Print Management 2: The Bid

In Print Management 1: Assessing Capabilities, we talked about the fact that different printers have different equipment and aptitudes and matching your project’s needs to the right printer goes a long way towards getting the results you want at a competitive price. Once you’ve determined the specifications for your project, you will know what capabilities a printer will need to print it. You can then prepare a bid, or Request for Quotation (RFQ), so you can determine the printing cost and chose a printer.


Deciding whether to get multiple bids for a project is often determined by the size and complexity of job. If you have a relationship with a printer who normally prints your simpler projects, you may want them to be the only one to provide a price for a job of that type. On the other hand, if a project is complex or will be a major expenditure, you may want to have 2 or 3 printers that you know are capable provide pricing to make sure you’re getting the best price.

Once you have chosen the printer or printers who will be asked to price out the project, you will need to prepare the RFQ. If you do this often, it’s easiest to create a form that you can fill out with the pertinent information and email that form to each printer. There are lots online software apps that make this easy.

Your bid should contain the following information:

  • Project name

  • Quantity

  • Number of pages, self-cover or plus cover Self-cover means that then entire piece is printed on the same paper stock. Plus cover means that the cover and the interior pages are printed on different stocks. So an alumni magazine that has 48 interior pages plus a cover on a heavier stock would be 48 pages plus covers.

  • Overall page size and finished page size Overall page size refers to the piece when it is open flat (picture opening the magazine so that you see two pages at once). Finished size is the size of each individual page. So an alumni magazine that measures 8.5” x 11” when you measure the cover and is bound (or folds) on the 11” side has an overall size of 11” x 17” and a finished size of 8.5” x 11.”

  • Paper stock It helps to discuss paper with your printer before bidding so that you have exact paper specs to include in your RFQ. It’s also important to say in your RFQ whether the printer has to use the exact stock you specify or whether they can substitute an equivalent sheet. (This is like a physician letting your pharmacist substitute a generic drug for a name brand one.) Allowing a printer to substitute can often save you money.

  • Ink Ink specifications tells the printer what they’re printing, i.e. four-color process, two-color, one-color, and if it’s being printed the same throughout the piece. For instance, you might print the cover four-color process and the interior one-color. Be sure to specify if you want an aqueous coating or varnish. (See Part 1 for more info on this.) If you’re not sure, ask one of the printers before you prepare the bid.

  • Bindery Bindery is how your printed piece is assembled and finished. It refers to how it is folded, and if there are multiple pages how they are held together. It can also refer to specialty processes like die-cutting and embossing. Once again, if you’re not sure ask one of the printers before you prepare the bid.

  • Delivery date required

  • Delivery location

Once you receive all of the bids, you can analyze them knowing that each printer is using the same specifications. The pricing you receive from each bidder is, of course, important, but how you actually chose which printer will handle your job goes beyond price. You'll want to weigh your possible previous relationship with each bidder and their representative, the confidence you have in them, and the time they say they need to deliver project. Once a printer is chosen, it’s professional courtesy to let the unsuccessful bidders know that you have chosen a different printer for the job, and thank them for their time and effort.

Next up: Print Management 3: File Prep

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