Post by Jill Broom, based on meeting notes written by Lucy Metzger
While it’s true that there are lots of ways to go about returning a piece of work to a client – every editor has their own ‘style’, and every job is different – there are some things that we commonly include in our handover notes. For example, we’ll often compile a style sheet and word list; notes for the typesetter or designer; and a list of queries or issues that the client will need to resolve or be aware of. Clients also regularly ask for a list of running heads and/or a list or log of artwork, figures and tables. But is there a ‘best practice’ for returning a job?
Recently, members of the Glasgow Editors’ Network got together to explore this idea. We shared our approaches to producing comprehensive, clear explanatory notes to accompany our work. And it became clear that the following practices work well for many in the group.
3 tips for producing a stellar handover note
1. Produce a good style sheet with the job.
This may evolve into a style guide, particularly with an ongoing project involving multiple publications. Note: Could you get yourself commissioned to produce the style guide for an appropriate additional fee?
One of our colleagues uses an Excel workbook to send information to the client, with different tabs for general style principles, exceptions to these, a word list, and a list of outstanding issues needing the client’s attention. (This is handy as it collects all the info into one easily referenced file.)
2. Include author queries and the author’s answers with the returned job.
And here’s some food for thought when it comes to framing and formatting those queries:
- Prepare three columns: the first with a pasted-in chunk of text, the next with the associated query, and the third with space for the author to answer.
- Remember that brief, succinct queries are more likely to get useful answers.
- If it’s a sizeable job, you could send author queries in batches, e.g. a list for each chapter or group of chapters.
- Do a preliminary read-through or skim to assess what kinds of issues, and therefore queries, are likely to come up.
- Send a document to the author with Track Changes, allowing him/her to reply to particular comments on the spot. (But watch out, some authors may be tempted to tinker with other parts of the document while they’re doing this.)
- If more than one person is working on your document, take care! For example, a shared document in Dropbox can cause difficulties. Avoid problems by taking the document out of Dropbox, working on it, and then putting it back with a different version name. This also avoids the problem of thousands of notifications being sent to all sharers of the document while you edit it.
- Use Google Docs? Ever had the creepy experience of working on a document at the same time that another person is observing what you are doing and commenting on it? Ask them to stop (politely).
3. ALWAYS return a job well.
Ok, so some clients appreciate a good handover note more than others. Some, perhaps in particular non-publishers, may not be interested in (or just don’t have time to go through) word lists and style decisions. They simply want the job done well. However, others WILL be grateful and perhaps surprised to know about what kinds of issues have come up and what decisions have had to be made.
A good handover note can help the client to see what value you have added to their project, and – importantly – how you could help them in the future.
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