06 May 2012

Understanding the publishing process

Publishing a document can be harder than it looks. If you have ever had to help a colleague, boss or client get a document published in a ridiculously short amount of time, you will know how helpful it would be if they understood all the steps involved, what could go wrong, and how much time is required.

If only all clients could be well informed. At least you can educate yourself, and a good place to start is this promotional video by the company Inís Communication, which focuses on the development sector. Since Inís offers a wide range of publishing services, the video provides a useful overview of the types of issues involved in developing a corporate document.

This information could be helpful for anybody who asks the question 'why does production take so long?'. After all, they probably just ran over time on developing and agreeing on the text and want to see the finished product already! A quick look at this video should clarify that a professional document requires some important decisions and involves a series of steps that take time. While some of these steps can be compressed, run in parallel or even skipped, you risk having a poor result. And if you are planning a major document for your institution, it is likely that you cannot afford to take those sorts of risks.

Publication steps
Procedures covered in the video include:.
  • Client consultation (getting a clear brief from the person or team that wants the publication). What is the expected outcome? What is the overall scope of the project?
  • Target audience and format. Messaging and tone, print vs electronic, overall nature of the result and how it will be used (what do you want to achieve as a result?).
  • Filling the blanks: research and re-writing to get the contents to reflect the intended result. This addresses tone and length, structure and content, and overall messages and impact.
  • Editing (language appropriate to the audience, accuracy, grammar and ease of reading). Note that this is a crucial stage and cannot be easily truncated. If your document was written by a member of your staff, or had inputs from a whole range of people, there is a strong possibility that the text simply does not match the needs of your target audience. Many institutional texts need substantial editing and even re-writing before they become truly accessible to diverse audiences. 
  • Design (layout concept, visual identity, style and impact). The same as your prior documents? Or something new: modern or traditional, serious or fun?
  • Layout (illustrations, photos, use of colours and space). This is also the stage for the final proofing of text. It is your last chance to correct errors (but the text should already be edited! This is also not a time for re-writing, so plan accordingly). 
  • Adaptation to other outputs e.g. web, ebooks etc. (these should have been planned in advance).
  • Production - printing, XML and web, loading into ebookstores etc.
Don't forget the final important steps in promoting your publication! Consider how it will be released to the news media and other defined audiences. Will it be online in time for your public announcement? Are the files big enough to download or send by email? Should you put them on digital platforms like Issuu or Slideshare? Will it be sold or released through Amazon or the iTunes store