11 September 2007
External deadline forces
"I need this book in hand by Friday because..."
Outside of the natural production process there are, definitely, many different kinds of external circumstances that impact the timing and schedules of indexing. Many are sector- or medium-specific, but of course there are indexers who work among several of these and thus feel the impact all year. Here are some examples that I know:
- Textbooks that are used in American public schools tend to appear in time for the Texas and California state adoption processes. If a book isn't published on time to be reviewed by the school officials in these states, it's unlikely that the book will be used in public schools at all.
- College textbooks need to be on the shelves in time for traditional semester beginnings, in September and January.
- Books that are budgeted for one year are pushed to get finished during that budget (fiscal) year, to avoid (a) losing the opportunity to spend money already allocated for the publishing process, and (b) spending money needed in the next year. This impacts the indexers around U.S. Thanksgiving.
- Software books targeted toward the general public need to be first to market to catch the wave of early sales; these schedules are irregular but can be predicted by looking at the various technologies that are coming out. For example, we're still near the beginning of the Windows Vista wave, since the new operating system was only recently released.
- General-readership books based on cultural events (news items, holidays, anniversaries) are similar to software books, in that being first to market matters equally.
- Politics is a special kind of cultural event in that it's ongoing. Books on politics tend to appear in advance of events that are potentially influential in the political world. For example, books about presidential candidates tend to appear in parallel with their campaigns: early books to define the brand, later books to strengthen the message, and post-election books to analyze the results and consequencies. Other than elections, books related to policy making, international relations, and larger political issues (like national security and environmental conservation). Corporate politics can fall into this category as well, though these publications may double as marketing and promotion documents.
- Professional conferences occur in clusters (lots in the summer, for example), and so publications that are relevant to conference events tend to get published (and re-published) in clusters.
- New printing and publishing technologies, which the layperson doesn't hear about, can drive new publications in a way similar to first-to-market publishing. For example, when CD envelopes were first made available in books, there was a market-driven desire to include CDs with more books. Most printing technologies are small variations on what exists today, but when a new possibility exists, it's a trend that some publishers chase right away. For example, if the quality of color rendering took a small leap forward, books where color is particularly critical (art, medical imaging, etc.) would appear more frequently for a while.
Labels: business of indexing