In May this year, three wrestling matches were held in a library. Two small poetry publishers, Sidekick Books and The Emma Press, nominated their champions for the ‘Pamphleteers’ grand slam, roared about their scrapping prowess and set them against each other in a no-holds-bard smackdown. Pamphlet took on pamphlet, and the poetry pitted dinosaurs against dragons, witches against sinister government agencies and, most curiously of all, mackerel salad against Angela Lansbury.
For many of the book publishers I work with the use of freelancers is an integral part of their workflow. Some companies offer their internal design and editorial staff the opportunity of working from home and use remote working on projects with colleagues based in other locations.
It might not be for everyone, but working from home (or the café or in fact anywhere that isn’t the office) can increase concentration, creativity and productivity.
Of course, there are also times when coming together as a team is important. Modern connectivity means instant written, spoken and even face to face communication are all becoming commonplace but for publishers the everyday challenges of reading through or viewing a designed page, keeping track of progress and exchanging comments can still be mundane, lengthy and potentially risky.
In recent years several software companies, including my own, have brought out solutions to connect creative people who are working together but remotely. In this article I have a look at some of the different solutions available.
Let’s be clear. Email is OK for general communications but it should never be used when sharing the large files we deal with in illustrated book publishing. I’d also strongly recommend avoiding it for collaborating or sharing proofs and comments.
Wetransfer offer a neat and free solution to send big files to one or more others. It is simple and reliable, better than FTP, and more features come with the paid version.
However, if working within a team then centralising your file sharing is much smarter than passing copies of files between each other. Google Drive, Box, Hightail and others offer ways to share centralised access to your files.
Dropbox offer this too and, in my opinion, have the best solutions for managing files within a creative team. I really like Dropbox desktop integration and synchronisation. Files sit in a regular folder on your PC or Mac, you can work offline and files are then synced when online. It’s worth knowing about their ‘selective sync‘ feature: this lets you choose which folders you wish to access locally in order to free up space whilst knowing all other files are safe, available to others and easily retrievable.
There are ways to restrict access to certain areas and to prevent overwriting. Whilst I would not recommend relying upon Dropbox as your only backup solution, their paid version automatically saves every version of every file, and you can revert to a previous version if you need to.
Whilst the creative process is happening then working together on the same publication and even on the same page becomes important.
As well as holding your files centrally Hightail and Dropbox also offer the ability to share PDF and image files for commenting and will notify users when comments are added.
Futureproofs is a cloud-based system designed by an experienced editor that focuses on the jobs that editors, proofreaders, authors and designers actually do. Its quick, precise annotation tools combine traditional standards-based markup with modern gesture recognition. Their built-in collaboration tools help your whole team stay on top of queries and decisions, and real-time data give deep insight into project management. Deadlines, live notifications and tracking are all held online for easy access.
MasterPlan is a planning, tracking and commenting system for your entire publishing team. Multiple projects can be planned out and their progress viewed in the browser. Changes made in InDesign are instantly pushed to an online overview. Clicking on a thumbnail opens spreads in a retina quality preview where annotations can be drawn and comments added. Back in InDesign these comments are pulled down onto the InDesign page.
Rather than using unwieldly email threads, those working in publishing teams can benefit from using messaging and chat. Slack, HipChat and Skype chat are all ways to communicate quickly and to keep everyone in touch about day to day minutiae. Also, Masterplan connects with Slack to let colleagues know whenever InDesign pages are changed or comments are added.
Messaging apps build up a well presented project specific shared history that can be easily filtered and searched. You can direct questions at certain people and mark important info for later reference using @ and # tags when necessary and all in a more immediate way that is ideal for team communication.
It is helpful to have a way to be able to dip out and back in to threads of product info without having to hunt through a mixture of other emails.
Sometimes a quick live screen share can really help with describing or resolving a particular point. Google Hangouts, Skype and Zoom all offer free ways to do this.
For big projects that start to require some project management it is worth looking at larger tools like BaseCamp and Trello which can become a central single location for messages, to-dos and timelines.
Commenting and approval
Towards the end of the design and editorial stages there are several options for sharing proofs, adding comments and receiving approval. Also, people outside of the design teams may well need to sign off on a project too.
Although Futureproofs and MasterPlan offer commenting and approval tailored to fit into the workflow of book publishers, if you would prefer a more simple online proof approval on a file by file basis then other tools such as ProofHQ, GoProof and PageProof are all available.
Of these PageProof stands out as a well thought-out option which also handles setting up of approval chains. These mean the next person who needs to approve a piece gets notified at the right time. It integrates with Adobe InDesign, InCopy, Photoshop, and Illustrator and even allows commenting on video and audio files. PageProof is also fully encrypted so this might be an option if ‘for your eyes only’ security is important.
For those looking for a custom branded file sharing and commenting and Digital Asset Management system then FileCamp may fit the bill.
Outputting for production
GreenLight is a simple system that ensures that your house style and production rules are applied to all InDesign files in your workflow. Instantly updated checklists of rules and presets are shared with all remote workers and if a problem is found then the area of InDesign page is highlighted and online help pages show how to amend them. When files are ready, GreenLight can also be used to output approved final PDFs and prepare final files.
So, these days, there are real alternatives available to the fiddly and time consuming practice of sending around PDFs, long confusing email trails of feedback and scribbled on print outs.
When making your choice, think about the type and length of publications you produce, the number of people within your creative teams, the amount and order of final approvals required and who is to make the final files for production.
MasterPlan and GreenLight are my company’s tools. I’ve tried to be impartial and fair in my recommendations of these and others.
I hope you find this article useful, if you have any other favourites then please let me know in the comments below.
Ken Jones is a publishing software expert with over ten years experience as Technical Production Manager, software trainer and developer Penguin Group UK. Now specialising in writing workflow applications and offering training and consultancy for publishers on print and digital workflows.
Ken’s company ‘Circular Software’ provides software tools and services for a range of illustrated book publishing customers including Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Thames & Hudson and Nosy Crow.
Matt Haslum is Marketing Director at Faber & Faber and is speaking at our next event: ‘Marketing vs Design, which matters more?’. Before publishing, Matt spent 8 years building an award-winning digital creative agency. Since joining Faber, he has built a list-focused consumer marketing team alongside an award-winning website and Membership programme.
1) When did you first know that you were interested in a career in marketing?
When I saw one of my first ever copy lines (as part of my first creative agency job interview) appear on a press ad. It was a great feeling, and from that moment I have taken real pride in seeing my work in ad form, whether it’s on outdoor, radio/TV, digital or social.
2) How do you work with designers in your current role?
Faber’s marketing team works with our in-house creative team, in-house design resource and external designers and our digital agency. We are involved in the cover process, we collaborate on jacket-led creative for campaigns and work together on briefing design both in and out of house.
3) Any tips for marketers who need to communicate effectively with their designer colleagues?
Here are 3 tips that I think are important:
1. Be extremely clear during the briefing process. Don’t leave things to assumption, unless you’ve worked extensively with a designer who knows you well. This will achieve the results you want quicker and more accurately.
2. Give context – background and aims – and a don’t over-brief look and feel, as that is what you are trusting a good designer to bring to the project.
3. Don’t write lengthy feedback. Make notes on the design so it can be implemented in situ / context, rather than the designer having to read, digest and then try to figure out actually what you mean. There are loads of collaboration tools online which are used a lot for web design, but I think they are great for campaign creative feedback too.
4) What might we hear about in your talk on November 2nd (don’t share it all…)?
Hopefully lots of interesting things! Maybe a little bit on collaboration, awareness of both teams needs in terms of creative output, growing skills and knowledge. All that sort of good stuff…
You can hear Matt in London on 2nd November at Marketing vs Design: Which matters more? Grab a ticket here.
Lindsay Sutherland is an Acquisitions Editor at Emond Publishing and has been in the industry for 13 years – primarily in the Educational Publishing sector. Lindsay lives and works in Toronto with her husband and son, and when she’s not reading she’s probably watching the Gilmore Girls. Here she discloses her dos and don’ts for successful author negotiations.
This is a guest post from Jasmin Kirkbride. Jasmin is a regular blogger for BookMachine and Editorial Assistant at Periscope Books (part of Garnet Publishing). She is also a published author and you can find her on Twitter @jasminkirkbride
Collaboration is the rage at the moment, yet the misleadingly straightforward word can hide a minefield of possible pitfalls: how do you reach out to others to start collaborating? And once you’ve formed a partnership, how do you maintain your needs and vision whilst still allowing for those of others? Collaboration can be pretty scary if you haven’t tried it before and if you’ve had a bad experience, it can be even more intimidating.
So what’s the answer? According to workshop leader Jamie Catto, the key is to think bananas!
Paul Rhodes is one of our top speakers at BookMachine Unplugged. He currently runs Orb Entertainment, and previously spent around 15 years across HarperCollins and Walker Books in a variety of strategic, Business Development and digital roles. We interviewed him to find out more.
John Bond has spent over twenty years in UK trade publishing, encompassing roles such as Marketing Director at Penguin and Group Sales and Marketing Director at HarperCollins. In April this year, he co-founded whitefox, a service designed to ‘cut through the clutter, using the right talent for the right project in the right way.’
Many of you know whitefox, a popular publishing services agency for publishers, agents, authors and brands. BookMachine and whitefox have been plotting ways to celebrate their 5th birthday party – and here we have it, an event to discuss creative collaboration & the future of publishing.
Writers, agents, publishers and institutional brands are all grappling with the same dilemma: how to produce high-quality books and state of the art digital content whilst at the same time judiciously managing their costs. Project management includes multiple internal and external connections and skillsets.
Take a glimpse into the crystal ball of publishing with three experts and understand how the ever-evolving role of creative collaboration will affect all of us in the future.
whitefox will be celebrating with drinks for everyone after the talks.
1) When did you first know that you were interested in a career in design?
I could always draw and had lots of ideas at school, and before I knew what design was I was producing things like posters and theatre programs.
Thanks to some great teachers and lecturers, I was gradually nudged towards graphic design. I fell into book cover work in a desperate attempt to find a job alongside thousands of other graduates, and loved it. That was sixteen years ago.
2) How do you work with marketers in your current role?
Most of the time, cover designers just package the books. Even though I believe we should be part of a team which brands authors, their books and their campaigns as one overall entity, the industry doesn’t seem to agree, which I think is a real missed opportunity.
Sometimes I’m asked to pitch for a branding project, where my design can translate across mediums, but it generally stops there. Indy publishing is an exception, where authors have to take ownership of their own design and marketing, and look for designer’s help and advice out with just the book’s packaging.
3) Any tips for designers who need to communicate effectively with their colleagues in marketing?
Push to be involved in marketing, even just to consult, but acknowledge the expertise of marketers. Link in with them, translating your designs into brand values that can be taken through to a successful campaign.
4) What might we hear about in your talk on November 2nd (don’t share it all…)?
A rally cry for everyone to work together more.
You can hear Mark in London on 2nd November at Marketing vs Design: Which matters more? Grab a ticket here.
Adam 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: http://www.adamhyde.net/projects/
This is Sara Donaldson’ s second guest blog post. Sara is a freelance editor with an eye for a mystery. When not editing a range of projects (mostly non-fiction) she can be found with her Sherlock hat on as a professional genealogist. You can find her on Twitter @psychodwarf
In case you missed it, it’s the New Year. On the horizon are a few months of crossing out the date when you write 2014, wondering where the last year went and a barrage of people telling you how to de-tox, de-clutter and deliver your business.
Charly Ford is a Project Manager at Osprey Publishing and is hosting the BookMachine event in Oxford. Here, Charly shares her enthusiasm for publishing and tells us why you should come along and join the fun later this month.
In the run up to BookMachine Unplugged we interviewed Dean Johnson of Brandwidth. Dean will be talking at Unplugged about Brandwidth’s latest project The Numinous Place – an example of multiple partners working together to produce a new fictional experience for readers.