August 31, 2007

Know Your Competition

Posted in business, Design, outsourcing, Typesetting at 12:58 pm by India

street arm wrestling

I was going to delete this spam comment (which I’ve received twice now) without remark—

Author: Francisco Quia-ot


Hire our employee for only $590/month (6 days/week/8:00 am – 5:00 pm).

Welcome at

Having an appealing and eye catching book cover design and a book interior design that is consistent with the cover will really make a difference in the success and marketability of your book. We look forward to hearing from you and creating a beautiful book cover and/or interior for you.

Please email( for more details.

—but then I thought, Wait, maybe this company actually exists.

It does. They’re in the Philippines, and they seem to be completely serious, despite being unable to use prepositions or distinguish potential clients from potential competitors. Here’s their full price list:


Full-time Data Entry Operator $590/month (6 days/week/8:00 am – 5:00 pm)
Full-time Typesetter $590/month (6 days/week/8:00 am – 5:00 pm)

Interior Design ( 300 pages) $30/book
Custom Interior Design ( 300 pages) $60/book
Data Entry $1/>1000 chars
Other Services $4/hour

The “about” page is earnest:

DATASTYLING main office is located in Metro Manila, Philippines. With over 4 years of publishing experience, DATASTYLING is committed to the publication of high quality books for authors and publishers. DATASTYLING started with basic data encoding and data entry, and later found our niche in desktop publishing.

DATASTYLING offers years of experience [four!] to provide high-level typesetting with fast response time and competitive rates. DATASTYLING main objective is to help authors and publishers to exceed their expectations every step of the way, and to become a long-term partner, who truly believes and fosters these types of relationships with many of our clients.

and includes some handy tips on preparing your job for design and typesetting. They’ve also posted lots of work samples, including one in your favorite typeface and mine, Papyrus:

Sample designs from Filipino typesetter/designer

But what’s my favorite thing about them? At the bottom of every page on their website, it says, “Alright Reserved.” Well, okay, if you insist.

Meanwhile, last week I bid on a design + typesetting job for a small press, at what I know to be a very reasonable rate—it was based on expense records I made when I was managing editor at a financially challenged small press myself, four years and a nontrivial amount of inflation ago—and was rejected (albeit nicely) in favor of someone “who will work within the smaller budget for this project.” I’m totally fine with that.

Maybe next time I’m asked to design or typeset something, I’ll reduce my rates just enough to get the job, hire Datastyling to do the actual work, and then pocket the difference. I’d make a mint.

Photo: Arm wrestling in Bricklane II by fabbio / Fabio Venni; some rights reserved. Runner-up: miss oblivion girls arm wrestling by soggydan.


  1. xensen said,

    Don’t forget to reserve alright for your design.

  2. India Amos said,

    Oh, all right. I guess I’d better.

  3. bowb said,

    argh. i have also receved spam for this sort of logo-design companies.

    once, after i had quoted a fee for a multipage brochure job, for someone who manufactured awnings and wanted to sell them in a high-fashion, white-space kinda way, he spent a good few minutes asking, “but what do i get for that sum of money?”. he could not believe that all he would get at the end of it was a trade catalog that looked like a fancy architectural magazine.

    he ended up coming round and sitting by my desk for a couple of days, telling me how many millimetres to move a picture box to the left, and then eventually tricked me into re-drawing his logo and putting together a letterhead. so i guess he got his money’s worth.


  4. India Amos said,

    Oh, lucky! Those are the very best clients, aren’t they? The ones who come and sit and art direct over your shoulder? They’re so helpful!

    It’s important to have extremely uncomfortable side chairs in your office. Or maybe one that’s wired to administer mild shocks to the occupant.

  5. I have to wonder where the business will be in ten, or even five, years. I’ve about given up on worrying that the printed book as we know it is heading towards its demise. On the other hand, if all the design and layout ends up overseas before that coming demise for Nike-sneaker-making-wages, I may selfishly say, “Who cares?”

    Seriously, tho’, I remember a time when I was loath to turn down a book design or page comp job because it paid too little. I did turn them down, but I was angst-ridden for a day or two, fearing some grandmotherly figure would appear in my dreams and tell me I’d never eat again.

    It’s tough making an argument telling someone they shouldn’t want to spend less money than I say they need to. On the other paw, I can only hope that these “bargain shoppers” end up getting, and realize that they are getting, as little as they pay for.

  6. I got a similar pitch from a firm in India, India ;-) Funny how all the sample cover photos were of people and places in–wait, don’t guess, you’re not psychic, no, not where you think–India! Amazing. No comment on their interiors, either.

    Steve, enough with the doom and gloom. There will always be a market for cheap crap, just as there always has been. None of us here compete in that market. The market for high-quality work will also continue to exist, even if its size fluctuates uncomfortably from time to time. But get your head around what you and India and I are selling: It isn’t printed books. Printers sell converted paper. We sell design knowledge. And we can apply that knowledge in whatever medium comes along. After all, the psychology of how the human mind receives and processes text is largely independent of the medium. Yes, we have to take the medium into consideration (resolution, color gamut, lighting), but we still have the advantage of knowing how to manage positive and negative space to effect. And we can apply that advantage anywhere.

    So cheer up. The work will be there if you just go with the technological flow.

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