More Books, Faster: Managing Editors’ Strategies for Trimming Schedules

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Moderator: Ellen Satrom, Managing Editor, University of Virginia Press

Panelists: Anne McCoy, Managing Editor, Columbia University Press; Sara Vélez Mallea, Managing Editor, University of Nevada Press; Marilyn Campbell, Managing Editor, Rutgers University Press

Description: Creating complex books on increasingly shorter schedules is a common challenge for many managing editors. We talked about how we have changed procedures to accommodate new schedules; how we’ve maintained editorial standards while doing so (or what we have learned to “let go”); and how we handle consequences in work flow. Outsourcing, batching, and overseas typesetters were part of the discussion.

Please post outlines, notes, and/or links to presentation materials below.

Presentation: Marilyn Campbell

When I was asked to be on this panel, I said yes, of course, but I felt like a bit of a fraud, because although I am asked to trim schedules all the time, I haven’t been asked to work a miracle in quite some time. Then we immediately acquired four rush projects for Fall 2007. One, in fact, came in too late to be in the Fall catalogue and will officially be a Spring 2008 book, but unofficially needs to be out in November 2007 (6 months). It is a book on Rutgers football with 250 photographs, color throughout, with substantive text besides, a long appendix of players’ names, and it has to have an index. I’m not going to talk about any of these recent books, because they are not accomplished yet and I am superstitious. But at least I don’t feel like a fraud anymore.

Ordinary Rush Projects

The title of this panel refers to “trimming” schedules, and we do that all the time. By “trimming” I mean tightening up a schedule by about 20 or 30 percent—say, if your average schedule is 10.5 months, getting a book out in 7 or 8 months. We do this by taking out the built-in cushions: to wait until the right copyeditor is free, to wait for the right designer to be available, to allow the author generous amounts of time to review the copyediting and proofs, to allow us to set the project aside to work on a rush project, and so on. For example, we have now a trade book on minor league baseball in New Jersey. It was transmitted in May, and we want to have it ship in February for a March publication date, in time for the beginning of the baseball season, or about 9 months in prepress. It’s average length, it has 13 pictures, the jacket art is in hand, and the author is not in Korea. No miracles will be necessary to pull this off but here are some strategies: 1. If you can, do a very careful pre-transmittal check to spot any problems or missing bits in the text, illustrations, permissions and try to get them fixed before transmittal. If you can’t, at least you have a list for follow-up as soon as possible after transmittal. Let’s face it: the manuscripts that can least afford loose ends—rush projects—are the ones most likely to have them. 2. Try to line up a copyeditor and a designer before transmittal. This can also blow up in your face if the author doesn’t come through as planned, especially at a medium-sized press like Rutgers, where we don’t always have a substitute to keep the editor busy while waiting. 3. Predesign the jacket and interior while copyediting is going on. I do a preliminary design memo as I clean and code the manuscript for the copyeditor, and send that and the unedited manuscript and illustrations to a designer for tissues. Those can be reviewed and approved in house and by the author before the edited manuscript comes back. 4. Tighten up all deadlines slightly, and turn things around quickly in house. 5. Urge the author to hire an indexer. As I said, these projects are almost routine, but besides the fact that best-laid schemes aft gang agley, if several of these almost routine rushes bunch up, you can’t give them all priority. That’s where the managing part of managing editing comes in.

Extraordinary Rush Projects

By “extraordinary rush” I mean cutting a schedule by about 50 percent—say, if your average schedule for a heavily illustrated book is 11 months, getting a book out in 5 or 6 months. For this you need to do all of the above plus some more drastic steps. And by “drastic” I mean, for the average university press, spending some money. 1. The first step must be getting everybody at the Press—the director, marketing, business, prepress—to buy into the necessity for making an extraordinary effort and spending a good chunk of budget on one book. I didn’t say acquisitions because editors don’t usually have to be sold on this idea. However, they don’t like to hear the next part: because this project is going to hog resources of time and money, other books will get less time and money, unless the book comes with a big subsidy. 2. Get a big subsidy. 3. Hire on extra staff. Before transmittal, you can hire a picture researcher, permissions manager, mapmaker, or illustrator if needed. After transmittal, a full-service packager or any combination of packaged services is usually the only way to go. 4. Pay premium to the packager to make this project their priority. 5. Batch the project: start work before everything is in. 6. I said before hire an indexer. In a real emergency, drop the index. 7. We usually print color illustrated books overseas. In a real emergency, pay for air shipping or print in the U.S. or Canada.

Case Studies

Michael Aron’s Governor’s Race, 1993 This book was about the campaign for governor of New Jersey in 1993. The author is a television journalist. The plan was for him to write a day-to-day account of the race, wrap it up after the election in early November, and have books out in time for the inauguration in early January. The first batch of manuscript was delivered after the party primaries, on July 27 to be precise, the second batch was to be delivered right after Labor Day, and the last batch one week after Election Day on November 9. We lined up a full-service packager ahead of time. This was a rare packager whose editing skills are as good as her design and typesetting skills, and that was crucial, because she not only had to edit well, she had to edit fast, and in batches over time, so she had to keep a very detailed style sheet and reread the existing material as she got new material to watch for repetitiousness. She was also typesetting and having the author proofread in batches as well. The other big advantage to this packager is that she was local, in fact, lived about five minutes from the press, so I could ferry things back and forth on my lunch hour. Just to show to what lengths she would go to make this project work, one time near the end of the campaign, she called to say she was setting some revised pages and the author was taking a nap on her couch waiting to proofread them. “I gave him a glass of wine and he went right out,” she said. Another advantage was that all but one of the interior photos, which are in a section, were taken by the author’s wife, as were the cover pictures. No permissions problems. Those were, of course, also taken over the course of the campaign and the section had to be laid out at the last minute with the Election Day photos the last to arrive. I referred earlier to best-laid schemes. Just after Election Day, on November 9, the day we were supposed to get the last batch of manuscript, one of the Republican campaign managers boasted to reporters that he had paid Black pastors in Newark to refrain from urging their congregants to vote on the Sunday before Election Day. A huge scandal erupted, there was talk of challenging the results of the election or bringing suit against the governor-elect, so naturally we had to hold off on going to press. Eventually, the losing candidate decided not to mount a challenge and no real evidence surfaced that any hanky-panky had actually taken place. We wrapped up editing and typesetting the last pages on November 14, went to the printer November 19, and had books delivered to the warehouse from Edwards Brothers on December 17, 5.5 months after the first batch of manuscript was delivered on July 27.

Marc Mappen and Maxine Lurie, eds., Encyclopedia of New Jersey, 2004

The Encyclopedia of New Jersey was quite a different project. It was about ten years in the making, from concept to finished books. The early years were taken up with planning the content and raising money. The fundraising was very successful: BIG SUBSIDY. The editors were inspired by the Encyclopedia of New York City (Yale), and as they consulted Kenneth Jackson about editorial boards and setting criteria for inclusion, I consulted the Yale editorial and production departments about managing a reference book without a reference book division. Then I didn’t take their advice on two big decisions: they didn’t batch typesetting and they didn’t do galleys. I did both. Now, this is a big book: there are 2,850 entries, 585 illustrations, 130 maps, and the finished book is about 1,000 pages, 8 ½ by 11 trim, three-column format. Much against my advice, the editors felt they needed to get experts in every subject to write individual entries, so there are about 750 individual authors. Imagine corralling all these people: sending them contracts, monitoring their deadlines, sending them checks. For this work we had a succession of assistant editors: there were three in total, but we had one at a time. The editors did a preliminary edit, often because authors paid no attention to their space limitations, and then handed articles to an editorial assistant to clean up and format. There were a slew of editorial assistants, too, but we had no more than two at a time, and they were all part-time. We also hired a cartographer, who worked out wonderfully, and a photograph researcher, who did not work out so wonderfully, and who was eventually fired and her work taken over by the assistant editor. On January 8, 2002, I received the first batch of entries. I had lined up a bunch of freelance copyeditors in the different fields covered by the Encyclopedia—9 in total, and those all were working simultaneously. I had a bin system by subject. I searched all around to find records of what the subjects were and then found they are printed up on the first page of the sampler. Biographies were the largest category, and all the editors did biographies. When the pile of entries in a bin got big enough, I sent the hard copies and electronic files to the designated copyeditor for that field. When it came back to me, I cleaned up and researched any queries, with help from the editors and assistant editors if needed, and very rarely the author of the entry. Then I stored the final entries as electronic files in matching subject folders on the server. When we accumulated enough final edited entries, we began typesetting in alphabetical batches by subject, the illustrations were sized and scanned, and the color section was laid out. As galleys arrived, we sent them out to be proofread by five proofreaders. Now, this is where the rush comes in, because the last batch of manuscript went to the typesetter on October 31, 2003, and books were delivered to the warehouse on March 25, 2004, which is 5 months. We had to wait for all the galleys to be set and proofed before we could begin paging. One of my most vivid memories of the process is my 26 stacks of galleys arrayed all around the perimeter of our Prepress workroom, and me crawling from stack to stack interleaving corrected galley sheets in alphabetical order, and just before paging began, spending a few days inserting cross-references in the correct alphabetical order, and paper-clipping low-res scans of the art to the proper entries. There was no index, which the editors were unhappy about, but I talked them out of it by promising to do extensive cross-referencing, something I regretted while lying on the floor of my office unable to straighten up. The last batches of galleys arrived right before Thanksgiving weekend, and this is where throwing money helped: I offered all the proofreaders twice the regular rate to read galleys over Thanksgiving and have them back the following Monday. Nobody refused. Page proofs arrived over the Christmas break, which I and the production manager spent checking page proofs. It was while doing this that I found we had two entries for the same school, under its two different names, and I had to eliminate one and write an equal-sized entry in alphabetical order, more or less, to substitute. We went to the printer on February 4, to Quebecor in Tennessee. The craziest thing was that Anne Hegeman, the production manager, and I were handling our normal workload of books at the same time. I looked back and I was production editing 16 books on the spring list and Anne was handling production on 23 other books besides the Encyclopedia. The whole fall and winter of 2003/2004 is a blur for me. Why did this work? 1. Everybody bought into it: everybody thought it was going to be a terrific book and it was worth the sacrifice to get it done on time. 2. We had a lot of subsidy money to use when we had to pay premium, although (see above) we also wanted to keep it in house. 3. This will sound crass, but however slow and painful it was to extract 2,850 entries from 750-odd authors, once we had the entries, we could do what we wanted with them. No authors reviewed copyediting or proof, and the editors also stepped out once copyediting began. They trusted us to do a good job. Bypassing authors, whatever its other disadvantages, can be a great help to the schedule.

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