Digital Publishing: Efficiencies Gained

By Susan Doerr of University of Minnesota Press


Since the inception of our digital publishing efforts at the University of Minnesota Press, the work of making and selling ebooks has added to our traditional editorial, production, and marketing processes.

We have sought to alter our workflow and find digital tools to make the publishing process more efficient. Our thinking has shifted from a print-centric mindset, to book-in-many-formats mindset. In January 2013 we began looking for a vendor partner with the tools that would unify the manuscript editorial and production process, and we chose Scribe.

A benefit of transitioning our production workflow is that we are reexamining and improving systems beyond the production department. The shift has led to better record keeping and database management. We have transitioned several paper-based processes to digital, modified our database to catalog and track our interior content rights (something previously done with Excel spreadsheets), and reconfigured our transmittal meetings to now include digital format decision making, earlier in the publication cycle than it had been. Before adopting the Scribe workflow we were moving away from paper to digital routing of manuscripts for copyediting, and as a result of adopting this workflow and the accompanying toolset, we have moved to a fully digital copyediting process—a goal toward which we had been working. Press-wide we are becoming more efficient and meeting the demands of the market in a better way.

The training process in implementing Scribe’s Well-Formed Document Workflow—which addressed tasks in both editorial and production—has resulted in more cross-department collaboration and has also led to a deeper appreciation and respect across roles in the publishing process. The University of Minnesota Press has a collaborative culture, but our work is often done in departmental silos. The workflow transformation is making the work of each department more visible to other departments.

We’ve encountered challenges during the six months we’ve been using the system. Our copyediting and composition are handled by freelancers, which has led our managing editors to create robust guidelines for our copyeditors. The first project that each copyeditor works on is taking on average twenty-five percent more managing editor time as they explain and work through the new system with the copyeditors; all but one of our eighteen copyeditors are moving forward with us. Our first projects are now moving into typesetting, where we anticipate similar increases in staff time at first, but over the next year we hope to become fifteen to twenty percent more efficient (both in time and money) in typesetting as a result of the Scribe workflow.

The savings on conversions into e-book formats impacts both time to market and money, and our cash savings from moving away from conversions is greater than the cost of using the Scribe workflow for a year.

Several members of our team offered these thoughts on the workflow change:

“It is absolutely worth it. We need to adapt; we should have done this sooner.” (Editorial Production) “I was surprised that it wasn’t that difficult.” (Acquisitions Editorial) “We’re becoming more efficient.” (Marketing)

We know the future will bring more change. We expect this “new” workflow will evolve. We believe that the change in our production workflow will allow us to adapt and flourish.

In the Scribe Newsletter, we publish articles contributed by publishing professionals with something valuable to contribute to our collective knowledge. Articles represent a variety of perspectives, which we welcome, some of which we agree with and others we do not. This month’s article happens to speak positively about Scribe, for which we are thankful. Susan Doerr, author of this month’s feature article, is Operations and Business Development Manager at the University of Minnesota Press. By way of full disclosure, the University of Minnesota Press is a client of Scribe with whom we have a working relationship. However, Scribe did not dictate or control what Susan wrote; rather, we are publishing the article that she delivered.