clear How Do You Keep the Publication Process Moving Forward?
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Once you have planned your publication, there are six critical steps to moving it forward. How much time each step will take and how important the step is in the process will depend on the document you're producing. A brief description of each step follows. You may find it helpful to talk with those familiar with producing documents such as printers, graphic designers, journalism teachers, English teachers, and school newspaper and yearbook staff. Later on, you can help others!

Step 1: Research Your Subject

One of the most important elements in creating a publication is the accuracy of your information. No matter how good your publication looks, you will lose credibility among your supporters if your information is wrong.

  • Check facts and dates. Don't assume that "common knowledge" is correct. Find out what experts have to say. Use the library and the Internet; ask the school research librarian to help you.

  • Whatever topic you choose to write about, there is most likely an existing organization that deals with this topic. For example, if you are writing a publication for senior citizens, get in touch with the American Association of Retired Persons chapter in your community, or if you are writing about preventing vandalism and graffiti, contact your local police department.

  • Interview people who know about your subject. Check with local
    professional associations, your reference librarian, your friends' parents, even your own parents. Ask people you interview for additional referrals and resources.

Step 2: Outline Your Document

Outlines help save time by organizing information and listing each point that you will write about next. They will help you prevent repetition, include important information, and keep your publication focused—with a clear beginning, middle, and end. An outline does not have to be elaborate or cast in stone. For a flier about an upcoming event, the outline may be simply a checklist that includes the event's name, date, time, location, and admission charge (if any); information about tickets; and reasons that people should attend. For a 16-page booklet, you may want to get a bit more formal: your outline should have an introduction, main topics with two or three supporting points under each, and a summary or conclusion.

Step 3: Write, Edit, and Rewrite Your Document

Writing is hard work. Whether one person writes the whole document or several people write parts of it, writing still involves effort. Some people draft documents best directly on a computer; others feel they are more creative when they write it out on paper first. Some people like to start writing with an introduction. Others like to write substantive sections first and then go back and write an introduction. Find your own style, but remember that most writers want to polish their drafts at least once before handing them to an editor—someone with excellent grammar and spelling skills and a good sense of language use!

Getting others, including members of the target audience, to review a document provides an important perspective that can help you improve your document and make it even stronger. Revise your draft based on the comments you receive. Then ask an editor to look it over and suggest any changes. You should also ask your group's adviser to review the draft. Once you've included everyone's changes, you'll want someone to proof the document for typos, spelling errors, and mistakes in dates and numbers.

Step 4: Design Your Publication

If you are preparing a flier and have some skills in layout on computer word-processing packages, you may be able to do the design yourself. However, for many documents (brochure, poster, or book), you will want more experienced help. While the computer lab at your school or a computer club in your community may offer some help on a volunteer basis, you may need to hire a professional design firm. Interview different firms, look at samples of their work, and compare their prices. Be prepared to work with the designer to help him or her understand the objectives for your publication and your ideas about its appearance. You will make many decisions together such as the colors, illustrations, photos, and type and size of font you want to use.

Whether you design the publication yourself, secure volunteer help, or hire a professional, you need to allot enough time for this stage. Depending on the publication, this stage could be a day or two or several weeks. Usually, the larger the document or the more complex the design (color photos and so on), the more time you will need. Again, a printer can usually suggest more specific guidelines for your document. In the most complicated case, the professional designer will present several ideas from which you may select one design. The designer will lay out the type; you will proof it and make corrections; and the designer will send corrected proofs for your review. Eventually you will agree on the final version.

Step 5: Go to Press

Depending on your publication and your budget, your "printer" may be as simple as a photocopying machine or as complex as a four-color press. In any case, you want to select a printer based on capability, equipment, and cost. Not all printers can produce four-color documents. Similarly, not all photocopiers will staple documents. If you need 300 stapled copies, this isn't very helpful. In addition, if a commercial printer cannot fold your brochure, you'll have to send the job elsewhere to be folded—at extra cost and time—or find volunteers to do the folding. Try to find a printer that can handle all your needs. This will cut down on cost and increase efficiency.

To find a printer, ask for recommendations from other organizations. Call around, obtain estimates, and compare prices. Make sure you receive at least three estimates in writing. You may also want to obtain samples from printers or visit their facilities.

Be sure you clearly review with your printer how many pages your publication is, what kind of format you want, how many colors of ink it requires, what kinds of folding and delivery requirements you have, and when you need the job completed. Whichever printer you eventually choose, you will definitely want to obtain a written contract.

To reduce your printing costs, make sure that you give your printer the cleanest copy you can. That means grammar, spelling, headlines, and photos must be checked and rechecked before submission. Your printer will show you a "blueline," a final copy that allows you a last opportunity to make corrections. Changes at this stage are costly, sometimes extremely costly. Before giving the printer a final number of needed copies, recheck your figure—it's cheaper to print more the first time around than to go back and print more later.

Step 6: Distribute Your Product

One aspect of getting your publication out is creating a distribution list. If your publication is a monthly newsletter, you may want to create a computerized database. This will help you keep track of who receives your newsletter, who wants to be added to the distribution list, and who wants to be dropped from the distribution list. In addition, some printers offer mailing and distributing services.

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Youth in Action Bulletin April 2000   black   Number 16