Print Contract Negotiation In-Depth
Comedian Steven Wright asks a volunteer from the audience to assist in a juggling routine, and the novice messes up one of the tosses. Wright says, “No, no. It’s my fault. I picked her.” This is worth remembering when negotiating a printing contract—you did, after all, pick your printer. But unlike in comedy, mistakes your printer makes aren’t so funny.
Contract negotiations can define your relationship, so you want to conduct them wisely.
First, you need to negotiate the right to negotiate. There is a tendency for printer or publisher to claim that difficulties will never arise, as if citing the possibility in a contract would be some bad magic spell. Printers say you don’t need protection from a certain calamity because they are so trustworthy the event will never arise; publishers say those pesky default provisions just don’t apply to their reliable companies. Both arguments undermine the value of the contract, which is designed to let both parties agree, in advance, on the best and fairest resolution of potential problems, and to anticipate, creatively and conscientiously, the consequences.
In that sense, the contract must be equitable for both printer and publisher. It’s not a way to harm an adversary or a device for fixing blame, but a statement of obligations in three general areas: performance, cost and security. In this multipart series, we’ll look at each of theses areas with a focus on developing provisions that will protect a publisher while establishing a positive relationship with the printer.
The three performance points with the greatest impact on your magazine are: what the work is, when it’s to be done and how well it’s to be done—specs, schedule and quality. The contract allows you to define your requirements clearly and to address the consequences of a failure to perform.