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InCopy Book Publisher’s Workflow Management

By nature, book publishers don’t have the same kind of workflow or InDesign page structure as magazine and newspaper publishers.”

Book publishers have longer production deadlines and knowingly embrace a linear (my turn, your turn) workflow between editorial, design and production departments. Magazine and newspaper publishers have shorter timelines and need a collaborative (work on content at the same time) workflow to streamline the process. Because InDesign pages are designed with linked frames with inline content for books, they actually need a linear workflow, even in a collaborative InCopy workflow.

In this post I’d like to explore how book publishers can embrace the linear workflow, and why they need to.

A Closer Look at Linear and Non-Linear Workflows

The most alluring feature of using InCopy and InDesign together, has always been the collaborative workflow. The ability to have editors in InCopy editing text at the same time that InDesign users are building pages eliminates the linear (take-turn) workflow.

In the past, editorial staff would wait to review hard-copies of pages or PDF’s to markup. Then those documents would be delivered back to the production staff and the changes would be entered. Then, more hard-copies or PDF’s would then be produced again, so that editorial staff could check that the edits they noted were actually made. These rounds of edits meant that countless hours were wasted in this take-turn workflow. When editorial staff begins using InCopy, the edits are done once by editorial, thus eliminating multiple rounds of editing reviews.

It seems that the shorter the production schedule, the more appealing this collaborative workflow becomes. It just makes sense that a daily newspaper would fully embrace this feature. The “get-it-out-the-door” mentality of newspapers is there to meet press deadlines. I’ve worked at many newspapers over the years; believe me when I tell you it’s no fun waiting for an editor to walk a hard copy over to your desk at 1am.

For book publishers, production schedules have never been based on a daily, weekly or a monthly printing schedule. These types of publishers actually have the flexibility (luxury) to shift schedules and production dates. While many book publishers see the allure of a collaborative workflow, most book companies actually prefer to keep their linear workflows. Why? Because of the way books are built in InDesign, keeping a linear workflow between InDesign and InCopy will actually benefit them.

The Structure of a Book

To understand why a linear workflow will benefit book publishers you have to understand the anatomy of a book built in InDesign.

InDesign layout artists usually don’t save one giant file for a whole book, this would mean only one person in InDesign would be able to edit the book (never mind the fact that it would take forever to open or navigate inside a document). Longer books are usually saved as separate documents, each one containing an individual chapter, or lesson.

Publications like magazines and newspapers have many individual stories in stand-alone text frames. These types of layouts often contain separate frames for the story body, pullquote, captions, headline, decks, and sidebars.

In contrast, books are typically made up of one major story (the narrative content) built using text frames that are threaded from page to page, which means the bulk of the book is one big story. If text is added to page 3, the text just reflows naturally through the subsequent threaded frames. It is only logical that books, especially text-heavy books would be built this way. Even books that are filled with graphics can be built this way.

A common trend for designers and production staff in book publishing is to embed graphics in the text flow. Instead of just placing graphics loose on a page, graphic artists are using InDesign’s inline or anchored object feature. Inline graphics are graphics that are placed (or pasted) within a text frame. Anchored objects are objects that can flow with the text relative to the anchor that has been placed within the text frame. Both of these objects allow graphics and text to reflow together as edits are made. To realize how much time this saves, you only need to think about the alternative workflow. If graphics weren’t part of the text, and were just placed over text, as text was edited and reflowed, all the images would need to be repositioned after every round of text editing. I’m exhausted just typing that.

How does InCopy fit with this workflow?

When InCopy-using editors check out stories in magazines or newspapers to edit them, the InDesign user can still layout the rest of the page, because the graphics and images are not contained inline in text frames. But for books with inline and anchored images, InDesign users need to check out the story to insert, move, and manage the artwork.

That just means that these publications will need to use a more linear (turn-taking) workflow rather than a concurrent one. The editors don’t start editing the book until the designer is done laying it out. When an editors is done editing the main story, then another editor (if necessary) can take a turn reviewing those edits, and then the designer can take their turn and continue refining the design and the formatting. In the end, the process is still way more streamlined than the old “marked up paper proofs” method, because everyone is working on the live file, doing what they do best.

Rob Underwood

Rob Underwood

Rob Underwood

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5 Comments on “InCopy Book Publisher’s Workflow Management

  1. Good points about InCopy use in the book publishing world. Most book publishers edit first and design second; however, if the process is reversed, it makes it possible to do at least some nonlinear work, particularly if the book feature is used in InDesign. We do a basic layout and then tweak it while editing and proofing are being done. Of course, this takes some scheduling. Getting the basic layout done first also helps with the creation of digital products.

  2. That’s a great point Paul. One that Rob didn’t mention in his article. It’s not that InCopy isn’t of value in the book publishing world, it’s simply different. You don’t have the ability (nor the need) to work concurrently on the same file between editor and designer because your working with one story. Your point however about using the Book panel in InDesign is an excellent one. With a book, you have multiple InDesign documents, each of which can be worked on concurrently in the scope of the overall book. And as you point out, it might take some scheduling but it works quite well!

  3. Hi Paul!

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a reply!
    I agree that using the Book panel will allow you have multiple InDesign documents, therefore allowing more team members to edit their sections. This is just a real high-level look at the way book publishers need to approach an InCopy and InDesign workflow. I wrote this blog so that companies, (especially book publishers) will realize that just because an InCopy workflow let’s you work collaboratively, the production artist actually can’t update graphic elements (within a checked-out article) until they have they power to check out the needed article themselves. Hence scheduling is of utmost importance as you have pointed out.

    Thanks again!

  4. If you were designing a magazine with a small team of 3 to 5 people, would you recommend using InCopy along with InDesign? Would you break all the one-pagers and multi-page articles into separate documents? Would you use a Book File in InDesign to organize? I enjoyed this article! Thanks!

  5. Hi Aaron!

    Even a small editorial team can benefit from a simple InDesign/InCopy workflow.
    Yes, you can break all the one-pagers and multi-page articles into separate documents.
    Therefore, making them available for individual checkouts/edits.
    And yes, you can use a book file to create the final PDF and organize the InDesign documents.


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