be convinced to buy a product or service. If I’m interested in alternative health, for example, I’m willing to read a lot of copy—far more than you could fit in a traditional brochure or other promotional piece.”
He went on to say that while extremely effective, a magalog is costly to produce. “It usually has more content than other marketing methods, so copy writing and design costs can be higher. And, to make the offer enticing, magalog marketers typically use a variety of premiums, which adds to the costs,” explained Klassen. “It might only be a downloadable bonus report, but someone still has to write, edit and lay it out. So, unless you have an unlimited budget, you need a solid mailing list, and must feel that you understand what motivates [your target market] to buy the product or service you’re selling.”
Particularly with the recent postal rate increase, Klassen reported he is seeing magalogs in smaller sizes, such as 51⁄2x81⁄2 ", or full-size, but folded in half to fit into a 6x9" envelope. “Most successful marketers test their magalogs like crazy, including cover copy, bonus offers, size, certain design elements and even the price of the main product. It can take time and money to find something that works—not everyone has that kind of patience or budget,” he said.
Happily Ever After
All of this is good news for distributors looking to expand their businesses. Whether the need is for a magalog or a more traditional volume, almost anyone, said Parisi, is a good prospect for a custom book. “We [produce books] for a wide gamut of clients, from large, sophisticated publishers producing many books, to individuals who want a book one time in their life—maybe it’s their thesis or dissertation, a book of poetry, a novel or [a book of] short stories. They’ll request two or twenty professionally produced copies to see if they can generate interest among publishers or bookstores. It’s great when we see those types of orders get larger and larger because [it means] the [authors] made it.”
Related story: Chapter One