Meet Production Deadlines
Tips on Negotiating a Schedule That Works
By Michael Washburn
Your publishing house just signed a contract for the next book of pictures by a famous photojournalist.
The publicity department wants to set up signings in bookstores in several cities, and requests for advance copies are already coming through the fax machine.
As the production manager for this book, you hate to think of what will happen if any snags derail the project and set back the release date by days or weeks.
You must make the job go smoothly. In order to do that, you need to be hyper-aware of the lurking problems — and some possible solutions — in your area of the industry.
While the snags that can throw a book off course are as myriad as the kinds of books on the market, talks with project managers at various publishing houses, and with print vendors, reveal a few issues that cut across all genres.
Chances are the creative folks involved in a book project — the author, designer and editor — each has his or her own concept of how it should turn out. But whether your next deadline is the on-press date or just the printer's film-in date, there should be consensus about the length, content and overall style of the book.
Authors, especially newer ones, often have a hard time getting this, but there are ways to make your point. Stress to your author that simple changes become much less simple as a project moves along. As Sharon Castro, a sales representative for Maryland-based Phoenix Color, notes, even a change as minor as a text correction can take the printer much longer to make than expected.
At the proof stage, says Castro, the book is likely to have already gone into a format such as PDF, so now it exists as shapes in an electronic file rather than words. Tell your author that when a correction made to a proof reaches the printer, the latter has to retranslate the file back into the format where the change is possible. "Corrections that seem simple to the customer may actually add days to the schedule."