The Production ‘Traffic Cop’
As Texas Monthly’s production director, I strive to be objective, accommodating and diplomatic in order to protect the integrity of the production process and its direct result, the printed book. I’ve attempted to educate myself about all of the inputs affecting the schedule, and commensurately, to educate others about why the physical fact of having to put ink on paper affects things upstream in their world. As Eric says so well, it’s hard to sell a mistake-prone magazine, so making sure our advertising sales staff understands basic production information is key—to that end, I recently [wrote and] distributed [a document called] “Production Information for Sellers” to the sales staff.
This brings us to the question of how much lead time is really necessary in order to be competitive. The answer, of course, is as little and as much lead time as is necessary to achieve the goals of the enterprise. A stressed publication that reads poorly and looks shoddy loses in a competitive marketplace, but so too does one that has stale information and ads ….
We can’t escape the fact that with limited staffs, we have to spread work out over a number of days—some advertisers don’t understand why we call them as late as a week after we receive their ads to tell them that there’s a problem. On the other hand, the art and editorial staffs will always want as much time as possible to ensure the integrity of our editorial product.
To deal with this tug of war, Texas Monthly has a series of deadlines throughout our production cycle. We have an earlier closing and due date for advertorial materials than for [run-of-book (ROB)] ones; this lets us design and build self-contained advertorial sections before we’ve even laid out the book. We close ROB ad space, and then dummy the issue a week to 10 days before we have to send files to press. At the end of our third week, we ship all full-page ads. Then, in our final week, we have two and sometimes three deadlines, so chunks of the remainder can be sent. We start printing even before the final deadline ….