How to work more efficiently in publishing
We’re publishing more books today than ever before. But not necessarily with more hands on deck. Long gone are the days when mad men could read newspapers at their desks and drink themselves into oblivion on the clock. Today, we have to get more work done, more quickly. Here are some tips:
* Specialize (yourself): Don’t struggle to do a mediocre job at something that someone else could do really well, really easily.
For example, book publicists shouldn’t be afraid to ask for an author’s help putting together pitch letters or interview alerts. As a publicist, I will never know a book as well as an author no matter how thoroughly I read it, and it’s inefficient for me to be trawling through a manuscript with a red pen attempting to pull out the smoking guns when an author could achieve a better result in a fraction of the time. Likewise, authors should not attempt to pitch their books to writers / producers (unless they’re already acquainted) — publicists, with expertise and information at their fingertips, will do a better job in less time.
* Specialize (your applications): To maximize efficacy and to save time, use applications as they were intended.
For example, write press material (and manuscripts, of course), in Word but maintain contact lists in a database such as Excel.
* Network with colleagues. And no, I’m not just talking about Facebook (although that is a good way to keep in touch with people).
For example, recognize that email can be a cumbersome mode of communication when discussing complicated and / or ongoing issues. Consider setting up a discussion group like Google Groups or Yahoo! Groups in which questions can be segregated by topic and supporting documents (photos or text) can be uploaded to a central location.
* Sync with colleagues.
For example, if managing schedules and meetings (either internally or with authors) gets hectic, consider using Google Calendar or using the meeting invitation function in Outlook. I once used Google Calendar to keep track of an author tour involving three people (and three different and often overlapping schedules). It was a lifesaver.
* Don’t reinvent the wheel. There are very few occasions that require information to be retyped. Not only does that waste time, but it introduces the possibility of errors. Many of them. Large publishing houses often have the luxury of creating / buying databases and systems that store and report information. You can reap some of these benefits with free applications like Google Docs or Basecamp (the latter of which I’m guessing is — or was — used by Crown since they’re mentioned on the home page).
For example, rather than emailing a document — a list of publicity hits, for example — from person to person, you can upload the information to a central location accessible to all approved users (or to everyone, if you so choose).
* Avoid redundancy.
For example, functions such as Word’s “Track Changes” allow you to edit within a document. Although I know editors grumble about having to use Track Changes throughout an entire manuscript, it is a pretty handy function when you’re talking about a page of two of press material. If you’re reviewing a press release, for example, rather than scribbling inelligible notes in the margins which then have to be interpreted and incorporated into the release, consider using Track Changes that will illustrate exactly what was changed, but allows the publicist to accept all the changes with a click of a button.
* Communicate: There’s nothing like not being able to get the ball rolling because you haven’t heard back from one person. A message doesn’t need to be urgent to demand the courtesy of a response before, say, three weeks. Also, be truthful and open — we make books, folks, not nuclear weapons.
How do you save time? What are your shortcuts?