Category: Operations

A day in the life of a Director of Publishing Operations

James Carey is Director of Publishing Operations, UK for The Quarto Group. Having worked in Production, Sales and Operations roles at Dorling Kindersley, Penguin and Bonnier, he is currently responsible for the Quarto Group’s production, freight, distribution and inventory as well as sales reporting, eBooks and various other aspects of operations within a global illustrated publisher. 06h30*– Alarm sounds. Alarm silenced. Groggily check newsfeeds and personal emails, and generally avoid thinking about too much for 45 minutes or so. 07h15 – Shower, breakfast (if I’m awake enough, otherwise I’ll get something on the way to work), get dressed – which means deciding which of my exclusively navy or grey shirts or jumpers to wear with one of my pairs of Levi 511s.** 08h00 – This is when I begin working. I sit at my desk at home and clear my inbox before I leave the house. I started doing this a few months ago and it has really improved the way I work. It means I can get to the office knowing what I actually have to do, rather than noodling around in my inbox, making coffee, and generally procrastinating. If you’re interested, all emails are parsed into tasks and added to in a bastardised form of GTD that I’ve developed over the last couple of years. It’s important to do this properly, in front of a computer I find, rather than on the iPhone. I then leave the house feeling clear of mind, ready for the descent to the Northern Line, chest puffed, copy of The Economist in hand. 08h45-09h45 – Depending on the state of aforementioned inbox, I will arrive at work sometimes before eight and sometimes pushing ten. I avoid scheduling meetings before 10h00, and also I do not schedule meetings on Fridays as that is the day that I review the week, tie up any loose ends and plan the coming week’s work. Between now and my first meeting of the day I will review today’s task list and determine which tasks are the most important. I will then, depending on how long I have, try to tick off as many smaller tasks from the list. It gives a false sense of momentum which I long ago tricked myself into believing in. 10h00 – Usually this slot is reserved for a one-on-one with one of my team. I have two Production Directors, a Sales Operations Manager, a Trade Programme Manager and a Business Analyst in my team. It’s my job to make sure their goals are clear, we’re all heading in the same direction, and essentially to ensure they are happy and moving forwards. I enjoy these meetings, as it’s the time that I get to find out what’s going on, what’s working, and what needs fixing (thus giving me something to do). 11h00 – Mid-morning to lunch is when I like to properly tackle the first task of the day. For me, this could be something like drafting a company-wide notice on a change in shipping policy, requiring close reading of trade regulations and guidelines and phone discussions with freight forwarders (stay with me here) in order to ensure the company is doing things correctly and efficiently. Or, it could be reviewing sales and print volumes across the different formats that we publish in order to shape our negotiations with our print suppliers effectively. In general, I am usually looking for ways to make the business more efficient, to help people get things done more quickly, and to help them find time to do the things that in turn help the business be more effective. 13h00 – This is the time that I go for lunch, and as far as I’m concerned, this is the correct time for lunch. I may leave at 12h45 for lunch, and have been know to begrudgingly go at 12h30 if I must, but 12h00 is simply out of the question. This is a deep-seated, irrational belief so do not attempt to argue with me on this point. I am a bit of a foodie,*** so I always look forward to lunch as it’s an opportunity to visit some old favourites (the pizza in the Three Johns is very good, Vietnamese at Little Viet Kitchen comes with about a fiver’s worth of coriander and mint, falafel from Alturath on Chapel Market always a winner), or try out some new places. Either that or I will be fasting. **** 14h00-16h00 – Depending on the day, this will either be a continuation of what I call ‘actual work’ (i.e. completing tasks from my task list), or, as my beloved US colleagues begin to arrive in the office, this is usually the time given over to calls with them. I work closely with a US counterpart (who is of course not ‘Director of Publishing Operations’ but ‘Vice-President of…’) so we might catch up on transatlantic projects we’re working on, or we’ll just check in and let each other know what’s been going on. My boss is also based in the US so I might catch up with him, or some of the Ops and Inventory teams in the US. At the moment I am leading a big project to replace all of our various databases with a single solution that will enable US and UK teams to work together much more closely, so there is a weekly status update on this as well as training and discovery work to be done as we push this project onwards. 16h00-17h30 – I’ll try to do the final check of the inbox for the day and then try to use the last couple of hours of work to ensure that anything that absolutely must be finished today is done, and then I’ll start looking at tomorrow’s task list to see if there’s anything I can take care of today, and if there’s anything huge on the horizon that I’ve forgotten about and I need to go home and worry about while I lie awake in bed that night. It’s good to plan these things. I’ll also print out anything that I might want to read on the tube home – despite being a bit of a technophile, I’ve found over the last few years that to review documents with any level of thoroughness, they need to be printed out, and I need a red pen in my hand. 17h30 – The working day is done, and I will either jump straight on the tube home to cook dinner, or I’ll head to the superb Craft Beer Co. Pub some 300 yards from the office, where I’ll catch up with colleagues from all the other departments and find out what is really going on. * Yes, I do write times like this and I think it really annoys and/or confuses my US colleagues – which may have something to do with my persisting in it. ** Sadly this is not a Mark Zuckerberg-esque attempt to reduce decision fatigue and improve productivity. I am just rubbish at buying clothes and have realized while writing this article that I own a lot of very, very similar outfits. *** Believe me, I do not enjoy using that word. But what else? ‘Food enthusiast’? ‘Gourmand?’ ‘Gastronaut? **** Something I started doing about five years ago and have been doing with decreasing regularity since. If it is a fast day, this time table should be updated with a black coffee and a cigarette roughly every 60 minutes.

Do you need an ISBN? What’s its purpose?

This is a guest post by Stella Griffiths, Executive Director of the International ISBN Agency. Stella has worked in publishing and international standards related roles since 1989. She held managerial positions in both books and serials for over 10 years including roles at Wiley-Blackwell and Oxford University Press. Stella is the Convenor of the International Committee that is revising the ISBN Standard and is also Chair of the ISO Sub-committee that is responsible for Identification and Description Standards within the publishing, information and documentation sectors. You’re close to crafting that final sentence, you want to start thinking about cover designs and marketing and you’re wondering whether you also need to get one of those odd-looking 13-digit numbers and bar codes you’ve seen on the back of books. Is it just some weird code for people in the know? Such a small thing, can it really be so important? Those 13-digits may look insignificant but think of an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) as being instrumental in helping you to reach the widest possible audience. ISBN is an international standard first published under the auspices of ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) in 1970. First, let’s get some basics out of the way. ISBNs are assigned by publishers to identify books. Who is a publisher? A good way to think of it is as being the person or organisation that is responsible for taking the financial risk associated with the publishing project. Are you the one paying to get your book printed or turned into various digital formats? Will you only make money if the book sells well? If so, then you are the publisher of the book and should apply for ISBN. It’s not something that your printer or designer or digital producer should do for you. The essential concept of ISBN is really quite simple—each edition of a book that is produced by a particular publisher can be identified by a unique numerical string. The string remains associated with that specific book for all time, and can be used reliably to order it in any country. On a printed book, such as a paperback, the numbers of the ISBN are usually clearly visible on the bottom right of the back cover, either rendered simply as numbers or converted to bar-code form for easy and quick processing of sales. Such visibility has enabled ISBN to become a widely known and instantly familiar standard. Thanks to an agreement among ISBN, GS1 (at the time called EAN International), and the Uniform Code Council (UCC) that allowed ISBN to be encoded into an EAN-13 bar code, ISBN has facilitated EPoS (electronic point-of-sale) systems since the 1990s. Thus, books with ISBNs can be quickly checked into stock in bookshops, processed efficiently at the till point and the sales data captured. In practical terms, it would be almost impossible for a bookshop in the UK to handle a book that didn’t have a bar coded ISBN – in fact many shops would probably refuse to stock them since they would have to handle each process manually with the associated risks of error, increased cost and inefficiency. How did the book trade cope before ISBN? Quite simply, things were much more burdensome and even chaotic—manual, labour-intensive order forms, upon which full details of title, author, publisher, etc. had to be faithfully reproduced, were standard practice. In comparison, ISBN is a short “code” that can be verified and processed easily by machines; it quickly became an essential building block in the automated systems used by retailers, librarians, and publishers. It would be wrong to think ISBN is an identifier that’s applicable only for printed books. Right from the introduction of the very earliest audiobooks, microforms, and CD-ROMs, through to today’s PDF, EPUB and other digital formats, ISBN has not been a standard only for printed materials, though of course, print will always be important. In essence, ISBNs should be used to identify materials that are text-based, available to the public and in monographic form (i.e. publications that are not serials or periodicals). Just having a unique, supply chain accepted identifier for your book is important in itself – quoting the ISBN will ensure that exactly the right book is ordered and supplied in the precise format required. More than that though, the ISBN facilitates the compilation and updating of book-trade directories and bibliographic databases, such as books-in-print catalogues and importantly internet bookseller sites. It’s a proven fact that “metadata” can really help your book to be discovered and also, potentially, for it to sell more copies. The metadata are the essential facts about your book such as its title, author, date of publication, price, product form, subject codes, reviews, short and long description, jacket cover image, etc. The ISBN is the identifier “glue” that will associate all the other elements of the metadata record that describe your book and so enable information about it to be found easily. Producing good, accurate metadata is critical to your book’s success – it creates the shop window for your book. Unique ISBNs aid in discovery and disambiguation; they can also contribute to the marketing process by highlighting specific qualities in a publication, for example differentiating between product form details (e.g., whether a book is in PDF or EPUB formats), or between the accessibility options available for those with reading or print impairment. It’s very much the norm that the same content will be made available in a variety of different versions – different language editions in varying print formats, different digital formats, as well as perhaps audiobook and large print. Each of these is a unique product that must be described with its own distinct metadata and for that a separate ISBN is needed each time. ISBN can support you in the promotion and discovery of your book for each platform and channel that you want to target. ISBN can also help publishers and others in the supply chain to evaluate the success of books – the accumulation of sales data is done using ISBN. For example, publishers can monitor and analyse the varying successes of different product forms and editions of publications, as well as examining comparisons between different subject areas and even different publishing houses. ISBN is also important for authors and illustrators. In the UK, the Public Lending Right is based on the ISBN. This scheme enables authors and illustrators to receive payments proportionate to the number of times that their books are lent out by public libraries. In short ISBN may appear to be just a number, but it’s an identifier that punches above its weight. An ISBN can’t guarantee that you will make sales, but it can help pave the way for your book’s success.  

Startup Snapshot: Book Sprints

book sprintsAdam Hyde is the founder of the Book Sprints methodology, Co-Founder of the Collaborative Knowledge Foundation, and a current Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow. He also founded FLOSS Manuals, Booktype, Objavi, Lexicon, BookJS and PubSweet.

1. What exactly is Book Sprints?

Book Sprints, Ltd, is a team of facilitators, book-production professionals, and illustrators specialized in Book Sprint facilitation and rapid book production. Our organization developed the original methodology and has refined it since 2008 through the facilitation of more than 100 Book Sprints, in which a book is planned, written, and produced in five days or less. Topics have ranged from corporate documentation to industry guides, government policies, technical documentation, white papers, academic research papers, and activist manuals.

2. What problem does it solve?

A Book Sprint is a collaborative process where a book is produced from the ground up in just five days. But even more important, this collaborative process captures the knowledge of a group of subject-matter experts in a manner that would be nearly impossible using traditional processes. The result at the end of the Book Sprint is a high-quality finished book in digital and print-ready formats, ready for distribution.

3. Who is your target market?

Anyone that needs a book, fast! Having said that we seem to catch on very well with the Corporate Documentation sector and large NGOs who need to produce field guides and white papers. We have also produced a wide variety of books from OER textbooks, to fiction, to research outputs, as well as primary materials for PHD dissertations.

4. What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

We would hope more people would come to understand that Book Sprints is not just about producing books quickly; it’s about immersive collaboration, learning from your peers, creating fast bonds with them, and building consensus and a common vision.

5. What will be next for Book Sprints?

We have Book Sprints coming up soon with organizations like the World Bank, the U.S. Energy Association, Cisco, and F5. And we are in discussions about several education-related projects–a sector we are anxious to do more work in. Adam Hyde has also worked with and advised Safari Books Online, PLoS, the World Bank, Google Summer of Code, University of California Press, Liturgical Press, Augsburg Fortress Publishers, Cisco, F5, Cryptoparty, OpenStack, Open Oil, Sourcefabric, GIZ, USAID, Mozilla and the EC amongst others. For more information please see: book sprints

Why design matters: a photo/twitter blog

On Wednesday night EMC Design kicked off their 25th birthday celebrations in style by partnering with BookMachine to host our event ‘Why design matters: collaborating with your design team’. Our speakers for the night were David Pearson (cover designer behind some of Penguin’s most beautifully designed covers), Dan Franklin (digital publisher at Penguin Random House UK) and Ken Jones (founder of Circular Software). Here’s a round up of this sell-out night through tweets and pics: Head over to our Facebook page for more photos of the event.

Reading aloud: merging audio and text just got a lot easier

You may know that the modern EPUB3 standard has an inbuilt ability to hold audio and video, but one of the most intriguing aspects of EPUB3 that you may have overlooked is ‘Read-aloud’. This technique, sometimes called ‘media overlays’, combines a spoken audio track with accurate timing information usually used to highlight words on the page in time with the spoken audio.

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book designs

10 tips for better book designs

This is a guest post from Thomas Bohm. Thomas studied graphic communication, and now works for book publishers and businesses, whilst running User design a graphic communication design, illustration and production service. Thomas writes, researches and occasionally publishes. He wrote Punctuation..? (2nd edition, User design, 2012) a fun and fully illustrated book on punctuation. Has won awards from the following competitions: British Book Design and Production Awards, 3×3 Magazine and European Design Awards. Here are 10 tips for improving book designs, they come from my own practical experience and observations. There are many parts, processes and people involved in the production of a book, decisions are usually not down to one person alone, but a group of people each with their own requirements, understandings and style preferences. Subsequently a successful and open minded editorial/designer/client relationship is essential for good results.

1. Make the gutter as wide as it needs to be

Text in books is often hampered by the arch of the open book and falls into the gutter, which causes text which is hard to read and annoys readers because the text on the inner right side and inner left side bends into the gutter. One reason why this happens, is because the designer has failed to make the gutter wide enough.

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A non-technical, beginners’ guide to ONIX for Books

This is a guest post from Emma Barnes and Rob Jones. Emma and Rob are co-founders of General Products Ltd, and indie publisher Snowbooks. General Products is the company behind FutureBook-award-winning Bibliocloud, the web-based all-in-one publishing management system. Here is an edited extract from The Bibliocloud Book: read more at  About XML XML is one of those boring ideas that can make business run more smoothly, like ISBN numbers or barcodes. Really it’s just some general rules for how to write down information so that computers as well as people can read it – mainly computers, though. It’s not even a full set of rules; it’s just enough to help people make a start on designing their own formats for sharing information.

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Working in Publishing

Three things I learned that made working in publishing bearable

This is a guest post from Carl Pappenheim, owner of Spineless Classics about Working in Publishing Publishing is comfortably the most glamorous and educational industry going (well, after tech support of course) but working with text can be a trial.  Whether it’s a poorly formatted lengthy terms-of-business from a bureaucratic behemoth who want to give you a license, or just a poorly transcribed manuscript that was typed up by somebody’s myopic aunty on a Wordstar electric typewriter, at some point you’re going to be tearing at your elegantly coiffed hair with frustration at all the time you’re wasting filling in missing full-stops instead of getting into an event early enough to complain about the free wine.  I personally find such misuses of my time very trying, so in a generous attempt to lessen the misery for others I present to you three things that have greatly reduced my stress of working in publishing over the past few years.

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How publishing for different devices impacts design [SPONSORED POST]

Many design companies, like us here at HL Studios, come from a print or web-based background and have had to do some serious upgrading (of software, equipment and especially skills) to keep up with the multitude of digital devices available on the market today. Designing for these devices is quite complex, as each device has different characteristics that impact on the user experience.

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50 Years of Book Production

David BannDavid Bann has worked in production at Penguin, Rainbird and, most recently, Michael O’Mara Books. Here he takes a look back at the dramatic changes that have taken place in the way books are produced, since the 1960s.

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