Magazine printing services are job shops. They have many clients, most of them small and a few larger, which need anywhere from a few thousand to several million copies of a magazine printed at one time. Magazine printing is fast-paced and must be done precisely to avoid costly mistakes. Therefore, printing magazines is a highly regimented affair.
To print a magazine, you must begin with "camera-ready copy." That means a paper or, more commonly now, a digital version of your magazine that is exactly the way you want it printed. Most magazine printers require camera-ready copy in digital format, and even specify the software that must be used to produce the camera-ready copy. QuarkXpress is the de facto industry standard for magazine printing software.
Camera-ready copy is often delivered to the magazine printer on disk, flash drive, magnetic tape, or some other portable electronic media specified by the printer. However, increasing number of magazine printers accept camera-ready copy files via the Internet. This is much more convenient, obviously, but not necessarily faster than driving to the printer with physical media in hand. It depends on the speed of your Internet connection. A file containing a feature-rich large magazine's pages may be several gigabytes in size.
It is vital to deliver the camera-ready copy on time because your magazine must be printed in a specific time slot in the printer's schedule. If your copy is late, your magazine may not get printed until there's an open slot on the schedule. If the magazine printer has to work overtime to make up for your tardiness, the cost is great.
Magazine printing cost varies depending on many factors. The number of pages to be printed is a direct variable cost, of course. But so is the type of paper, the number of colors to be printed, the type of binding, and the number of copies. Generally speaking, the more copies you buy the lower unit cost per copy.
A proof copy is sometimes provided before the entire run of copies is printed. You will have a very limited time in which to review the proof copy and make any necessary changes before the final copy goes to press. "Press time" in the magazine business is a fast-paced, high-pressure environment. Fortunately, it usually comes just once a month. But the entire month must be spent preparing for this regular crisis period.