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Allison Williams - Project Manager

Learning from Snapshots III: 8 project management tips for beginners 

As part of our MA in Publishing course at Kingston University, we collaborate with various companies to produce a book in a rather short timeframe. I was thrilled to be on the team that worked with BookMachine on Snapshots III and the experience I gained from being our project manager was invaluable. We are excited to launch Snapshots III and are busy preparing for the free launch event on June 8. In the meantime, here are eight things I have learned about project planning and production.

1) Plan, plan, plan, and then plan some more

It isn’t just about creating a practical and realistic project plan for your internal team, but also making sure you are fully aware of the planning and scheduling needs of your client and any other partners that need to sign off on the project. You also have to remember that life happens, but a good project plan should consider that from the beginning and have room to yield a bit.

2) Ask the right questions

Part of creating a good project plan and executing it is knowing the right questions to ask your client and all other people involved. Think about what you already know and what you need to know and let those questions lead to more questions. I’ve found asking questions about my questions often yields the right question (check out Q-Storming for more on this idea).

3) Communicate

I have come to the realisation that there is no such thing as over-communication when working on a project – especially when that project involves multiple teams and many moving parts. Send follow up emails after meeting with the action items listed, request status updates and restate any question to avoid miscommunications.

4) No two projects are the same

I’ve had some experience in project planning, but Snapshots III really affirmed that you can’t execute an effective project plan by copying and pasting what you’ve done before. Prior experience is going to impact and influence everything you do, but ultimately you need to treat each project as an entirely new experience.

5) You have to be creative

Something takes longer than you thought, a design element doesn’t quite work on a page, friction between team members, pesky orphans and widows… it all takes flexibility and creativity to find a solution.

6) Be a Jack…

…of all trades, that is. It is so important that you can support your team in the tasks they are doing. Whether this involves showing them how to use a software or filling in last minute, often you have to step in and help out.

7) Sometimes mistakes happen

As my tutor said, “welcome to publishing”. The key is to own up to it, determine and follow through on the best course of action, learn from it and, finally, move on.

8) Learn something new

Whether that is a crash course on kerning in InDesign, how to create an index, or how to handle a miscommunication. Approach every task with the aim of learning from it and never walk away from a project without considering how you can do better next time.

Join us in June for the launch of Snapshots III, BookMachine on Publishing, in London, Oxford, Cambridge or Brighton.

Allison Williams is a MA Publishing student at Kingston University. She was a part of BookMachine’s Snapshots III production team and worked in event planning prior exchanging Seattle mist for London rain. She enjoys epic novels, red wine and avoiding writing bios.

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