Who will lead the way to a changed workflow?

(this is not the part 2 I mentioned in the last blog post, I will write that part soon after gathering more input on UI design of the Sausage Machine, and link to it from the previous post)

The easy answer would be anyone involved could do it, that is:

  • authors
  • editor / publisher
  • designers
  • developers
  • anyone else involved in bookmaking.

And yes, all of these people would benefit from using the Sausage Machine in collaborative book projects. However, that would require a change in the most common, phased workflow that goes something like this: an author finishes a manuscript and sends it to a publisher who edits it. It is sent back and forth a few times before the content is finalized and sent to a designer. Depending on the project, once the print design is done, a designer and/or developer might produce a digital version of the book as well. Working with the Sausage Machine means using new tools as well as changing the process. The question is, who would instigate a change like this?

Talking to Meeusontwerpt, Studio BLT, PUNTPIXEL and Non-Fiction led me to think it would be the publisher.

Centrality in the process

Although authors might often be at the core of the creative start of a book, publishers take a central role in the process: they commission or select works by authors and hire designers and developers. They distribute and sell the books and pay those involved in the making of it. The publisher has financial oversight. Although there is feedback between the different parties involved, this generally happens between the publisher and another party, only rarely and in more experimental / collaborative projects between those different parties:

Collaboration

Feedback

To break this tradition and initiate more collaboration between the different parties, it makes sense that the publisher, as a central entity in the publishing industry, pushes this change.

Most direct gain

An important benefit to designers is that text edits and corrections will continue to be possible all the way through the process and can be done by the editors / authors of a book. This relieves the designer from the responsibility to copy the scribbles and comments of an editor into an InDesign file, cutting out a repetition that takes up a lot of time. Although this is a useful change, it relies on a change of workflow earlier on in the chain, and is difficult to push for from the designer’s place in the process.

It’s unlikely that authors will push for the change too however: as the efficiency is most felt in other parts of the workflow, it is unrealistic to expect them to initiate the change themselves. Arguably, the learning curve for Markdown and GitHub is also steepest for most authors.

Publishers on the other hand are central in terms of finances and influence on whether a book gets made or not; they buy rights, sell books, pay designers, etc (of course some books are initiated by designers or developers, I am talking about more standard procedures here). Using the template design functionality of the Sausage Machine makes book series very efficient to produce, lowering their costs. While the templates need to be designed, they can now be reused quickly with every new addition to the series. The efficiency of this is most beneficial to publishers who will see the design costs of books in series decrease.

When I talk to designers and publishers about the Sausage Machine, I notice that people are very impressed with what it can do, but still see some obstacles on the way to being able to use it in their own practice. If publishers are the ones to push the change, it is up to us (the PublishingLab / Sausage Machine) to

  • make them aware of the benefits of the Sausage Machine (by being at places like the Buchmesse, organizing workshops, using networks like Groep Algemene Uitgevers, etc)
  • improve the Sausage Machine to fit their practice and needs, as well as the others in the chain (should all projects be openly available on GitHub? Can we circumvent, limit or cover up the use of GitHub for those that don’t know how to work with it? Should we?)
  • create a step-by-step guide or tutorials to the Sausage Machine (Studio BLT and Puntpixel suggested a design where that is more focused on the current step someone is in at the moment, instead of showing the whole process)

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