Servitisation of publishing (IV): embodiment

In my work as communications consultant at Frontinus, I find I’m constantly drawing on my publishing mindset.

A chief expression of that is the habit of attending to the way in which a message is embodied.

Each communication needs to be embodied in some way – in the form of, say, an email or a presentation, or a report.

How effective that communication will be will then depend on the degree to which the it is optimised for the selected form of embodiment.

Let’s take journal papers as an example. Most of the writers of such papers with whom I work tend to write the bulk of the paper before deciding which journal to send it to. They then make that decision and then tweak the paper to bring it into conformity with the journal’s policy, style guide, etc.

You can do it that way: many people make it work for them. But that way of working has some inherent weaknesses.

Often the effort required to bring the paper into line with the target journal will be greater than was expected. (To give an example: I worked with a researcher who drafted a paper, decided that he’d send it to a journal called PNAS, and then discovered the paper was about twice the maximum length permitted by that journal.) Cue much frustration.

Second, the changes made to the draft don’t go far enough. Papers get ‘tweaked’, so that the revised version, though better aligned with the journal, is nowhere near to being optimised for the purpose.  It remains more off-the-peg than tailored. This problem is very widespread: in my estimation, the majority of papers that I assist researchers with come nowhere near to being optimised.

Whereas, if the journal had been selected at the beginning of the process and its character and requirements studied, the paper could have been genuinely tailored.

My habit of mind here — for a communication to be optimised by considering, from the start, how it is to be embodied — stems directly from my experience in publishing, especially as a commissioning editor and development editor: let’s decide what kind (genre, extent, etc.) of book would work best and then seek to ensure the book’s written according.

Applying that habit is another way in which a publisher’s mindset can add value beyond the book business.

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