Re: Who's Job is it to Layout a Book?

Subject: Re: Who's Job is it to Layout a Book?
From: Bill Sullivan <bsullivan -at- POWERWARE -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 15 Jul 1999 19:34:16 -0400

You wanted to know: Whose job is it to lay out a book?

In one sense, I can't be too hard on what appears to be this client's modus operendi. She evidently want all of her books designed by the same hands. It's kind of like McDonald's hamburger stands with their golden arches.

On the other hand, management can possibly make a mistake when it compartmentalizes its writers and ties their hands too severely. Writers (real writers, at least) know their audience, they know how to serve the audience, and they know how to cut through the talk of the engineers and the people in sales and marketing and give users what they want and need. Writers know what to say and what to avoid. They know what to put first. A good writer brings a lot to the project. It's a unique contribution -- nobody else can bring what a good writer can. Nobody.

When management tells the writer to forget about graphics because that's so and so's job, it's a bit of an insult and an affront to the writer. Management starts something where it stands to lose. As with the first sign of cancer, it may not result in death, but it certainly indicates an opening for remedies.

When management starts putting writers into cubbyholes, they probably don't just stop with graphics. They probably are thinking everything about the features of the product could easily be written by sales and marketing, and that procedures and tutorials for using the product could just as well come from engineering. In other words, they forget a writer's golden ability to speak to a company's public, giving users what they need in a no-nonsense way that they can understand.

This is what I would worry about, especially if I had tied my career to the company or was a shareholder. It's an indication of a sort of thinking that makes me wonder how long this company will be around.

I have some other thoughts, too, that a good writer is a good collaborator, or team player as they like to say. You become accustomed to working with people in graphics, and you know a lot of good has come from it. So now they tell you that you and graphics are on the same level, both reporting to X, and that somehow makes you feel like your position on the ladder has been lessened.

I hope you have other clients with managers who value what good writers bring to a product team. But as for the guys you wrote about, as long as their checks don't bounce, go ahead and cash them.

Bill S.

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