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Advice for Publishers and Designers 

What questions to ask each other.

by Janet M. Perry (August 4, 2008)

I'm writing from the perspective of a professional designer who is also an author and publisher.

I quite understand and agree with the comments in "A Publisher Vents," there is far too much un-professionalism in the designing world.

I am always surprised when the editors I work with are impressed that I understand things like deadlines, space considerations, and such, so I know they don't hear it that often.

But I also wonder sometimes if the designers know what to ask the publishers and if the publishers have a handy sheet they can give designers.

So this is what my mental list has when I look at a publication.

1. How often does the magazine come out? This tells you as the designer how often the magazine staff won't be available to you. Doing the final work on a magazine is an intense job; if you ask them a question when they are on deadline, you shouldn't be surprised if you get little response. Quite literally, they don't have the time to answer. Wait and ask later, or if you must ask now, let them know they can wait to answer.

For publishers, are you always busy on certain weeks? Let designers know in your submission guidelines, or send out an automatic email response when it's deadline time, then the designer knows why you aren't answering,

2. How far in advance do you publish? Are you working on your December issue now, in September, or did you want Christmas projects last spring so they were in the July issue and people could complete them for Christmas? If the last one is your case, the designer should be proposing, making, and thinking about Christmas projects in January. But, being unfamiliar with publishing, they may only be thinking about Christmas now, and it's just too late for your needs as a magazine.

3. What kind of finishing do you require? Some publications need professionally finished projects and really dislike anything else; others want things matted simply, not necessarily finished. There is still no excuse for shoddy work, but if, for example, I have to have something finished, I need to add a couple of weeks to my lead time.

4. Do you have an editorial calendar, a theme for each issue or some such? Is it easily found on your website? If you do and designers can't find it, then don't be surprised when inappropriate projects come in the mail.

5. Do you have formats and such which make it easier for your staff to do its job? Do you use a particular WORD template? Do you make that available to designers? Do you need graphs in a particular format? Do your designers know what it is? Do you redraw every chart? Publication level charts are different from source charts. If I know my chart is the one to be published, I will do it differently.

6. (This is a more advanced one). Do you have house style guidelines for writing? For my own stitch guides, I do, and every one of my proofreaders has a copy. If I published others' works, they would have a copy too.

If you're a designer, how often have you asked any of these questions of the magazines. Do you ask what the deadline is for a project? Do you bring projects in before or at the deadline?

If you're a publisher, do you more or less assume your designers know these things? (They mostly don't.) Do you tell the designers clearly what your expectations are for submissions?

I don't think this kind of information should necessarily be made public, but I sure would put together a document, in Q&A format explaining this stuff and sort of magazine publication 101 and send it to each new designer.

I don't think it will solve the problem of just plain bad submissions, but it may make everyone's life a little easier.

(Note: Janet's company is Napa Needlepoint, www.napaneedlepoint.com. She can be contacted at napaneedlepoint@gmail.com.)



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