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TechComm & Translation to the Publishing Industry
Published
June 06, 2016
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By Laura Dragonette, Communications Manager

Laura Dragonette
Laura Dragonette
As someone who grew up in the Triangle area surrounded by a thriving community of techcomm, business, and science, I somehow ended up taking the creative route and moving to New York City to work in book publishing. I work in custom textbook publishing, to be specific, which is focused on creating textbooks that specifically fit a professor’s class needs. In my job, I find connections to what I’ve learned from the techcomm world on a daily basis. I’ve learned to expect the unexpected in custom, since you never know what the next professor might request. I think a key skill in any field of techcomm is problem solving; there’s always going to be something you’ve never done before, and you’ll have to figure it out. The ability to solve problems is essential for my job.

Since I’m still relatively new to the field of textbook publishing, I tend to be the one to tackle the tricky technical work in my department. For instance, I create the metadata that populates our website with customer-facing information, including titles and authors for the readings we offer and categorizations for those readings, such as topic or publication date. This is often a trial-and-error process, as we’re a small department and are pioneering our way through each new challenge.

Most of our books have eBook counterparts by now, and we’re working on transitioning the rest. This affects the entire way we do business. For example, electronic rights for text and photos must be cleared separately from print rights—to be proactive, our permissions teams are now automatically clearing for both for many new textbooks. Additionally, most of our textbooks have online homework components either included automatically with the text or offered for free with purchase of the text. This is more and more common now that professors place a heavier reliance on online interactivity for students, and many newer versions of our books include it.

Many of the skills I take for granted have helped me stand out in my position—I’m adaptable to software and able to teach myself how to perform new tasks. During our busy season, I manipulate countless documents provided by professors by making them neat and presentable, copyediting them, making sure the pdfs are printer-ready. Sometimes I even end up setting them in the font of the book into which they’ll be inserted. It’s pretty rewarding to do hands-on work like this and to know that I have control over what the final product will look like. Plus, I’ve always had an interest in design, so it’s actually quite enjoyable to iron out a good-looking document.

Although my favorite part of the job is the editorial side, including copyediting and learning to make educated editorial decisions, I’m glad to get the experience to work with the more complicated, less “popular” side of publishing. The truth is these systems will only become more prevalent as they’re popularized; they’ll become the new norm. Correction: they’ve already become the norm, but this is just the beginning, and the systems will continue to evolve and become more complex. Having this knowledge and understanding is essential. Just as with any given techcomm field, it’s important to stay on top of the trends and be adaptable to new technologies to stay on top of and ahead of the game.

Laura can be reached at communications at stc-carolina dot org. Read more articles by Laura. End of article.


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