Connecting the Editorial and Production Processes

By David Alan Rech of Scribe Inc.


All of our staff possess a base level of skills. That base level includes the ability to use regular expressions in searching and replacing, a general knowledge of XML and specific ability to apply Scribe Markup Language, full use of the tools and features of Microsoft Word, HTML development, and e-book development.

We have cross-trained a number of our staff so that they are proficient in editorial and production processes. Many are fully competent in script writing and visual basic for macros. We have created a learning environment, where the sharing of information, avoidance of the repetition of errors, and the goal of constant improvement are central. Because everyone works in an electronic environment, the use of paper has dropped to zero.

Through the use of our production system, we have been testing a theory about the editorial and production process for several years. Unequivocally, we have confirmed that the best way to gain efficiencies in book publishing is to connect the editorial and production process. Here is a preliminary summary of the results:

Overall editorial time is down, as is administrative time involved in producing books. We see fewer problems arising in the typesetting and proofing stage, and a smaller number of alterations in pages. Information between staff members is conveyed in clearer manners, thus avoiding problems and additional communication.

This has lead to a dramatic reduction in the time spent on corrections and alterations. The incidence of editorial errors has gone down, as well as the time to correct errors. Error reporting is done in an electronic manner that allows those entering corrections to use the search and replace functions of software. This speeds up the corrections process and limits missed, or typographical, errors.

Elements, like tables, figures, or "oddly" formatted information take less time to typeset and prepare for e-books. Since editors know how these elements will behave in print and electronic, they are frequently taking steps to avoid difficult to manage displays of information (this is one area that Scribe is currently exploring to improve developmental editing) or presenting it ways that make typesetting easier.

Problems, especially those within complex mathematical, medical, and scientific are addressed earlier in the process. It's cliché that a "stitch in time saves nine," but our data confirms that addressing issues in the preliminary editorial stages cuts the total amount of time on a project down significantly.

Editorial staff has learned to separate structure from rendering (a must in XML workflows). This has reduced the amount of time spent "formatting" publications.

Those editing and typesetting books have a common set of nomenclature. The consistency gained has cut down the amount of time to create publications, especially in those areas where automation can be achieved.

Projects move more smoothly through production and deadlines are less frequently missed. Obviously, by having people crossed-trained we are able to eliminate bottlenecks in the publishing chain. But this seems to be only part of the explanation.

There is an ancillary bonus of a dramatic drop in printing and shipping costs. Scribe has not used a ream of paper since 2008, and our shipping bills have dropped to nearly zero since then.

No matter how we perform the analysis, one thing is clear. The historic divisions that exist between editorial and production process are out-dated and a hindrance to good publishing.