A few months ago, you were treated by Sarah Rendell and Lizzie Evans to a rundown of the production process as it’s experienced in the world of academic publishing (if you haven’t seen this yet then you can find this here) and this month we thought that you might be interested in learning about how education materials reach the market, too. Here in Newgen’s Education team, because we help our clients with so many aspects along the line in both print and digital projects, the ‘production process’ as I refer to it here is a fairly catch-all term referring to the life-cycle of the book or online materials. I’m using this because we can be involved right from (and in some cases before) the word ‘go’.
Commissioning and authoring
This is the earliest part of the process we’re involved in. The first job in the life of any content for education publishing is in commissioning an author to write the content for the students. Here we work with our clients to identify the key areas or gaps in the market that we’d like to create content to fill, this could be for any reason: perhaps because of a recent change in exam specification or syllabus, a reaction to feedback from teachers or students, or even, as we’ve experienced this year, a reaction to a rapid change in the way education is delivered.
Once authors have been located and signed up for the project, we then work with them in our capacity as publisher to ensure that they understand what’s being asked of them in the brief and help them to deliver the content, whatever form this might take, within the schedule and around their other commitments. As in other flavours of publishing (trade, academic, etc.) the people we’re working with may not be full-time authors and so we help to ensure this is as streamlined and as simple a stage as it can be.
This is a really important stage. At this point, the manuscript is sent to a team of experienced teachers who check it against the brief and specification of the course to ensure that the material presented there achieves the aims of the resource and will ‘work’ as a resource. They might provide feedback asking an author to change an aspect of the content in order to provide more narrative or structure around an area which they now learners routinely struggle with. This can be an iterative progress depending on the timescale of the project and the scope for change.
Where we’re working with content intended for a digital market this stage may also include an ID review which is performed to ensure that the content provided conforms to the realities or the platform (for example, that the author isn’t trying to use an activity or interactive that isn’t compatible with the platform).
Development and copyediting
These stages are where the vast majority of change can happen. Once the content has been signed off it is then sent to the development editor who reviews the manuscript to ensure that it’s consistent throughout and makes any necessary changes to improve lesson / teaching flow. Changes made at this stage are substantive, they’re changes that may require some input from an author – whether to check intention or understanding aligns – but what is important to remember is that they’re changes intended to make the content as good as it possibly can be.
Following this, the content is sent to a copyeditor who reviews the content to ensure that the content meets with a publisher’s house style and that it’s presented within the correct templates for the typesetters or build team. The copyeditor is also on the look out for any remaining typos or inconsistencies, they’re trying to make the content as clean as it possibly can be.
Rights and permissions (R&P), which merits a piece all on its own, takes place at this point and continues all the way up to release also. This is the part of the process that ensures that all content that an author hasn’t created themselves is permissible to be used. It can be a long process and is important to start as early as possible if an author is intending to use a wide variety of sources and asset types and depending on how the content is intending to be used.
Typesetting / digital build
The next stage, depending on whether the content is going to be used as a print or a digital resource, is typesetting or digital build. This is the point at which content is ‘set’ in the form that learners will eventually use it. This is an iterative process and authors will often have an opportunity to review the same and, even if they don’t, they can rest assured that in the course of the next step the content will be thoroughly reviewed and tested.
Review and corrections
Regardless of format, once it’s set, the content needs to be reviewed. As well as the production teams, this is done by proofreaders, fact and answer checkers and also the R&P team and their corrections are then collated together and sent back to either the typesetters or the build team to be corrected. Changes at this first stage are not intended to be substantive, they’re changes to correct errors in the setting of content. This process is repeated for the second proof stage, where changes are intended to be to correct errors made in the correction before a final round proofs are created for sign off.
In the case of digital projects, these stages also include functionality checks and other checks specific to digital builds. These checks are there to ensure that the content in the platform is working as it’s intended to.
Print / live release
Once all the checks and corrections are complete, it’s time for the content, whether it’s a printed resource or an online course, to reach the learners who will be using it. The final buttons and emails are sent and the project we’ve worked so hard on goes out into the world, either via the printers or by launching it within the platform.
If this isn’t enough for you and you want to learn even more about the education production process, Clare Owen and I spoke about the production process generally in a little more detail in episode three of the most recent series of The Newgen Pubcast. If you haven’t yet, listen to this and all of the other episodes from the last season here.