The long national nightmare is over — Thinkulus is finally here in my possession. I say “nightmare” because I went with a Chinese book printer that has printer reps here in San Diego, and the whole process was massively stressful. (I’m not going to broadcast anyone’s names — I don’t want to give them any extra publicity, even if it’s negative. Contact me if you’re curious.) Here’s the bullet list:
• I was led to believe that having my books printed in China would be quite a bit less expensive than having them printed in Hong Kong (or stateside, of course). It wasn’t. In fact, I’m pretty sure it cost more than what the HK printer I used for Hodabeast and Doc Splatter Ominous Omnibus would have charged, based on a quote from 2011.
• When I tried to upload the book to their FTP site, I discovered it was offline/unresponsive. (I used 8 different browsers, incl. Fetch, on three different Macs, each with a different OS. Nothing worked. I called the printing rep and they didn’t get back to me until the next day.)
• The gave me a production schedule, which ended up butchered and amended so many times by them that my calendar looks like a prop from “Homeland.”
• When I received the initial PDF proof, there was a notice that I needed to state “PRINTED IN CHINA” on the indicia. It was right there, on the indicia, all along. This should have been a warning sign that the printers in China didn’t exactly sweat the details.
• My printing rep assured me I could get a carton of Thinkulus (40 ct.) flown over to me from China if desired, which would arrive weeks before the scheduled delivery of the rest of the books. This was comforting, knowing how messed up the printing schedule had become and that I could have books in hand for Comic-Con, guaranteed. I was told a 4o lb. box of books would cost far less than $100, likely around $60-$70. It ended up costing $105-$130, depending on 2-3 day or 4-5 day service. That’s a pretty rookie mistake coming from a printing rep who should know this stuff inside and out. (She said the heaviest carton the printers will load is 40 lbs., so her price estimate shouldn’t fluctuate by double).
• I expected high-resolution proofs but got low-resolution instead (I had specifically requested hi-rez, even to the point of documenting the phone call with my printing rep and immediately following up that call with an email to her associate. Later, my printing rep told me that “never happened.”)
• The dummy book they sent used the wrong paper weight (120 gsm instead of 100 gsm). This was the second mistake they made on the paper weight; I had to correct it on the contract a couple weeks previous.
• The proofs that finally arrived — weeks after they were initially scheduled to arrive — and they were trimmed to the wrong size. I signed off on those proofs, with the stipulation that the book is trimmed to the specs I ordered.
• They sent another set of proofs against my wishes, which was a huge inconvenience for Darlene and I as we were planning a vacation. We had to wait around for FedEx instead of prepping for the trip. And I had to give approval — a second time — that day in order to “stay on schedule.”
• I had to remind them time after time of certain concerns, as if they never read or absorbed the content of my emails. This includes book trim sizes and paper weight (mentioned above). I also had to inform them what days I’d be out of town, which would have fallen into a “dead zones” on the original schedule (when no action was needed by me). But since the schedule got jacked up time and time again, these days ended up encroaching on our time, which was a hassle and stressful.
• For my hassles and peace of mind I requested a box of Thinkulus to be flown over to San Diego on their nickel (their track record didn’t instill me with confidence that my books would arrive before Comic-Con), but conveniently the palette was already on the ship. An interesting convenience, considering they needed my final payment that very same day… leaving me to wonder what they would have done if I were a day late getting payment to them.
• I brought up all of the above concerns several times with the printing rep and she was unrepentant, arrogant or just flat-out dismissive. Customer service clearly is not their strong suit.
I need to mention that NONE of the scheduling problems, delays, errors in proofs or other aforementioned problems were generated by me.
The whole experience wasn’t a total nightmare. The books looks gorgeous, are all packed securely and (so far) damage-free, and were delivered right to my door more-or-less on the due date (I say “more-or-less” because the bill of lading said delivery would be July 8 but the final schedule said July 10. The books arrived on July 10.)
I’ve printed three other Cool Jerk volumes, one Doc Splatter volume and two “floppy” color comic books. Two were printed by Ho-Wai in Hong Kong, two were by R.R. Donnelley stateside and two were by ComixPress (based in New England, now defunct). I can literally count any printing problems and hassles among those six books on one hand — combined.
I’ll be the first to admit that Thinkulus was hardly a big job for them; J.K. Rowling I’m not. But I’m still a customer and a small print run is not excuse for jacking me around, whether that was their mindset or not.
They really went the extra nanometer for me, and now that it’s all said and done, they will not get any positive recommendations or referrals from me or Darlene.