February 26, 2019

Three meaningful workflow improvements for University Press publishers

Making updates to specific workflow trouble spots adds up to big benefits

Illustrative photo- an open book with people flying in with iphones, ebooks, and other materials that make up publishing today.As much as they would like, University Presses don’t always have the time or resources to implement the next big thing in production and editorial. Keeping up with author demands, tight schedules, and limited resources does not leave a lot of time for analyzing and modernizing workflows.

The good news is, change doesn’t have to be all at once. There is a huge opportunity for University Presses to make incremental changes to their typical workflow that will pay for themselves over again in improved processes and enriched products.

Not to mention, improving workflows will ultimately give you more time – which is something we can all get behind.

Without shocking the entire system, presses can realize huge benefits by implementing one (or more) of the following workflow modernizations.


1. Encourage electronic proof reviews

If you are reading this saying, “obviously – who uses paper anymore?” that’s great! But there are still a number of publishers utilizing a paper-driven workflow. In general, publishers are moving away from this, but it is a change in mindset that is not always easy to overcome.

We work really hard with our clients to smoothly transition to electronic-based proof review, and for practical reasons. Adobe is doing a great job giving authors useful and intuitive tools in Acrobat to make electronic review easier. Take for example contributed volumes. Using Acrobat, each contributor can add comments, view other contributors’ markup, and work together more efficiently and in a more trackable way.

There is a lot more versatility using a digital process and it is less costly. Physically printing a book for review costs money. Then it takes time to print and ship, get the hand-written comments back, and make sure they are interpreted correctly – all leaving more room for human error.

Using tools available today, where we are located in the world doesn’t matter anymore. We can email or FTP a PDF and facilitate in-depth discussions about layout and content all within an electronic file that tracks and stores changes as they are made.


2. Have you adopted an XML-first workflow? 

Today, electronic products are just as important, if not more important, than print products.

Infusing manuscripts with granular XML encoding prior to typesetting ensures an enriched, consistent product that “just works”.  This is the most meaningful change University Presses can make this year. Particularly if typesetting is managed in-house, applying an XML-first workflow helps typesetters with their work.

63% of publishers who’ve implemented an XML-first workflow describe it as the most important thing they’ve done for their production process

When the XML file is ingested into InDesign (or other typesetting application), the content styles are already established. The underlying code has organized the text into its various components, even down to the individual parts of a reference. Granular XML tagging not only prepares a book for print, but also to be easily exported in any number of digital formats required today (EPUB, Web PDF, MOBI, etc.).

The beautiful thing is, XML-first is flexible and can be added as a new step in your workflow without overhauling the entire system. In fact, changing this one step will make the rest of the process easier even if everything else stays the same. Any eproducts created from XML will be richer in code without having to do any extensive re-coding.


3. Move manuscript review upstream

By the time an author sees a beautifully laid out proof of their book, they have already done so much work to edit and poured their heart and soul into the manuscript, however, the pre-press process is just beginning.

Then what happens? There can be a huge difference between how a manuscript appears typed on an 8.5” x 11” word processor page versus how it appears laid out with graphics in a publication that has 6” x 9” trim.

New errors and edits are noticed now that the material is presented in its (almost) final format. This can lead to a whole new round of reviews, or even several rounds before the publication is finalized.

61% of publishers cited 3+ rounds of proof review before finalization

It is a completely common problem.

We use a process that moves the first proof review up before typesetting and it cuts the number of author design questions and layout issues by upwards of 10%.

What we do is present the author with a stylized mockup of their book, but within a familiar Microsoft Word interface that is built on top of XML coding.

Using this layout, authors can look at an early proof of their manuscript and actually visualize what their book will look like; and have the ability to make changes early on in the process.

This is hugely comforting to authors. From an author perspective, their book has already been in the works for a year or more before it even gets to the point of typesetting. Moving proof review early in the process helps bridge the gap of publisher and author priorities and get to a final, high-quality product that works online or in print with less back and forth.

Because the author has an opportunity to review the proof early, additional change requests are minimized post-production.


Take it one step at a time

In reality, the process publishers follow hasn’t changed that much – all the same steps are still required. There are just different ways of approaching those steps to be more efficient.

You don’t have to make every change at once or make the change across the board. Try it, see how it goes, work with a partner who is experienced and can help you navigate the landscape.

Part of the role for companies like Apex who provide these publishing services is to help you manage change and keep the trains moving while these improvements are being implemented.

If these are areas you’ve been thinking about and wanting to do, send us an email and have a conversation. It is the first step to realizing the amazing benefits a few modifications can make.


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