The Joys and Sorrows of The Reprint Process

As my co-author Jeff Noble mentioned in his most recent blog “What we did and did not update in the second pressing,” we’ve recently found ourselves in a hurry-up situation to get another printing of HTML, XHTML, and CSS For Dummies, 7th edition, through the correction and production processes. This was a typical “good-news/bad-news” situation in that we were of course delighted to learn that our book was headed to the printer’s for a second print run, but at the same time horrified to understand that we had exactly two full (weekend) days to get all of our changes turned over the the editors to have any hope of seeing them included in the next book’s next printed version.

Fortunately, we had been collecting errata from readers and from our own post-printing read-throughs on the first print run, so we already had plenty of stuff in the can  (by which I mean no more than 15 modest errors mostly involving typographical or very slight grammatical errors) to provide on such short notice. But we had been thinking about making some more substantial changes–such as, for instance, changing all uses of pixels and points that weren’t specifically absolute positioning instructions of one kind of another, into equivalent length specifications based on the em value for the font in use–throughout many of the chapters. Then, when we realized we would have to validate all affected HTML markup passages, re-colorize all of that markup, and reshoot all affected screenshots–there would have been 60-75 such items for the whole book–we all came to the same conclusion independently. If we wanted to sleep at all over the weekend, we simply didn’t have enough time to make, check, validate, and re-capture all those changes to meet the publisher’s deadline.

Why was that deadline so important? “Press time” (an insider’s term for the scheduled hours on which a specific book will be run through an industrial printing press) is fabulously expensive, tightly scheduled, and for a four-color book like this one, even harder than usual to obtain or change. To some extent, we did take the easy way out, but it was more a reflection of prior attempts on other editions of this book (and on other books I’ve worked on) to try to squeeze more work into a narrow time window than really made sense. When I shared our decision with my professional project manager, Kim, who manages my calendar and all of my projects, her response was “Good! No way you could have done it right in two days anyway.” Because that’s kind of what Jeff, Mary (the project manager for this book), and I had already concluded, all I could do was to heave a massive sigh of relief and move onto the next project.

In the meantime, now that the second printing is done and out, we have already started to make those changes to the various markup elements in the book that we’re trying to rationalize, and will send them to the publisher as soon as they’re finished. That way, the next time we get the reprint word (which will probably give us about the same amount of notice, that being the way their process works) all we need to do is to say “Don’t forget to include all those changes we’ve already sent you.” And this way, we’ll have time to do LOTS of quality control and double-checking. In fact, if anybody wants to volunteer to help us out, we’ll be happy to trade kudos and the occasional t-shirt for your assistance with the HTML validation and colorization checking that will be needed. Drop us a comment if you’d like to get involved, please!

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