PubPro: Testing, testing…1,2,3 3

Here’s the last of our posts relating to May 2014’s PubPro event. EAC-BC and Publishing at Simon Fraser University, along with event organizer Iva Cheung, would like to thank PubPro 2014’s generous sponsors for their support: Scrivener Communications, Friesens, Indexing Society of Canada, Leanpub, Talk Science to Me and West Coast Editorial Associates. Also, a big thank you to our volunteers Megan Brand, Lara Kordic and Lana Okerlund for writing great little reads for us all to enjoy during the summer months. If you’d like to see this event again, let the professional development co-chairs know!

 

Testing, Testing
by Lara Kordic; discussion led by Anne Brennan, co-chair of the Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC) certification steering committee

The purpose of this discussion was to share experiences related to evaluating new or prospective editors and to gauge whether there is interest in third-party testing developed by EAC. The discussion was led by Anne Brennan, co-chair of the EAC certification steering committee. Anne began the discussion by asking who in the room is responsible for hiring editors for their organization and how we evaluate editors’ skills to determine their proficiency. Most people in the room were involved in the hiring and evaluation of editors, but there was some variation in opinion on how those editors should be evaluated. Some organizations use tests developed in-house and administer them in a high-pressure environment to test both the editor’s skills and their ability to cope under stress. Others prefer face-to-face interviews over, or in addition to, written tests. Some expressed interest in a reliable third-party test, whereas others felt that no third-party test could determine who is right for their particular organization. There was some concern that a third-party-developed test would not be able to evaluate an editor’s people skills or ability to write tactful, diplomatic queries to an author. Anne Brennan pointed out that EAC certification tests do in fact evaluate people skills by looking at the tactfulness of comments/queries, and EAC is now looking into developing tests that would determine editorial proficiency (as opposed to editorial excellence, which is what the current certification tests measure). An editorial proficiency test would be valuable for organizations looking to hire junior editors who are trainable and can grow into their role.

PubPro: Retakes & workflows 2

Reprints, Revisions & Print on Demand
by Megan Brand; discussion led by Jo Blackmore

Reprints are straight printings, ideally featuring corrections to any errata in the first run. Publishers may use colour inserts in offset reprints or print them on the digital press as black and white photo sections on regular stock, which don’t have to be tipped in. Friesens was said to be perfecting its digital colour-printing technology. Economies of scale for offset reprints kick in at five hundred units, whereas it’s cheaper to print lower runs digitally. According to Library and Archives Canada guidelines, “a work is considered to be a ‘new’ publication if there is a relevant edition statement, if there has been a change in title or a change of publisher, or if additional information appears in the work.” Therefore, they may require a whole new edit, proofreading and index. Commonly used print on demand (POD) and fulfillment providers include Lightning Source (Ingram), which was thought to be user unfriendly; BookMobile (Itasca), with good customer service; and CreateSpace (Amazon), which offers higher revenue per unit.

 

The Flying Narwhal: Single-Source Workflows for Small Magazine Publishers
by Lana Okerlund; presented by Shed Simas

With tongue in cheek, Master of Publishing (MPub) student Shed Simas pitched his presentation to PubPro participants by explaining the origin of his project’s name, The Flying Narwhal: “a hybrid that’s part real, part magic, part myth”—not unlike the project’s vision of single-source multi-platform publishing.

“The Flying Narwhal puts a bunch of components together in a way that is affordable, robust and accessible for multiple people in multiple locations,” Simas said. In essence, the system he and fellow MPub collaborators Kaitlyn Till and Velma Larkai designed would allow small magazine publishers to accept submissions from contributors, access the system from multiple computers, share files between staff and authors for collaboration on edits and revisions and manage version control. Once editorial is complete, documents flow into a hub, from which they can be output into multiple platforms: InDesign for print, a PDF digital edition, Padify for a digital magazine and a WordPress website.

With a rather dizzying list of other technologies involved in the solution—Submittable, Google Drive, Dropbox, cloudHQ, Neutron Drive and pandoc—the presentation revealed a truism in publishing (and editing) today: it’s an increasingly high-tech business. While not all publication professionals will feel comfortable with all the moving parts behind the scenes, more and more of us may soon be users of new solutions like The Flying Narwhal to do our everyday jobs.

PubPro: Creeped out 1

by Lara Kordic; discussion led by Eve Rickert

This discussion focused on experiences with and management of scope creep (uncontrolled changes or growth in a project’s scope) in the editorial and production process. The conversation opened with people sharing their scope creep horror stories, many of which involved hard to manage authors, missed delivery dates and budgets being set (often by someone working above the managing editor) without taking all the complexities of the project into account.

The discussion then shifted to sharing how people managed these situations and what measures they or their organization would take to prevent future instances of scope creep. One person mentioned that in her organization, each project has an action plan drawn up in an Excel spreadsheet with multiple tabs. The action plan defines everything that is going to happen in the project, and at the end there is lessons learned tab, which summarizes some of the obstacles encountered in the project for future reference. In other organizations, it was found that a thorough contract specifying the length of the project and all the tasks involved could help determine a realistic timeline and budget for the project and therefore reduce the chance of the project going off the rails.

However, it is impossible to predict everything; sometimes a client does not have a good understanding of the different levels of editing and may underestimate the amount of work involved, leading to the project falling behind schedule or going over budget. In a traditional book publishing organization, it is common for a publisher to acquire a project and set a publication date and budget without taking into account the editorial complexity of the project. In these situations, scope creep is almost a given, and the managing editor must either somehow work within the parameters provided or ask for more time or more money, which may not be granted.

One way to prevent this situation is to ask a prospective editor to do a reader’s report on the manuscript and provide an estimate for the project as soon as (or even before) the contract is signed. This third-party assessment could help the managing editor justify the need for a more realistic schedule and budget. If it is impossible to change the publication date, the managing editor must set firm boundaries for all people involved in the project to prevent deadlines from slipping. Often it is the author who holds things up by wanting to make non-essential changes towards the end of the process. In the case of a traditional publishing arrangement, the managing editor can set firm boundaries, allowing the author to make changes only up to a certain stage (often this cutoff stage is written into the contract); however, when the author is a paying client, restricting their freedom to make changes becomes more difficult, and the managing editor must exercise great diplomacy and tact when imposing such restrictions. It may even be possible (as long as you state this at the outset of the project) to charge them more money for any changes made beyond a certain stage.

Overall, scope creep seems to happen when there is a disconnect between the publisher’s expectations and the reality of the work required, or when an author/client does not understand or recognize the complexity of the work that needs to be done. In both cases, more planning and clearer communication at the outset of the project may help prevent projects from getting out of control.

PubPro: Editorial archiving & lean publishing 3

Editorial Archiving

by Megan Brand; discussion led by Roma Ilnyckyj

Attendees from various private and public organizations compared their companies’ archival strategies, or lack thereof, regarding what to keep, recycle, or shred. Publishing houses, the BC government, CGA Canada, UBC and SFU were said to have vastly divergent document-retention policies, which run the gamut from keeping all emails and hard-copy editorial files to ruthlessly discarding them. Liability issues, possible historical value, and simply the need to reminisce were cited as the main reasons for choosing to keep documentation. Recent archives were also said to be a strong training resource. However, the sheer volume of material can prove crippling for users attempting to settle disputes over stylistic decisions. And although the digitization of hard copies is one solution (scanning them as PDFs), attendees questioned the point at which digital files are rendered useless as the programs required to open them become obsolete. Ultimately, companies need an archival plan, no matter how ad hoc.

 

Lean Publishing: Lessons Learned at Leanpub

by Lana Okerlund; presented by Peter Armstrong

After a fast and furious presentation of over a hundred slides in 20 minutes (honest!), Leanpub co-founder Peter Armstrong wowed PubPro attendees by creating a pretty darn good-looking e-book with just a few keystrokes. Had this not just been a demo, the book would have been immediately available for readers to buy and comment on. (Fun side tip: Check out hipster Ipsum the next time you need filler text.)

“A book is a startup: a risky, highly creative endeavour undertaken by a small team with a low chance of success,” Armstrong said as he explained the epiphany for Leanpub. Following serial entrepreneur Steve Blank’s suggestion to “get out of the building” and talk to customers, Leanpub allows authors to connect quickly (“frictionlessly” in Leanpub lingo) with readers and use their feedback to improve (“pivot”) their work until they have it right (“achieve a product/market fit”).

Making a fascinating and convincing comparison of Leanpub’s model with Victorian-era serial publishing by Charles Dickens (another serial entrepreneur) and Mary Elizabeth Braddon (the 1860s version of fan fiction writer E.L. James)—not to mention Dostoyevsky—Armstrong explained how authors today need to “get work out there and generate buzz,” and how anything standing in the way of putting words in front of readers, including editors, was just procrastination. “Everyone is optional,” he said. “There should be no gatekeepers. We all need to earn our place. At Leanpub, authors and readers are equally our customers, and we need to balance their interests.”

May 24, 2014: PubPro 2014 Reply

What: PubPro 2014: Second Annual Unconference for Managing Editors & Publication Production Specialists
When: 930-1630, May 24, 2014
Where: 515 West Hasting Street, SFU Harbour Centre, Vancouver
Cost: $50 (EAC members), $60 (non-members) until May 2; $65 (EAC members), $75 (non-members) after May 2
More: Unconference includes afternoon networking tea (can sign up for tea only)

Full-day schedule of PubPro 2014. Register now. Registration closes on May 16 at 5PM.

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