When prospective clients come to Westchester Publishing Services seeking solutions to several of their workflow challenges, many are pleasantly surprised to learn about the spectrum of services that are available to ease the multitude of tasks they have been accustomed to managing in-house.

Over the years, many packagers have expanded their offerings to support publishers further upstream from the traditional production and typesetting services that publishers expect packagers to handle. Packagers are increasingly able to support publishers beyond these expected services—and publishers should be exploring ways their packager partner can help make their workload more manageable. We will outline several solutions packagers may have for helping publishers improve workflows and maintain schedules.

As the publishing industry has evolved—adding digital products, increasing the number of distribution channels, expanding marketing and acquisition programs, and managing other complexities—publishers have needed to modify their own workflows and examine how to be more efficient with tasks and their associated costs. While the scope of product offerings and points of sale has increased, this doesn’t mean that publishers have staff in place to handle the additional editorial and production responsibilities, so they may need to seek external support from a packager to complete these steps affordably and on schedule. The extent of services and the level of customization will vary by company, so publishers should speak with prospective packagers to gain a better understanding of how compatible each company’s solutions are with their current processes and long-term requirements.

Packagers often collaborate with their client publishers as far upstream as the manuscript stage, with the application of a tagset for pre-editing or providing developmental editing services that are helpful in addressing potential reader experience issues. Trade and academic publishers have been increasingly seeking out these services in recent years, because it frees up their internal staff to focus on other high-priority tasks, as well as ensures smoother production and typesetting and the output of the finished content into the various file formats that are necessary for offset printing, print-on-demand, and EPUB files.

Packagers may also be able to offer publishers more affordable options for managing necessary but typically time-consuming tasks, such as logging files into asset management systems, handling research and permissions tracking for photographs or artwork, and creating ancillary content materials such as PowerPoint presentations or other marketing assets.

Additionally, packagers are often able to help with the handling of more complex art and design tasks when a publisher doesn’t have sufficient volume to justify the overhead for permanent staff members. One specialized skill set is data visualization for charts, graphs, and tables for academic, industry trade, or higher education content; publishers may not have such resources available in-house and might have difficulty obtaining a qualified freelancer to complete the work within the available timeframe and budget. Another service area that packagers may be able to help with is design—for covers, interior layouts, and more. Packagers often work with publishers who produce a variety of titles across subject areas, from picture books and general fiction and nonfiction titles to highly complex academic and professional content. They can be a useful resource in helping identify the best layout and design to apply and can develop a template based on either a publisher’s current house style or something completely new and different.

Alt-text creation, along with the creation and remediation of EPUB content, is an important area where a packager can support publishers. The European Accessibility Act, which will be fully implemented in June 2025, requires that all EPUBs being offered for sale or use within the European Union, whether new or backlist, conform to EPUB 3.3 accessibility standards. At Westchester, our production services staff have successfully completed and maintained the rigorous training levels required to meet the Benetech Global Certified Accessible Vendor standard, and as a member of DAISY, we value the capabilities we can provide to our clients to ensure their publications meet globally recognized standards for ease of use by the growing population of readers who require assistive technology. In addition to our affiliations with Benetech and DAISY, we have built out a partnership with Ingram Publisher Services and industry organizations including the Book Industry Study Group, the Independent Book Publishers Association, and the Independent Publishers Guild (UK) to ensure that smaller, independent publishing companies are able to offer accessible resources for sale without the significant overhead needed to obtain individual certification.

It’s essential for publishers and the packagers they work with to maintain ongoing communication with each other, especially as the titles being worked on and the resources the publisher has available to handle the workload change and evolve. At Westchester, regular check-ins with our clients help us fully understand developments within their companies. We consult and identify the potential impacts on their workflows and schedules and provide options for solving those new issues. We often ask:

Are you developing new product lines?

Have you acquired the assets of another publisher that will need updated front matter, covers, or interiors so that the style matches that of your existing catalog?

Has there been a change in personnel on a temporary or long-term basis where additional support would help keep projects on schedule, particularly during high-volume times?

Packagers can play a larger role as a publisher’s partner, beyond the traditional pre-press production functions. They can help publishers with upstream tasks, including project management, design, and consultation. Anticipating what a client needs for their publications and offering a complete array of solutions that bring the best of technology and humanity to the pre-press process is truly the full package. So, when publishers are faced with new publication challenges of any kind, we advise that they seek out a packager partner. And they should not be surprised when that packager answers their question with, “Yes, we can help you do that.”

Nicole Tomassi, marketing & conference manager at Westchester Publishing Services

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