Publishing Workflow

In rough, this is the publishing workflow that gets books from conception/marketing to publishing and distribution.

Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

Publishing a book or journal is first and foremost a marketing decision. That is, it has to in some way reach and appeal to a readership, and that includes who are the distributors (electronic and print), who the competitors, and who the market, including market size and pricing considerations.

Commitment and Timeline

Once really good reasons for publishing are discovered, then there needs to be an identification and commitment to the resources needed to get the book written, composed, and typeset. This includes identifying writers, sources of material, editors, photographers and/or illustrators.

Collaborative Documentation and Process

At this point, when people agree verbally and by handshake (real or virtual) then the set of documents can be produced and the stages of conceptualizing and concretizing the book begins.

Brainstorming and Contract Drafts

In step 1 there are three usually parallel discussions: - Legal: This is the publishing contract, and includes who pays, when and how much, and who receives, when and how much, financial and intellectual property benefits - Content: This is the initial brainstorming document, which has content that are then organized into chapters and chapter outlines - Market: Contents and Scope has a marketing part and a finalized table of contents that comes out of the content brainstorming document

Contract Signing, Chapter Outlines, Style Guide, Progress Spreadsheet

At this stage contracts are signed. Next, chapter outlines are generated from the Contents and Scope document (each becomes an individual document for managing the writing/editing process), including pseudo-chapters such as the introduction, any indices, appendices, and glossary. Next a style guide is finalized, which includes authorial voice, kind of English to be used (US English, UK English, etc.), capitalization and abbreviation rules, as well as formatting style. A figures spreadsheet is created, to be filled in with any images, figures or tables to be deployed in the book. Some of these are known ahead of time, others are thought of as chapters and sections are completed, or as artwork is discovered or created. This spreadsheet also tracks the source of any images, drawings, tables (and table data) to be used. A progress spreadsheet is created, including (at least provisional) due dates for chapter draft completion.

Publication Kickoff

The writing, researching and figure generation begins in earnest. I prefer meetings every two weeks, though once per week is much better and will move things along. Working with professionals it is possible to do once per month meetings, but less time between meetings usually spurs work along.

Publication Editing

There are of course several kinds of editing, including copyediting, fact-checking, and also layout and design editing. These should happen in an ongoing process rather that waiting until an endpoint. Memories fade and even written notes are neglected. Make changes as the need for changes arise.

Publication Finalization

A final approval of the document (preferably confirmed in writing/email) should signal the end of the writing and the clock starting on the publishing process. Getting a draft printed via Print-on-Demand is a good next step to see what kind of errors there are and read something physically in book form. From here it becomes a matter of finalizing the product, getting it vetted by distributors and the submission process. Report milestones achieved on a weekly basis to keep everyone informed of the progress toward publication. Send out draft versions to reviewers.

Technical Aspects

I've left out a bunch of technical aspects in terms of tools. Partially because people and organizations can use different tools, this is not important. However, for good quality control and a beautiful product, the use of XeLaTeX for typesetting is vital.

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Life is a kind of Library

A famous writer (Borges) once said that he imagined the afterlife (or more precisely Paradise) to be a kind of library. However, what occurs to me now (in at once a banal and deeply moving way) is that not only the afterlife, but Life is a kind of Library. I mean this both as metaphor and allegory, but also as a framework which helps clarify certain things, such as information management, complexity theory, search engines, marketing, and other such avocations and vocational pursuits (including how to think about people's behavior). > I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library. -Jorge Luis Borges Life is a kind of Library Continue reading Life is a kind of Library

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Screen Promiscuous – Publishing

Yes, screen promiscuous, a term I did not know before reading the piece on Snowpiercer in the LA Times.

Short and Longform Trends

As John Borthwick reports there are two trends in media consumption seemingly at odds, lots of micro/immediate shortform content being consumed and reflected, as well as longform, quality content that has significant time needs to interact with (and getting that time share). It is important to understand that shortform can be understand as the mere headlines of medium or longform content (and that there are some serious problems with the fact that much sharing on social media is not even consumed or digested by the sharer previous to sharing/re-sharing).

Screen Promiscuity

And so, to jump ahead (if you missed the point, go back and read what I cited) what we see is indeed across-the board screen promiscuity (yes, old print books still exist and are also seeing at least stable consumption as well). We are in the great age of content (be it poor or great, short or long, and no, the two are not diametric poles). Indeed, there is much longform which is atrocious.

Death of Middle Content

Like Middle Earth, a place of creeping doom, the middle place of content -- middling in length, middling in focus, middling in quality -- is a place of death. Better just go for a ...and you will never guess what happened next, top 11 slide-formatted listicles, click-clickety-click-click mindlessness, or really sit down to create that evergreen, canonical content with a laser target and fantastic asides.

Distribution, Distribution, Distribution

Now back to this screen promiscuity, which really means distribution, and a need (because of the impressive increase in engagement, or at least presence on these screens) to be available whenever and wherever someone wishes to engage. Longform on a mobile device? Believe it. Shortform on 23 inch monitors, every day in every way.

Feature Film is the new POD

We should call it DOD -- Distribute on Demand -- instead of POD -- Print on Demand, for it is really the ebook revolution in some senses. Sure, we've already had much of this with iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, not to mention dozens of other on-demand or small-device platforms for video-on-demand. VOD by itself just means streaming asynchronously from a library rather than broadcast. However DOD is more than that, as what is disrupted is not only the mechanism/timeshifting for consumption (again, screen promiscuity) but the fact that distribution networks are being disrupted and there are other options beyond traditional gatekeepers and ticketpunchers. Here are some distribution points of interest: - Snowpiercer and the future of distribution (cited above) - Offer your movie everywhere - VHX blog - The Act of Killing - Bittorrent Bundle reaches 3.5 million downloads So the point is to leverage screen promiscuity. It is working for The Atlantic, Medium, The New York Times, Guardian and Slate, to a significant degree. Be everywhere, in social media with a (come on, at least reasonable) headline, and in other distribution channels for free and for sale.

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Scribus – Open Source Adobe Indesign

Scribus - Open Source Adobe Indesign Scribus is a maturing publishing tool which has much to like. The upcoming (when? who knows?) release of 1.6 should put it squarely in direct competition with Adobe Indesign, it's proprietary competitor. Scribus is free and open source software, developed with love. However, there is one bad part which is the development lead who believes that new versions (e.g., 1.6) should be released over several years, rather than several months. Too slow for my tastes, though they are doing incremental releases at a faster rate, and frankly it is a nice piece of 'ware. > Note, my own use of Scribus fell down with several issues, including this bug that may not be around anymore, and I've gone back to an older approach using Inkscape for vector graphics and Markdown, Pandoc, and XeLaTeX (XeTeX + LaTeX, which handles unicode fonts and is the only real solution for non-latin script support) to generate epub and pdf programmatically. Scribus is basically damned awesome and should be tried out. It is the future (and possibly current) replacement to Adobe Indesign. Along with GIMP, Inkscape and Blender, Adobe can be retired (and I personally have not used any of their software since 2010 (and any Microsoft software since 2007). Continue reading Scribus – Open Source Adobe Indesign