One of the most critical areas of document creation and management is version control. Even when only one person is working on a document, it can be easy to lose control. Without a system in place that is used consistently, you will experience unnecessary and annoying mistakes. When more than one person is working on a document, the potential for errors multiplies exponentially.
What is version control? Version control is managing the document and all its pieces and parts so that changes are always made to the most current file. When version control is lost, changes are made to an old version of a document, causing all changes that occurred in the interim to be lost or wasted. It’s difficult for errors like this to be found because when proofing changes to a document, project managers typically only check the changes (which is totally appropriate). It is the desktop publisher’s responsibility to maintain version control of the files in their possession — but that responsibility extends to the client once they have received a draft or copies of the files and make changes to those files without communicating them to the desktop publisher.
There are many legitimate reasons why multiple versions of a document may exist. Here are some of them, and a discussion of good desktop publishing practices:.
The document may have crashed the software while doing a particularly complex task. (Don’t be scared. This happens. It’s nearly always recoverable with little loss of data.)
- After opening the file that caused the crash, the good desktop publisher will immediately do a “Save-As” to save the file with a different name (or version number). Of course, they may not want to immediately delete the previous file until they have confirmed that the new file hasn’t been corrupted by the crash. For a period of time, multiple versions of the file may exist, but a good desktop publisher will have a file naming system that makes it obvious which file is the most current.
It is sometimes best to work on desktop publishing files on a local drive rather than over a network. This means that copies of files may exist both on a commonly accessed network drive and on a local drive.
- The good desktop publisher implements practices that are consistently followed to ensure that the most current files are in a specific location. When changes are made to the file on a local drive, the files must immediately be copied to the network drive, updating the master files. Even if it’s the end of the day and the desktop publisher plans to work on the files first thing in the morning. Things happen, priorities change, assignments change and the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
Provisional changes have been made to a document that the desktop publisher or project manager is not confident will ultimately be kept. In other words, she is just as likely to go back to the previous version as keep the updated version. Hence, both files are kept until a decision is made.
- The good desktop publisher names the files in such a way as to make it clear what’s happening.
- For extra security, she puts notes on a non-printable layer in the files that help her understand the file names and serve as a reminder to all who open the file.
Files are maintained in multiple physical locations. This is especially an issue when a project has been completed and files are delivered to the client. Both the desktop publisher and the client now have copies of the final printed document.
- The good desktop publisher provides copies of all files associated with project to their clients, but maintains an archived file copy.
- The good project manager knows that if changes are made to the files by the client, he must provide new files to the desktop publisher when additional changes are requested.
Changes are made by the printer after the project manager reviews the printer’s proof.
- The best policy is to have all changes made by your desktop publisher and have them provide new print files to the printer. Otherwise, changes made by your printer will not be rolled into the desktop publisher’s archived copy of the file or be reflected in the next update to the document.
Changes are requested to printed documents, either for printing an updated version or simply to maintain current information for whenever it is next printed.
- The good desktop publisher has procedures in place that allow for such changes to be made while backing up the data regularly and keeping track of which version of the file is the most current.
Good desktop publishing procedures provide a methodology that protects users from making changes to an obsolete version of a file. Consistently using those procedures ensures good version control. Good procedures + consistent implementation = quality documents, less confusion, fewer errors, and lower costs.
We’re often asked by project managers how they can save money on the creation of their catalog, training manual, price list book or other large document. Here’s seven of our top tips. They will go a long way toward saving you money and making sure your document gets completed when you need it.
Whether you are managing the project or doing the production of the document, these seven tips will help keep your budget intact and your frustration level low.
1. Understand the process
Understanding the desktop publishing process can help you keep your costs low and get your projects completed on time. Desktop publishing is a bit like cooking:
- In cooking, you gather ingredients from various sources, use a variety of tools, apply some kind of process to the ingredients, heat it up, and “it’ll be done pretty soon.”
- In desktop publishing, you gather graphics, text and tables; then use scanners, computers and various software programs; put it into production, and “it’ll be done pretty soon.”
- If you start cooking before you’ve gathered all the ingredients, it generally leads to wasted time, a messy kitchen, and a lower quality meal.
- Plunging into desktop publishing without first gathering the finished pieces of content means wasted time, an excessive number of drafts, and a final product that may not print properly.
- Cooking without following a recipe means your results are probably not repeatable.
- Desktop publishing without following good industry standards means you may not be able to update your document efficiently (or at all) when needed.
2. Determine the content before you begin desktop publishing
Good organization is the solid foundation of all desktop publishing projects. The bigger the project, the more important that foundation becomes. It’s important that you and/or your desktop publisher manage both the computer files and the project. This begins by having a firm handle on the content of the document, the breakout of sections, and the basic content of each page. Yes, you may experience changes as you get further into development, but the more you identify before desktop publishing begins, the more money you save in revisions.
3. Determine the look and feel of your document before desktop publishing more than one section of it
Develop sample layouts and select the one that will best present your information to your audience. Then work through a representative section of the document. Review the layout and make changes if desired. After you have a firm layout, then move on to desktop publishing other sections. You’d be surprised how much making a “few simple changes” to the layout can impact costs after a document is completed. Making a few simple changes can mean making them on multiple pages in multiple documents.
Look for the “worst case” – your most troublesome tables, graphics, or whatever – and design around them first. You don’t want a few difficult elements to dictate global design changes after you’ve completed a significant portion of the project.
It is especially important to determine the document size before a project starts. Changing a page size even by a small amount after the project is completed requires going into each file and making adjustments in multiple places. It often requires “reflowing” the contents of the entire document to accommodate the new page size and can introduce a lot of unexpected errors if not proofread meticulously.
4. Gather all (OK, most of) the pieces before requesting a draft
What do we mean by “gathering the pieces?” Generally, a document is made up of some combination of text, graphics and/or tabular data. Those are the pieces. To begin desktop publishing without all of the pieces is pretty much a waste of time. OK, not necessarily a complete waste of time, but it’s a shot in the dark, and one that promises that your final cost will be higher than if you started desktop publishing with all the pieces in hand. Your desktop publisher can create a great layout, formatting text and leaving room for photos that are to come. Then the photos (always!) come in a different size or shape than anticipated. Guess what! A significant chunk of the work that went into laying out the first draft becomes wasted. And as much as we all like to get paid for our work, a good desktop publisher is going to feel bad when their costs seem inordinately high for the type and size of document produced…even if it’s because it had to be redone from scratch four times!
5. Provide the desktop publisher with the best information possible before desktop publishing begins
Take time to actually look over the pieces and parts you gather before passing them on to the desktop publisher. You will avoid unnecessary drafts. Nearly every client we work with assumes that their project will require only one draft, with only minor edits before it’s ready to go to print. In reality, nearly every project we’ve done requires at least three drafts (and sometimes as many as eight or ten). The better you review the material before desktop publishing starts, the more “final” your first draft will be. The better you review the first draft, the better the second draft will be…and the less likely a third and subsequent drafts will be required.
6. Get your committee involved early
If your document is going to be created by more than one person or reviewed by more than one person, get them involved early. It is not unusual for us to provide what we thought was supposed to be a final draft and then hear, “I’d like this to be reviewed by several more people before we go to print.” What you are really saying is, “I’d like to pay you more money because there are people who have never seen this who I want to involve now that all the work is done. These people are going to have totally different ideas about how the information should be organized and presented. They’ll probably even insist that we add some new information or remove others. So put the document on hold for a few weeks and we’ll get back to you with major changes that will require several more drafts.” Really. We get this more often than you’d expect. Involve those people in the process early if you want to stay within your budget.
7. Assume that no changes are possible after the document goes to the printer
The printer’s proof copy is the first copy of the document printed by your commercial printer. They have prepped the document for commercial printing and before they print your full quantity, they give you a printer’s proof to review to make sure they’ve properly set up the print run. That’s the real purpose of the printer’s proof. The purpose is not to review the document a final time to ensure the content is good. Yes, you can make changes after receiving the printer’s proof copy of your document, but it will generally cost you a lot more money. Print shops generally charge a lot more to make these last-minute changes than your desktop publisher does to create your document. If you choose to send the document back to the desktop publisher (which we recommend for version control, but that’s next week’s blog), you still incur more costs than if you had reviewed the document more closely before it went to the printer.
Have the mindset that the document is finished before it goes to print. This might sound obvious to many, but our experience shows that too many people who have input on the contents of a document (those folks in #6 above) don’t really look at it until they get the printer’s proof copy, so they pay for multiple print set-ups and printer-proofs, in addition to paying for additional desktop publishing to make the changes and provide new files to the printer.
We understand the real world. Things happen that keep you from being able to implement all seven of these tips for saving money on every project that you do. Still, doing as much as you can to implement as many of them as possible will help keep your project within your original budget and and put it on a track for being completed on schedule.
There are specific things to keep in mind when reading a proof that will help reduce pre-press expenses. Following are some of the key things to consider and look for when proofreading a draft. We’ve formatted this into a checklist that can be printed and used as a checklist.
- Take your time — you may or may not be on schedule with the job, but don’t let a deadline make you careless. 99% of the time the better choice is to miss a deadline and have a more accurate document.
- Decide in advance that a good proofreading of the document will take more than one review through it. As a minimum you’ll want two passes through the document – one to check content and one to check layout. If the document is complex in layout or content, three or four reviews may be appropriate.
- Make a list — better yet, make two lists – one for content and one for layout. Depending on how long each list is, you may decide that more than two reviews are needed. You can only check so many items on a page at one time before you begin to miss things.
- Check the writing for consistency in style and verb tense.
- Check technical data for correctness (was the source document correct?) and accuracy (does the desktop published data match the source document?).
- Check for commonly misspelled words, especially those that might be common to your industry, those that may be one word or two words, and hyphenated words. (At the very least be consistent in your usage of the words.) We’ve often seen these words used incorrectly: multipurpose, flowchart, adapter
- Check the content of figures – they are often overlooked.
- Check figure and table numbers if used. Check both the actual numbers for numerical sequence, and check their references within the document.
- Check for correct copyright and trademark usage
- Check text styles — are all styles for headlines, subheads, body copy, etc. consistently applied?
- Check for layout issues in the text — watch for things like:
- Misaligned tabbed information
- Extra spaces between words or sentences – there should only be one space after a period that marks the end of a sentence and typically there are no spaces when periods are used in acronyms (although typically periods are not used in acronyms)
- Use of quote marks (“ ”) instead of inch marks (“) – 1/2” is just wrong; it should be 1/2”
- Inappropriate line breaks
- Bad column or page breaks
- Check that right and left pages are correctly appearing as right and left pages if appropriate.
- Check line weights and styles for consistent usage.
- Check the use of colors if appropriate.
Writing and publishing a book is not the undecipherable mystery many people think it is. Yes, it is a process – one that we found much simplified after we flowcharted it. We’re providing that flowchart, or “roadmap” as we call it, as a resource to budding authors. You can download it below. You can also find it in the DDP Resources section of our website.
The graphic at the right shows an overflow of the process – the downloadable PDF greatly expands on it.
We find the roadmap to be an incredibly useful tool for explaining the publishing process to first-time authors as well as tracking our progress when publishing a new book.
If you’re even thinking about writing a nonfiction book, give us a call. It’s probably less expensive than you think and we can help every step of the way…that means from idea generation to writing to publishing (as an ebook or in print) to marketing.Click here to download the DDP Book Publishing Roadmap.