After I ran into a misunderstanding for a multi-authored book revision between making changes to content and dealing with formatting, I realized again how Microsoft Word-centric most writers and subject matter experts are, and that I need to take extra time to educate in order to avoid client anxiety and create the best input for me in doing a redesign.
I’ve been tweaking the content, design, and index of the annual new edition of Ocular Anatomy and Physiology since 2015. Dr. Jan Bergmanson shepherds the project every year, and often asks his colleagues to add additional information from recent research. He also has one of his post-doctoral candidates coordinate any changes to the text and additions to the images (there are a lot of images in the book).
The trouble comes from the fact that I work with a new post-doc every year. My coordinators are really good at ocular anatomy and physiology, but they, like most folks, are used to writing documents in text programs like Microsoft Word. They often don’t realize that the designer will lay out the book in another program (InDesign, in my case). They get confused and anxious when they get a chapter by chapter export of the previous edition from the original PDF into Word and the images are floating around, the page breaks are out of sync, etc.
I know it’s fine because I’ll incorporating just the new changes into the already set InDesign layout, but the poor coordinators often think they have to “format” the Word files after the contributors change or add material, as if the Word file of all the chapters together will be the final product.
Microsoft Word’s Layout Issues
Word is definitely not a good book layout program since it tries to be “helpful” and automatically shifts image locations and keeps changing the page flow depending on what it thinks the printer settings are for a given computer. That’s death by a thousand shifts for the index update part of the project, not to mention the often random moves of images from one page to another. A true layout program like InDesign is the best way to control placement of text and images, for looks and for consistent page flow for indexing.
I’ve written a new introduction email from me for the post-docs and any authors that are working on revisions to a book I’ve designed; I can save the client a lot of time and anxiety by reassuring them that they can focus just on the content (but make changes visible to me) and not on trying to “format” the document.
We can all breathe easier with our roles clearly defined, and I can get on with helping create a great book with my client.