If you haven’t already received emails, letters, phone calls, and mailings from them, there is a new yearbook company that is trying to convince yearbook advisers that they are better than us. Well, of course, they would. That’s their job, so who can blame them, right? In fact, competition is what drives an industry and forces everyone to improve themselves for the better of the customer (i.e. you).
However, they have recently published a press release called “Top 5 Secrets Your Yearbook Company Doesn’t Want You to Know” that is simply filled with misleading statements, and I would like to address some of them here. (You can read the actual Press Release here on SFGate.com)
“Number 1: Yearbooks only take a few weeks to manufacture”
Yes, if you are printing them digitally and you are a new company that only works with a small number of schools. (See below for digital vs. offset printing.)
“Number 2: Yearbook representatives build their own expenses into the cost of your books”
Well, of course, we have to get paid. No one can blame us for that. Would you be teaching for free? And did the guy who wrote this press release simply do it out of the goodness of his heart? HOWEVER, I am paid on a flat commission. There is no “list price” that he mentions where I am adding extra money on top of that. In fact, I’d be happy to share with you the commission I make on your account. I’d bet some of you would be surprised that I do as much as I do for only $500.
He is, however, correct on two things.
1. Yes, the money for the “coffee and donuts” AND the happy hours, the lunches, the prizes for the students, the free workshops/trainings, the travel expenses to visit schools twice a month, the copies of curriculum ideas, etc… etc… etc… does come out of my own pocket. According to my CPA, I actually spend more than I earn. But I’m a former teacher, so I’m used to putting all my money back into the classroom. *shrug*
2. “[Entourage doesn’t] send reps out to the schools.” His words, not mine. If you’ve been teaching yearbook for 10+ years, this might appeal to you. But here in the SF Bay Area, the yearbook teacher turn-over rate is high. I bring yearbook teachers more than just “coffee and donuts.” I have helped set up classrooms, taught lessons (anything from lay-out design to copywriting to Photoshop skills), escorted students to camp, subbed for yearbook teachers who were out on medical leave, sat behind a table and sold yearbooks, proofed pages, etc… None of this can be done over the telephone or web conferencing.
“Number 3: Modern digital printing looks almost identical to offset printing”
“Number 4: The book quality from your yearbook company is not superior”
Number 5: There are hidden fees built into other companies’ “full service” yearbook model
The only “fees” are for being late on a deadline. Our plant staff is scheduled to work based on the date we are expecting your pages. So, if you are late, that means the staff needs to get paid twice: the date of your original deadline and when you actually submitted the pages. I am upfront about deadline late fees with everyone. If for some reason, I was not clear, I work it out with the school, which usually means your late fees are added to the list of things I pay for out of my own pocket.
Plus, we offer two ways to help schools avoid these fees. They can alter their deadlines at the beginning of each school year to meet their needs AND they can earn free late days. For every page you turn in early, you can turn one in late. I had one school who turned in her first deadline so early, she earned enough to turn in her 3rd deadline almost a month late with no consequences. Both of these are, of course, in addition to the personal visits to provide assistance to ensure you are on top of your deadlines.
…and finally, OFFSET VS. DIGITAL printing…
OFFSET – Offset printing is the kind you probably imagine when you close your eyes and think about a printing plant. It is the kind that uses plates for each of the 4 colors in the printing process: C, M, Y, and K (very much like your computer printer at home). Yes, it costs more to do low runs of offset printing. This is because the plates for each color need to be made regardless of whether you make 1 or 1,000 copies of the book. However, because offset uses “dots” in all 4 colors to create images, quality can be controlled and regulated much easier than with digital. This means better color matching and “crisp” images.
DIGITAL – If offset is like your computer printer, then digital is like the office color copier. It reproduces whole images at once. This can be cheaper and faster for small runs (around 500 or less) because color separation and plates are not needed. However, for larger runs, offset might be the way to go. With digital the production cost remains the same regardless of how many you print. With offset, the more you print, the less expensive the copies are because the set up cost is spread out between all the copies. So, if you’re printing 1,000+ books, offset might actually be more cost effective. Because you can’t control quality to the “dot” as with offset, you do sacrifice some quality in color and crispness. In exchange, you do get a faster turnaround. I will admit digital printing is on the rise, and I predict will one day be comparable in quality. Is that day today? No. Not yet.
NOTE: Herff Jones does offer both an offset and digital program. Personally, I only recommend digital to elementary schools and small middle/high schools. If you can get the higher quality book, then why not?
So there you have it, my rebuttal to his yearbook secrects. It is quite possible that he wasn’t talking about our company at all, as there are quite a few yearbook companies out there. But he doesn’t exclude us in his blanket statements either, so I thought I’d set the record straight. Whether Herff Jones or Entourage (or another company) is the right one for you, you’ll have to decide for yourself. Every school, every teacher, and every yearbook is different. I just want to make sure that you have the right facts on which to base your decision.
I also promise to post more helpful tips soon on starting the school year! Can summer be almost over already? I hope you’re all having fun at camp!!!
“Your friendly neighborhood yearbook lady”