In preparation for the 2014 PubPro unconference, members summarize last year’s event. Aside from the presenters’ helpful comments, this information may inspire you to attend this year or plan to initiate a discussion session on a topic of your own choice. What’s an unconference? It’s an inexpensive, informal gathering driven by the participants and based on the principles of open space technology. -Eds.
Managing editors and publication production managers from across B.C. coalesced at SFU Harbour Centre in Vancouver on April 13, 2013, for the first ever PubPro unconference — a day of stimulating discussion and peer-to-peer learning among experienced editing and publishing professionals.
After check-in and morning coffee, the event kicked off with a session to set the day’s schedule (pictured above). A handful of participants offered to give presentations on topics ranging from interactive editing to print-on-demand technologies to EAC certification. We also called on attendees to volunteer to lead discussion groups about key topics that participants, when they registered, had told us they wanted to see.
We stationed a volunteer in each room to take notes. Here’s a recap of the sessions…
Interactive Editing—The Dynamics of Big Projects + Tight Deadlines
Presentation by Yvonne Van Ruskenveld, West Coast Editorial Associates
As schedules in all areas of publishing become tighter, project managers need to map out each project as thoroughly as possible. For large projects, the project manager leads a team of editors, proofreaders, contributors, artists, designers, layout technicians and others. The project manager is responsible for:
- assembling the team and recruiting the best person for each task;
- clarifying each team member’s role and where they fit into the process;
- providing all the information necessary for them to do their job;
- introducing the team members to each other and encouraging interaction between them;
- monitoring the progress of the project and letting everyone know when the schedule changes;
- resolving problems as they come up; and,
- ensuring the project comes to a successful conclusion.
The success of a project depends largely on the team members themselves—not just their skills and professionalism, but also how well their personalities mesh. Open communication is another key factor in a project’s success; a project manager should be available to answer queries and address team member’s concerns, and team members should feel free to contact each other and the project manager.
The project manager should also keep track of all information pertaining to the project and either address problems head-on or anticipate potential problems and take appropriate steps to prevent them. (Lara Kordic)
From Idea to Book: What Are My Options?
Presentation and discussion by Jennifer Lyons, Influence Publishing
This session was an opportunity for participants to share their challenges, triumphs and perspectives in the ever-changing publishing industry. We discussed our common interest in connection, collaboration and communication, including our role in influencing change through publication. We discussed the need for inspiring authors to bring their message to the world in new ways, including the services offered by Ingram (see “Lightning Source: Print on Demand for Editors” below) and the opportunities it has created for niche markets within publishing.
We concluded that improving the quality and quantity of conversations is essential to improving efficiency while developing mutually supportive relationships with other industry professionals. The group was briefed on the unique process that occurs when a publisher and author enter a business partnership. An article in the Vancouver Sun, “From idea to printed page,” was referred to for more details on the collective vision of authors and hybrid publishing systems. (Jennifer Lyons)
Managing a Team of Editors and Freelancers
Discussion group led by Eve Rickert of Talk Science to Me
Eve Rickert facilitated a discussion on the challenges associated with managing a team of editors and freelancers. When hiring editors, curb potential communication breakdowns at the outset by clarifying the nature of the job and any related expectations and specifications. However, even if you take these steps, there are no guarantees freelancers will actually deliver.
Suggestions to address this issue included running down a job’s details by phone before actually sending any materials. Checklists that breakdown tasks into itemized points were equally helpful as long as the freelancer understands their parameters, and participants suggested quizzes as a practical way of assessing the skills of potential new hires.
Participants suggested that keeping good freelancers gainfully employed, happy and stimulated was a matter of providing them with a variety of jobs in their areas of interest and offering choices on projects that would suit them, as well as giving positive feedback. Ultimately “being nice” goes a long way in that regard. Lastly, some participants suggested that proofreaders were a fail afe against a poorly executed copy edit: ask them to assess and report on any work done on the manuscript. (Megan Brand)
Lightning Source: Print on Demand for Editors
Presentation by Rob Clements, Ingram
Lightning Source (LSI), a division of Ingram, supplies print-on-demand (POD) services for 26,000 publishers worldwide. The service can be used to reprint old books or create new books. LSI can manufacture a book within hours of an order being placed; it prints nearly 2 million books per month. So how is POD, and LSI in particular, changing the publishing industry, and how can Canadian publishers use it to their best advantage?
Traditional publishing has a very long supply chain connecting two communities—writers and readers. The invention of desktop publishing and the Internet diminished that supply chain drastically. Unlike traditional publishing, POD is low-risk because you print only when you get a sale, so the publisher is not responsible for storing and moving excess stock. LSI’s global distribution network ensures that orders are filled quickly anywhere around the world.
Canadian publishing has traditionally been domestically focused, and companies without a US distributor have sometimes suffered from limited exposure. But with POD providing virtually limitless distribution possibilities, books that would previously have had little chance of being sold outside of Canada can now have global distribution. Canadian publishers can keep culturally relevant books in print, even if they don’t have huge sales. (Lara Kordic)
Digital Workflow Tools
Discussion group led by Jesse Marchand, Whitecap Books
Jesse Marchand’s discussion offered tangible soft- and shareware options to accommodate collaborative editing and the creation and editing of e-books in digital production.
- Google Docs allows for simultaneous editing in real time and features a log with revision history but no track changes.
- InDesign’s InCopy also accommodates simultaneous editing and gives you a message if it’s not the latest version but restricts access to those areas of layout that editorial should be working on (text).
- DropBox and EduWiki are thought to be equally good—they allow you to see previous iterations—but both lack version control.
- Sharepoint is a file-management system with version histories and a good check-in, check-out feature, but it’s not as user friendly as others.
For creating and editing e-books, InDesign writes decent HTML, flows text and illustrations to EPUB format, harmonizes any changes made, and regenerates new files accordingly. However, participants pointed out that EPUBs were only as good as their original InDesign files and vary wildly from e-reader to e-reader. No use fussing with fonts that may or may not be displayed in any given device.
Lastly, e-book quality control should be part of the workflow in order to prevent typos or other egregious errors. (Megan Brand)
Presentation by Anne Brennan, co-chair of EAC’s Certification Steering Committee
EAC began planning certification tests 20 years ago. Certification was seen as a way for editors to prove their editorial aptitude to clients. First offered in 2006, the tests are considered a measure of the gold standard of editing. EAC certification credentials give editors official recognition of the excellence of their skills as proofreaders, copy editors, stylistic editors and structural editors.
There is one test per skill and an editor who has passed all four tests earns the distinction of Certified Professional Editor (CPE). The tests are developed using international certification program standards. They contain multiple choice, short questions and an editing exercise. Each test is three hours long and is offered every two years. Currently all tests are paper based, but they will be offered electronically in the future.
A score of approximately 80 per cent is needed to pass and pass rates are roughly between 20 per cent and 50 per cent; however, candidates are free to take the test as many times as they wish. It is advisable to begin preparing at least four months in advance. Copy editing and stylistic editing are scheduled for November 2013. Proofreading and structural editing will be offered in November 2014. (Lara Kordic)
Project Management: Editorial Workflow Systems
Discussion group led by Brian Scrivener, Thompson Rivers University
Budgets, schedules and project-management (PM) courses were the focus of Brian Scrivener’s discussion. Budgets are generally a set number of pages per hour for the copy editor and proofreader and are defined by word count, calibre of writing and any priorities such as high-maintenance clients or other special complexities.
Spreadsheets featuring page counts and rates per page as well as other factors such as potential sales, which also influence budgets, were said to be easy enough to generate. Participants expressed a need to build in contingency plans with buffers, schedule permitting.
As far as PM soft- and shareware options go, JIRA is likely the most comprehensive on offer with scheduling, version tracking and reporting features. Smartsheet.com is a good spreadsheet alternative with customizable templates, while Trello and Basecamp were cited as being relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use online options.
John Maxwell of the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing proposed that SFU host a PM course designed specifically for the publishing industry (with online content). However, it would have to host speakers from publishing companies who describe their successful PM systems as opposed to software company reps pitching product. (Megan Brand)
Beyond Microsoft Word
Presentation by John Maxwell, Simon Fraser University
Most editors use Microsoft Word; however, better programs are emerging. Editors need a tool that allows for clear annotation, allows two or more people to work simultaneously on one document, eliminates version-control problems and simplifies formatting. Here are some of the contenders:
- Google Docs moves the word processing experience into the cloud; it’s very collaborative and has no version-control problems; however, it does not allow many options for formatting.
- WYSIWYG Online Editor is the text editor that is found on many websites, especially blogs. It has a formatting toolbar, and while it’s not very powerful, it’s ubiquitous and remarkably useful for the millions of people who write daily on the web.
- Scrivener and Editorially are simplified writing tools.
- Markdown is a set of conventions for how to format plain text (e.g., asterisks around a word for bolding), and it works with a variety of tools (including Scrivener).
- Git is a version-control software tool that merges the changes of various people and it tracks who made the change and at what point.
- Wiki Versioning contains a very detailed history; it doesn’t track changes but allows us to look through the revision history to compare different versions of files.
- Poetica, a software startup, brings traditional copy-editing and proofreading markup to the web. It works much like Word’s Track Changes in that you can accept and reject changes, but the document is plain text and the markup looks cleaner and less intrusive. It’s also web-based and collaborative, so many people can participate in the editing process. (Lara Kordic)
Project Management Software
Discussion group led by Lara Smith, SpiceBox Books
Building on the conversation started by Brian Scrivener, Lara Smith’s project management software discussion featured detailed information about a range of offerings. Most publishing companies were operating at opposite ends of the same spectrum when it comes to using project management software—either managing projects manually via a spreadsheet or by entering data into a big-bucks database.
Google Docs came up again as a powerful and extremely organized master spreadsheet containing checklists, logs, fields for text, links to images and sections for permissions and correspondence (despite the fact that it purportedly breaks down on occasion for lack of automation).
While not being great for production itself, Basecamp was thought to be good for enabling collaboration and has an email feature.
MS Project has reporting built into it, but Lara ultimately recommended GanttProject (free!).
Some of the big-bucks database players that came up included Klopotek, Acumen (CyberWolf) and StiboStep—a CMS with built-in workflow that produces catalogues/reports and does scheduling/planning. Questions remain as to how these programs track and show progress on a project (via bar graphs, reports, etc.?), and whether they have scheduling prompts or notifications. (Megan Brand)
The Editorial Wiki—An Indispensable Reference and Training Tool
Presentation by Iva Cheung
The editorial wiki at D&M Publishers was the authoritative central repository for the publisher’s editorial information. It took all of D&M’s house guidelines, templates, and checklists and put them in one easily accessible place. It also contained guidelines for specific types of books and, when editors asked questions about certain editorial tasks or process, the answers were posted on the wiki.
Eventually the wiki became a record of institutional memory and cumulative wisdom and an indispensable resource and training tool for both in-house staff and freelancers. The editors knew where to look for the most up-to-date guidelines and templates and as a result, the production department received fewer questions about process and style. Wiki technology is easy to use, it has a flexible and collaborative structure and it logs when changes are made.
The D&M editorial wiki used MediaWiki software, which is the same platform as Wikipedia uses. MediaWiki is open source and well supported; it allows for multiple authors and editors, and it contains a useful search bar. However, there are other wiki options and content management systems available.
Publishers wishing to develop their own editorial wikis likely have most of the basic building blocks already. Developing a wiki is a good opportunity to review your policies and guidelines and see if they’re up to date. Once you’ve developed your wiki, you can always add more content, tweak existing content and conduct regular reviews of your policies and procedures. (Lara Kordic)
After the sessions concluded, we invited all participants and pre-registered freelancers to gather for an afternoon networking tea, where editors could forge new contacts and unconference attendees could continue their conversations in an unstructured session.
The day wrapped up with a closing session at which we gave away two books in a draw: Book Production by Adrian Bullock went to Lara Smith, and International Paper’s Pocket Pal went to Anne Brennan. Yoga instructor and editor Irene Zafiris then helped us unwind with an invigorating session of chair yoga.
Summary written by Megan Brand, Iva Cheung, and Lara Kordic, with contributions from Jennifer Lyons
Photo by Michelle van der Merwe