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The secrets of a successful outsourcing relationship

Having attended the London Book Fair in March, we couldn’t agree more with this year’s Fair being described as “upbeat” and “positive”, especially as Brexit and its potential impact on the publishing industry was one of the most talked-about topics.

As in previous years, at the Fair we had our habitual combination of meetings, networking events and seminar attendance. But there was one particular meeting with a potential customer that stood out for us. Having engaged in a very interesting conversation about their publishing programme and outsourcing, we were asked the question: What does a publisher need to consider to successfully work with an outsourcing company? Answers to this question may be very clear to some, but when in-house editorial staff have been accustomed to managing their own publishing projects for years, deciding whether to put a publishing project out to an external company may come with many doubts and some scepticism. The latter will be particularly true if their experience of outsourcing has not been a positive one in the past.

At CPM we have experience of working with a wide range of clients that include publishers, non-profit organisations and corporates. Each has different requirements and ways of working, but whether the project is a book, a report or a policy brief there is one thing they all have

CPM team at work

in common, and that is the desire to produce a professional-looking publication. For this reason, we believe the success of effectively outsourcing the production of a publication stems from these key recommendations below:

  • The brief: Be clear about what you want the outsourcer or publishing services provider to do. Providing a full and comprehensive editorial brief at the start of the project is crucial. This should include house style guide (if available), design specification (if designed is already established). Even if you think something might be obvious; it is best to include everything in the brief. It is also important to make clear whether quality, budget or schedule is the key driver when priorities clash and decisions have to be made quickly.
  • Good buy-in from the in-house team: It is important that, as a team, everyone in-house is in agreement and happy to work with the publishing services provider. As mentioned above, this is especially relevant to companies where in-house editorial staff have been used to managing their own projects. Having a good buy-in from the in-house team is fundamental to the success of the project.
  • Selling it to the author: As with the in-house team, ensuring the authors have bought into the idea of using a publishing services provider. Explaining that using a outsource company will enable them to receive personal attention and a quicker route to publication can help to soothe any feelings of being ‘passed on’
  • Dedicated in-house person/team: Have a handover meeting to introduce members of the team and who’s responsible for the different tasks, who can answer queries, and provide contact details.
  • Chapters – not batches: Although it’s tempting to send on small batches of manuscript as soon as they are available, especially if a title is running late, it’s a false economy as small batches demand a lot of attention in short bursts and make it impossible for the copy-editor and proofreader to become familiar with the text and thereby ensure consistency. It also adds to the project management costs as there are so many moving parts to keep track of.