Is this normal in publishing?
March 26, 2011 12:10 PM   Subscribe

I've just started a job as a production editor at a magazine and am wondering if our company is behind the times. Whenever I want to make any sort of change to a document, even something like adding a period to the end of a sentence, I have to ask someone in the layout department do it. I have no way of making any changes myself. Is this how all publishers work? Seems rather old-fashioned to me.
posted by shelayna to Work & Money (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This is how we do it at a mid-size publishing house. Once a piece leaves editorial and enters production (so, from galley on) only creative services people (production and designers) can make physical changes to the piece. All the changes come from editorial, of course, but CS are the ones with actual control over it. Our pages go to galley, get designed, and get edited and corrected in several rounds (an editorial staff member checks the changes at each point to make sure they were all made). The editor works with the CS people to make sure things that can't just be marked in proofreading (photo corrections, design issues) get fixed.

It's a good way to do it. There should only be one version (and one person/team controlling that version) at any given time.
posted by peachfuzz at 12:23 PM on March 26, 2011

That's version control. There are two sets of eyes (at least) at each stage of production. If you want a period placed, you mark it, a production artist makes the change, and you (or a proofer, or whoever is designated at that stage) checks it. That last person who ok's that version to move on to the next stage of production is responsible for its quality at that stage, so allowing just anyone to make changes at any time removes both accountability and ownership. The idea, too, is to have as many of those periods properly placed as possible before it goes into production, because changes get more complicated and more expensive the farther along you are in the process.
posted by headnsouth at 12:34 PM on March 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

Not all publisher work that way. InDesign/InCopy workflows are pretty popular (depending on what kind of publishing you do).
posted by ifandonlyif at 12:42 PM on March 26, 2011

I run the design dept. of a newspaper, and when I first started, this is how we did things - the main reason is because we were laying things out in InDesign and we didn't want to buy $500 copies of the program to give to copyeditors.

So I incorporated a InCopy/InDesign workflow (mainly because newspaper work relies heavily on daily deadlines and we just didn't have time as designers to make all of these changes). This allows the text of a story/headline/caption/whatever to be 'checked out' so the designer can continue to work on the page without any major hiccups. It works for us though it was difficult at first, and fairly expensive to set up, though it's saved us major amounts of time with efficiency.
posted by kerning at 12:49 PM on March 26, 2011

Yep, InCopy is the solution to this. It lets the editorial side update anything textual in a layout without having too much capacity to break things.
posted by limeonaire at 4:44 PM on March 26, 2011

You're right this is old fashioned, or at least not as efficient as current software allows.

I'm an associate editor at a magazine (~450K), and we don't have the most up-to-date software (they're in the process of selecting and purchasing a new editorial and production software system) but we do use NewsEdit with InCopy/InDesign, as several have mentioned.

To give you an idea of our general workflow: I write my story/content, including any elements like bylines or headlines or impact boxes, and put in meta data about the file. I assign it to the copy editor, who edits it with track changes on and puts notes in it, then re-assigns it to me to accept the changes or address any questions. This then goes to a designer to lay it out. The designer sends it back to me, and I make any changes necessary (like cutting it or fixing something I missed before). I sent it back to the designer and ask them to make any design changes I noticed were needed or to re-lay it out if some of my changes affected the layout (introduced widows/orphans, created additional space somewhere, etc.) We go back and forth until I OK the piece. They PDF it and another editor looks it over one more time. If he/she notices anything, they make the change in the file and then ask the designer to re-PDF it. After it's completely approved on our end, it goes to the online department, which has its own content management system to import our files.

Not every piece goes through the same process. For bigger stories, it goes through several other editors beyond the copy editor — and back to me between each to answer/address questions. But the editor > designer > editor > designer process is the same. I make the changes and only ask them to fix it if I screw the layout up or if some design element is missing or messed up.
posted by ilikemethisway at 5:02 PM on March 26, 2011

I realize it can be really frustrating for editors and copywriters to have to allow designers to make the final change but I may be able to offer you another perspective as a designer. Something seemingly small (like adding a period) can change line breaks, create orphans, cause rivers and other issues that a designer will be more sensitive to. Of course the designers could always go back in after you and make sure everything is cleaned up, but as kerning mentioned above, that would require another software license and still not really save much in terms of process because the designer would have to touch it again after you anyway.
posted by halseyaa at 8:53 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Something seemingly small (like adding a period) can change line breaks, create orphans, cause rivers and other issues that a designer will be more sensitive to.

Yeah, that is the one thing—if you have someone on the editorial side updating text (and there really should only be one point person for that) through InCopy, that person needs to have an impeccable eye for detail/design, and should be checking after every change that it didn't cause the text to reflow badly. This person should also be someone you can trust not to rewrite copy capriciously. I've worked for a publication using InCopy where the editorial point person was someone who routinely broke layouts/caused reflows/made bizarre edits after everyone else had seen the layout, and let me tell you, it drove the designers and other editors absolutely crazy. You have to really be able to trust whoever it is you're having make the edits.
posted by limeonaire at 4:18 PM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

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