Fall Meeting Recap
By Margaret Hentz
For indexers, and especially freelancers, it’s important to know how our services fit into the bigger picture of book production. At our fall meeting, Minta Berry of SettingPace, LLC gave us an overview of K–12 textbook production. Cheryl Lenser, Senior Indexer for Pearson Education, continued our “big picture” theme by looking at the interaction between the indexing and production workflows.
Minta Berry broke the K–12 textbook production process down into six major steps: 1) the decision to publish, 2) research and development, 3) budget approval, 4) product development, 5) publishing, and 6) sales.
The decision to publish reflects the natural cycles in a textbook’s life, which typically include revision every five to ten years. Usually the larger a book’s market, the shorter the revision cycle is. A number of factors influence the decision to publish or revise a book. Changes in the knowledge base are especially important in the science and social studies areas in order to incorporate the latest research. Textbooks’ content and design must also keep pace with trends in education, such as the current trend to emphasize understanding concepts over rote learning.A major driver in the decision to publish is the process of adoption calls. Twenty-two states are “adoption states,” in which the state legislatures choose the textbooks that can be used in public schools. This is a highly political process with high stakes for publishers. New and revised state standards are a major factor in all states, and publishers increasingly find themselves customizing books for individual state standards.
Once a book is slated for publishing or revising, the research and development stage begins. A sample chapter is drafted, the book’s outline and special features are developed, and the budget is proposed. Next, a prototype is produced, tested by a focus group, and refined. Market research guides the visual direction, scope of support resources, and sales targets.
The budget approval process addresses many tradeoffs and challenging risk–reward decisions. Budget approval is complicated by delays in state textbook adoption dates—which sometimes compress the publishing timeframe significantly—and by ever-tightening state and school district budgets, which delay firm commitments on textbook purchases.
In the product development stage, the editorial department oversees the experts writing the manuscript, edits the text, checks facts, reviews and copyedits the manuscript, develops front and end matter, develops detailed correlations, and obtains text permissions. The creative department finalizes the design, conducts photo research, develops art and illustrations, and reviews page proofs. The production department creates proof pages, usually performing two to three passes, until the final copy is ready for the printer. The technology department develops digital versions of books and creates ancillary products, such as interactive maps, to support the text or the teacher. Many publishers are shifting from a textbook-driven process to a technology-driven process, in which textbooks may become smaller as technology offerings increase.
By the time a book goes into production, also known as the publishing stage, adoption states have a fixed date for delivery of the entire offering (text, teacher’s edition, all ancillaries, technology, and Spanish edition). All items must be published by that date.
The sales stage is more involved in adoption states than in open territories. In open territories, publishers sell directly to school districts and see revenue within three to nine months. In adoption states, sales happen only after a lengthy process of adoption hearings, feedback, revisions, and a final adoption decision. Because of this process, publishers don’t realize revenue until twelve to fifteen months.
Cheryl Lenser reviewed the production workflows for embedded indexing and dynamic indexing at Pearson Education. She showed how indexing fits into the production and post-production processes, which include composition, manufacturing, electronic conversion, sales, and marketing.
The Indexing Processes
In the embedded indexing workflow, the indexer receives copyedited text files in batches and inserts appropriate indexing codes, depending on the software used. The project editor sends the tagged files, in batches, to the compositor for layout. The index is not compiled until the entire book is laid out and paginated. The editor then sends the compiled index to the indexer for editing. The indexer edits only the index, not the corresponding embedded codes in the text; the advantage here is not having “live” embedded codes, but rather allowing indexing and composition to happen at the same time, thereby shortening the production cycle.
The dynamic indexing process is a little different. The indexer receives HTML files with paragraph reference numbers that have been inserted by a tagging vendor. The indexer uses the paragraph numbers instead of page numbers as locators. The project editor proofreads the index and sends it to the compositor, who converts the paragraph numbers to page numbers. Proofreading of the final index is done by the project editor, not the indexer. Dynamic indexing is well suited to highly structured books, because the paragraph numbers correspond well with content “chunks.”
The Bigger Picture
Both types of indexing allow much of the composition workflow to happen concurrently with indexing. While the indexer is working on batches of chapters, the book goes through three layout/review/proofreading passes. After the index is complete, the compositor produces the table of contents and folios, and compiles the index. Once the final pages are proofread, they proceed on to manufacturing (production).
The manufacturing workflow begins with the production of plates according to the required signatures and number of colors. Signatures are the printed, folded sections of a book that are stitched together during binding, and they are always in multiples of four leaves (eight numbered pages); thus, the cost of adding an additional signature sometimes limits the physical space available for the index. The finished plates may be used on different types of presses depending on the quantity of books to be printed.
Web presses are used for large runs and print on rolls of paper, whereas sheet-fed presses print on single signature-size sheets; in both methods, the printed paper is then folded, cut, bound, and finished. Digital printing, used mostly for smaller print-on-demand projects, does not use signatures.
In the book finishing process, extra elements like CDs or DVDs are added during binding. Finished books are packed and shipped to distribution centers for delivery to bookstores.
While the books are being printed, the electronic products are also being finished. Pearson Education’s electronic initiatives include electronic access to manuscripts before copyediting and composition; selling their books in electronic format via Safari (safaribooksonline.com); and watermarked ebooks— PDFs that are sold directly from Pearson’s InformIT website.
Marketing and sales start two months or more before the books are shipped. Copies of business books are sent out to reviewers two months before printing, and praise quotes are added to the cover or interior of the book shortly before the ship date. Information on computer imprints appears in catalogs and on vendors’ websites several months in advance of printing. Publishers also promote upcoming releases at various industry conferences. After books are printed, electronic and brick-and-mortar bookstores run their promotions.
Both presentations gave attendees a valuable window into the worlds of our clients. Understanding the needs of publishers and editors is essential in creating successful working relationships, so we thank Cheryl and Minta for sharing their insights.
For more on the textbook adoption process, Minta recommends The Mad, Mad World of Textbook Adoption by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
© 2010 by Heartland Chapter of ASI. All rights reserved.