Best Practices in Editorial Project Management for Publishers

Best Practices in Editorial Project Management for Publishers

What is Editorial Project Management?

In the world of publishing, editorial project management refers to overseeing all the processes and functions involved in transitioning a manuscript to a printed/electronic version for consumption of the end-readers.  However, within this broad definition lies a range of tasks, including the following:

  • Dealing and coordinating with authors and other stakeholders
  • Ensuring that the manuscript is edited, type-set, proofread, illustrated, indexed and converted to a print/digital version
  • Providing detailed briefs about each of the above tasks and ensuring that they are carried out to the letter
  • Co-ordinating with freelancers and suppliers and providing them with the necessary feedback
  • Coordinating all activities and holding regular team meetings for brainstorming and negotiating any problems that may arise
  • Checking for permissions and ensuring there is no violation of copyright material or intellectual property
  • Sourcing of missing content
  • Checking artwork and getting approvals from the author/sponsor
  • Co-ordinating with stakeholders and keeping them updated on the progress of the project
  • Approving budgets and overseeing all other financial arrangements
  • Ensuring that the project progresses within the budget and timeframe,and is delivered to the highest standards
  • Maintaining a project sheet and ensuring standard or in-house style guide is consistently applied throughout the conversion journey from manuscript to the final output – whether it is a print or an electronic version of the book
  • Anticipating and solving all problems that may arise along the way
  • Taking overall responsibility for the project – right from inception to the final deliverables

Who Performs the Editorial Project Management Tasks?

In-house and external project managers: Traditionally, editorial project management was mainly done in-house, but given the complexities of the tasks involved, many companies are now outsourcing the entire project management or keeping certain aspects, for example, design and creating type specifications, in-house, and hiring external project managers to manage other tasks such as editing, proofreading, indexing and formatting. In such a situation, the in-house project manager should brief the external project manager to do some or all of these tasks.

Packagers: This is generally a typesetting company that is hired to manage a large number of titles for publishers. In a normal workflow, packagers are provided an initial brief and after that they work independently of the sourcing company.

Copy Editors: Many companies prefer to outsource their copy-editing and proofreading requirements. In fact, a freelance project manager could also be the copy editor, proof-reader or typesetter of the project.

Becoming a project manager requires a lot of experience, skills and knowledge; and excellent organizational skills. When you hire editorial project managers, they will bring their own workflows to the table, it is important to ensure that best practices of editorial project management are followed.

Here are some editorial project management best practices that project managers should follow.

  1. Understand the Project: Define the goals, objectives and requirements. Determine the resources you will need to take it to its logical conclusion and also assess the risks and how you will negotiate them along the way.
  2. Examine the Content: You may also take into confidence your copy editor to assess the structure and use of language in the manuscript and calculatethe extent of the main text and features. Also consider the format and digital blend, and review multimedia and features required to create a digital version.
  3. Scheduling: Create efficiency and critical path; and estimate time and schedule tools and tips.
  4. Budgeting: Determine the costs and assess the profitability of the project. Also, create a contingency plan while keeping within the budget.
  5. Manage the Team: Depending on the work requirements, match capabilities and put together an effective team to give shape to the project. Create detailed briefs to share with each member of the team. You may also need to work with freelancers, and in this case, you will have to negotiate the fees.
  6. Hold an Initial Project Kick-Off Meeting: The meeting will help align all the stakeholders to the goals of the editorial project. Communicate with all members their roles and the tasks they have to perform. Share with them the briefs you have prepared so they are clear about their roles and duties.
  7. Create a Work Definition Document: Clearly explain and document the scope and objectives of the project and also responsibility for each task. Also, make sure to define the procedures upfront so the team members know what to expect and what is expected of them.
  8. Create a Workflow and Plan: This is another crucial factor for successful editorial project management as it ensures that work is carried out within time and budget. This document serves as a reference guide for all team members to accomplish their tasks.
  9. Document Real-time data: Everything needs to be accounted for and the best way to do this is to document everything. In case anything happens, it becomes easier to trace the source of the problem and fix it. Also, with everything documented, you will have all the data you need for actionable insights and better decision-making.
  10. Communicate Effectively: Schedule regular meetings to ensure that the editorial project is on track and all members are meeting their milestones. Effective communication will help you anticipate problems and avoid any delay in project delivery due to misunderstandings.
  11. Track Progress: Continuous tracking is essential in editorial project management. Monitor the progress and performance of each member. Ask for progress reports and record difference, if any, between actual and planned schedule, scope and cost. Be flexible and adjust the plan should the need arise.
  12. Read and respond to warning signs: Keep a look out for any warning signs that could cause a variance in the schedule and delivery or compromise the quality of deliverables.
  13. Manage the scope of the project: In case of any change in scope, ensure that it is approved by the project sponsor as it will directly impact the schedule and budget. Additional tasks, not previously approved upon, could extend deadline and also add to the cost of the project.
  14. Attend to all issues immediately: Small issues can become big if they are not addressed immediately. Attend to all issues at the onset to ensure that the editorial project proceeds smoothly.

In conclusion

As with other project management disciplines, editorial project management is all about effective listening and communication. Start slowly and test waters as you go. Expect that you will have to make adjustments along the way and be ready with a contingency plan should you anticipate any problems along the way. Learn from your experiences, document everything, and use the data for better decision-making and creating best practices in editorial project management specific to your company.