Remote, home-based publishing

From The Bookseller:

Some of what we have learnt about working at home as part of a publishing team over the past six years is true of all remote workers.

But some of the challenges and rewards are very specific to book publishing – and so glaringly obvious that they can be easy to overlook…like the fact that the majority of the publishing industry still works to produce physical objects (alongside all the digital material, reports, communications and e-editions modern publishing needs). There’s nothing remote about a hardback – it needs heft, tactility and appeal – so there are particular challenges for publishers to this new reality.

Here are the things we’ve learnt in the past six years. Often the hard way:

1 Anyone involved in creating the physical product must have access to a decent printer. Type size always looks bigger on screen than the page. And many designers seem to have weirdly good eyesight and a love for tiny text.

  1. Production checks take longer as everything has to be physical sent. Schedules are slower. And it costs way more if your team are sending things rather than walking them down to sales or editorial for sign off.
  2. Royal Mail is a million times more reliable than most couriers i.e. Hermes. In fact, if we can impart one piece of useful advice: don’t use Hermes, ever.
  3. Cover proofs are still worth spending money on. Colours are always brighter on screen. It’s a lot cheaper to do a few proper cover proofs than reprinting a whole jacket.
  4. So much of publishing is about interaction with different kinds of people and businesses. Each project involves creatives, departments with commercial agendas and teams with logistical imperatives. That’s a lot of links and tasks that can go wrong. The person who can bring all that together in a meeting may be a different person from the one who can generate momentum and decisions online. Put simply – the best remote team leaders may be different people from office team leaders.
  5. This is because working and managing remotely is a very real, very new skill. We just published a book about this called Invisible Work by John Howkins. Those who are good at it will chose teams and collaborators who actually answer emails and phone calls. Not the interesting genius who buries their head in the sand and produces something for the meeting at the last minute. Those people belong to a different workstyle (or era).
  6. It’s easier to disagree and throw your weight around on email than in a phone call, but you can’t see how it’s being received. Use the phone for anything delicate or problematic then follow up with positive notes of the points agreed.

. . . .

9. In the end you will make more decisions alone when working from home. Which can start to feel lonely. Don’t be afraid of picking up the phone for input or a friendly colleague’s ear. We have got out of the habit of phoning friends and into the habit of messaging andf emailing colleagues rather than calling them. Reclaim the phone call to ensure home-alone sanity.

10. If you are working from home all the time you lose your day at home to focus. Work out the best time for the deep concentration jobs – whether its data analysis or manuscript reading. We find it easiest to do the deep stuff straight way – before we have been distracted by emails, sales figures, requests, social media. In any case, do change the space you are in if you can. And turn off wi-fi.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

1 thought on “Remote, home-based publishing”

  1. I wondered about all the stuff about physical objects until I got to the mention of “Royal Mail”, and then I was, “oh, yeah. Brits.”

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