Their Winning Ways
Most of the time, the color or duotone scans are handled by our book manufacturers, either in their own plant or by subcontractors. Either way, they are responsible for the entire process and we avoid being caught in the middle, should problems arise. We have tried on several occasions to work the other way by providing film to the book manufacturer, but this process has usually not worked for us. Production overhead is doubled by having to work with and coordinate two suppliers' needs instead of one; we are vulnerable to the schedules of two suppliers and sometimes need the wisdom of Solomon to mediate disputes between them.
In my opinion, nobody knows better than the book printers about the dot gain percentages on their presses, the ink densities their presses run best on, and the chemistry between their ink manufacturer and the text stock they are using. All of these variables can be factored into the color scans if printers are in control of the whole process.
Are your schedules especially difficult or challenging because of your market?
Our schedules are dictated by the demands of our market. Every book is "launched" with a target bound book date, followed by its publication date, which is usually about eight weeks later to allow time for books to make their way through the distribution chain and to reach bookstores nationwide before the publicity and reviews are scheduled to appear. It is critical for the design and production department to meet these schedules. If we fail, the publicity budget may be wasted and sales opportunities lost, with some potential impulse sales never to be regained.
Because we publish titles in such a variety of subjects, the establishment of a bound book date may be influenced by different factors. Sometimes we want books for an annual academic meeting, sometimes for the opening of an exhibition, sometimes for the anniversary of an author's birth or death. To make sure we meet our goals, we hold bi-weekly "tracking meetings," at which the managers of every department in the book division review the status of all titles whose schedules are threatened for some reason. Our computer database generates a books-in-process report that flags off-schedule titles so we don't have to review all 200 or so books in process at any given time just to identify the problems. Once the reason for the delays are determined, the respective managers and their staffs can devise solutions.