Documentation plans–Production information

The production information section answers the “How?” questions.

What are the project deliverables? Give a brief description of the deliverables. The details for the deliverables are listed below, but if you say “1 printed manual and 1 companion CD of software,” the client can’t come back and say “Where’s the website that was supposed to be part of this?”

What are the writing and editing standards for the document? I use a boilerplate sentence that says “This book will follow the standards stated in the Chicago Manual of Style as well as any style considerations of [publisher’s/client’s] style manual.” You may prefer a different style guide, but this lets you nail down the final authority on the subject.

What format(s) will this document be available in? Identify the size and format for the finished product, such as standard 7-3/8″ by 9-1/4″ perfectbound trade paperback, 3-ring 8-1/2 x 11″, Kindle-formatted ebook, or whatever.

How many pages will this book/document have? Give a page estimate based on your outline. If you’re writing a manual for something, you may not have a limit on the number of pages you can have, but most books have specific page counts that they have to meet. For example, when I was coauthoring “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Disaster Preparedness,”, the book had to be between within one signature of their typical page length. (We ended up cutting two chapters from the book to meet the page length, as a matter of fact.)

Even if you don’t have hard and fast limits on the size of a book or document, estimating the book’s size is an important statistic for estimating the time necessary for production, costs, and so on.

Are there special art requirements? “Art” is anything that isn’t text. It can be screen captures, conceptual art, sketches, line drawings, illustrations, photos (both B&W and color), or (if you’re doing something online) JPGs, GIFs, and videos. You may not have to do these yourself, but you’ll definitely need to identify what goes where.

What will the layout be? Most publishers have the layout predetermined to meet their stylistic considerations, but if there’s something you want for this book, mention it.

What kind of typesetting will there be? Again, typesetting is usually up to the publisher (although you’re expected to code and format your manuscript files appropriately). But if the answer here is only “Using Microsoft Word 2007,” you should identify this. If there are standard templates, mention those as well.

Will there be any layout requirements? This is usually handled by the publisher but if you have a book with, say, lots of photos that requires a non-standard layout, it should be noted here.

Who is coordinating the production? This is virtually always handled by the publisher unless you’re doing a packaged book for someone. If you’re working on a document for a company, this is more likely to be someone internal or even you.

How many copies will be produced? This is only relevant if you’re producing a printed book or document, but it’s the kind of information the production coordinator needs to get printing quotes.

How will this be printed? Who’s doing the actual printing, and how? Here’s where you’d mention anything about color separations, photo prep, and so on.

What will the cover art be? Who’s doing the cover art? What requirements for the cover art are there? Again, the publisher almost always handles the cover art, but you may have some input on what it looks like, as well as the inclusion of snipes on the cover and so on.

If you’re doing an ebook or a print-on-demand book, there will be additional production information considerations. For example, ebooks are likely to require special formatting in the file and print-on-demand books may require some additional coding or specifications for a PDF file. Mention that in this section.

Also mention if there are related materials that need to be produced. For example, this project might require a note card on special stock or a DVD inserted in the back of the book. (Publishers tend not to do this much anymore because the additional costs of inserting a CD or DVD are considerable compared to the cost of the book and downloading even huge files is no longer much of an issue thanks to cable modems.)

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