Annual Checkups for Print Contracts: Keep Costs under Control and Avoid Scheduling Disasters by Inspecting Your Printing Contract Yearly-Regardless of Whether It's Up for Renewal. (Digital Publishing)

Article excerpt

If you're like most magazine publishers, your print contract has remained in a drawer since it was signed--an indication, of course, that you've been catastrophe-free. But once a year--even if it's not time to renegotiate or renew your contract--it's a good idea to dig it out and refresh your memory. Flip through the entire document, but be diligent about reviewing three areas in particular: price escalation provisions, renewal terms and scheduling.

BEWARE OF YEARLY PRICING STIPULATIONS

Contracts that are binding for longer than a year (which is typical in the magazine world) generally have a condition that allows the printer to raise manufacturing prices annually based on the change in the Consumer Price Index (CFI). The provision is a wage-based escalation that covers labor-related costs associated with manufacturing--not the changes in the cost of materials, which are handled elsewhere in most contracts. Check to see whether you're due for a rate change in January, and then check the math. You can find the CPI increases yourself by contacting the Bureau of Labor Statistics at www.bls.gov/CPI. Some contracts may hold this increases for a year or two, and some may pass on only a percentage of it. Your contract should be specific on this matter, and on which manufacturing costs are included in the increase.

DON'T LET A DEADLINE PASS YOU BY

Make sure you know when your contract expires, or risk losing the opportunity to negotiate. Terms of renewal can be tricky--many printers include an automatic renewal provision that says that if you do nothing, the contract will be renewed as is. This is a term you want purged from contracts because, obviously, you'd rather renew based on conscious choice rather than on the technicality of a missed deadline.

Deciding not to renew under the same terms doesn't mean you're changing printers. It's just a smart way to keep pricing competitive. Going out on-bid to other printers, or simply renegotiating existing contract terms, can keep costs under control.

STAY ON TOP OF SCHEDULING

Timing is everything in the deadline-laden world of printing. Trying to keep workloads manageable and clients satisfied, printers are constantly aware that the clock is ticking. Therefore, timetables are something your contract covers in detail. If scheduling has previously been an issue with your printer, or if you're thinking of changing your production calendar, then become very familiar with the scheduling legalese in your contract. …