For the first time in its history, all five BISG committees are chaired by women, and this week, PW, in cooperation with BISG, is shining a spotlight on these exceptional volunteer chairs. The interviews have been conducted by industry consultant Julie Blattberg and edited by PW.
Today's interview is with Rachel Comerford, senior director of content standards and accessibility at Macmillan Learning. At Macmillan, Comerford said her job is to define problems in processes and help provide solutions. She is chair of BISG Workflow Committee
How did you get into the industry?
I went to Emerson College’s Publishing Master’s program with the idea that it would be helpful to understand publishing when I wrote my first book. Haven’t written that book yet...but with that knowledge, I worked as a textbook buyer for Barnes & Noble and then a textbook sales rep for W. W. Norton. Norton eventually moved me in-house to work on their ancillary programs until Pearson picked me up to work on the MyLab products. I’m at Macmillan Learning now, and, in a turn I never saw coming, my focus is on accessibility and workflows. It was a huge learning curve after almost 10 years in editorial, but an incredibly exciting one.
What compelled you to volunteer for a BISG committee?
BISG has been a great resource for the industry. It brings together people with varying types and levels of expertise and allows them to share their experiences in order to find industry solutions. To me, this collaboration is key to developing and maintaining a successful industry.
What’s your committee working on now?
The workflow committee recently released a white paper, "Fixing the Flux: Challenges and Opportunities in Publishing Workflows," which examined workflow problems and fixes for the industry. We’re focusing our attention now on a updating some other useful resources, including guides for making fixed layout EPUBs and a field guide to in e-books.
What’s on the horizon in 2021 for your committee?
We’re developing a new resource for workflow improvement—a database / catalog of resources and tools for improving publisher workflows. Our goal is to create something that organizations across the supply chain can use no matter where they are in the workflow change process. The result of this effort will enable organizations to understand what’s out there, make informed decisions, and operate more effectively. This includes metadata that assists in distribution to customers, technology that makes workflows faster and easier, and standards that help keep the supply chain moving.
Thinking about your work with BISG, what are you most proud of?
That they delivered a tiara to me on demand. Kidding.... I’m really honored to have received the Industry Innovator Award from BISG in September. It comes at the end of the long process of making sure that every e-book Macmillan Learning produces is accessible, and that our customers get the content and information they need in order to make good adoption decisions. We began this work around the same time that I worked on my first BISG publication, "The Guide to Accessible Publishing," and much of my inspiration came from the group I worked with there.
Personally and/or professionally, what have you gotten out of volunteering with BISG?
I’ve found that volunteering at BISG is a great way to meet other people in the industry. It is so easy to become siloed in your own company’s world and to believe that your problems are unique. When you have a chance to speak to others in the business, there’s a sense of shared victories and shared frustrations. It is a place where, professionally, I’ve learned a lot about what my colleagues are doing and how I can use their experiences to be better at my job.
Anything to add?
This is such an exciting time to be doing what we do at BISG. The industry has seen a dramatic shift to digital products and that has made a more accessible world for readers with print disabilities. Diversity, equity, and inclusion in general is finally receiving the attention it deserves, and, as volunteers working across the supply chain, we have an opportunity to influence real change in the industry.