Any performing arts organization that has truly evaluated all their costs associated with self-publishing their own program books is usually in for a real shock. The hidden costs can be astronomical when it comes to self-publishing, often in the thousands range. That investment is also difficult to recoup from the small amount of advertising that can be sold in the program books, which quickly makes it less than optimal.

However, this is an issue with the print publishing business at large. A quick glance at other publications, such as magazines and newspapers demonstrate that the business as a whole is struggling. Publications now shutter their doors at rapid rates and it is becoming obvious that the publishing business is not a lucrative option for nonprofits to participate in.

One solution to curbing costs when it comes to publishing your performing arts program books is outsourcing it. This is, however, dependent on finding someone that has the capability and the experience when it comes to publishing program books successfully. Even then, outsourcing the publishing of your program books comes with its own set of pitfalls and risks. The rapid downslide of the publishing industry has meant that struggling publishers are hurting and looking to regain a foothold in a failing industry. Unfortunately, this might mean that you will often run into many publishers that will make an offer that sounds too good to be true–and it often is.

Performing arts program book publishing is a unique niche that comes with its own set of challenges, so it is important to work with someone who understands this and how important it is to disseminate these publications in a timely fashion. After all, if your program book is late, then it becomes useless.

With all this in mind, here are some questions to consider when you are looking to outsource the publishing of your performing arts program books to help you make an informed decision.

1. What experience do they have

Performing arts program books are a niche publication, and it is essential to work with a team that has experience and acumen within it. They will have a keen understanding of the different challenges that are associated with this kind of publishing, and the experience to successfully navigate through it.

2. What is the structure of the team

It is not just the project managers and senior-level people that are involved in the publishing process–it is a team effort. Do not be afraid to learn more about if they have a seasoned sales force of competent people that have sold performing arts program books advertising before, the actual structure of the team that will be involved, and what their experience is within publishing for niche industries such as the performing arts.

3. Are they able to meet deadlines

Of course, it is unreasonable to expect a publishing house to deal solely with your work and no one else. But, it is not unreasonable to ask what other commitments they have, if they are comfortable meeting your deadlines and their general workload. Will your program book take a backseat against their other publications? Or are they comfortable multi-tasking and meeting the deadlines you have set?

4. What are their deliverables for success

Establishing metrics and guarantees for success early on is incredibly important. You are making an investment in them for their services, and they are investing their resources to complete your work–it is a mutually beneficial relationship. It is important to ascertain how they measure success, what guarantees they have and if they can provide past examples of work that can showcase these guarantees.

5. Is there any sort of flexibility involved in submitting materials

There will likely be changes to the material as the process goes on, and it is important to understand how they account for these changes and what sort of flexibility is involved. Are there strict deadlines after which you cannot submit materials? Or are there plenty of opportunities for you to evaluate and change as needed? Everyone has a different working style and process, so it is crucial that you understand theirs before engaging with them.

6. Is it too good to be true?

At the end of the day–does the offer sound too good to be true? Are they promising you every single thing you want without any pushback or suggestions? Unfortunately, in these cases, it often is too good to be true. Take out time to go through their past work, reach out to references and others in the performing arts industry who have worked with them to ensure that you are working with the right team.

Publishing program books for performing arts organizations can be a difficult, time-consuming commitment. Choosing to do it in-house will likely end up costing the organization a great deal, which is a risk. However, outsourcing it to the wrong publisher will be costly in terms of your reputation in the community. Therefore, it is extremely important to work with a team that is seasoned in this niche and can help drive success for your performing arts organization. Good selling!

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