The Running Head.


What is a running head?

In the world of books these are what the world of computers calls ‘headers’ – the title of the book, or part title, or chapter, or author’s name, that appears on a single line near the top of the page. They are not to be confused with the more entertaining ‘running foot’ (ditto at the bottom of the page), nor – to draw on past suggestions – the name of a pub, a Native American name (‘Big Chief Running Head’), the symptom of a common kind of illness, and so on. Harry Brockway’s wonderful wood engraving illustrates a running head in its native habitat.

I am the production manager of a book publishing company. How can you compete with prices from suppliers in India?

We have a very efficient workflow with very little bureaucracy. When we compete head-to- (running?) head we appear to be a little more expensive, but if you can actively understand that you have variable in-house costs you will know that we can save you substantial amounts of your time (and money). More than this, we add value by delivering superb quality that increases sales and builds your brand; authors clearly feel good about their publisher when they want to say how much they enjoy working with us. In short: anyone can buy something cheaply, but it takes confidence, skill and judgement to know the true value of quality. Any good managing director or production director should be happy to endorse this kind of initiative.

Do you supply XML?

Yes. We subcontract to much larger suppliers in India, who have a lot of experience in working with different publishers’ DTDs; they supply XML to an excellent standard. We have an ‘XML last’ workflow, so we will be unsuitable for the few projects where large-scale repurposing or manipulation of content is integral to the publishing concept.

Isn’t ‘project management’ [in publishing] just someone with a phone and a computer? We can do that in-house anyway.

Yes – that’s how it’s usually done. The typesetting still goes ‘out’, usually to India or Hong Kong, where they will do what they are told, no less and no more. In this case the project management route offers no difference in quality – actually it can add one more tier of management and ‘Chinese whispers’-type distortion/constriction of communication. In our case, where we typeset in-house, we have unrivalled control over quality and schedule. Communication with us is direct and precise. Multiskilling and excellent communication allows us to work accurately, generate creative input, and add value that is otherwise impossible. If you trust us to work with authors direct, rather than micromanaging by email you spend your time managing outcomes of problems we have already sorted out. Isn’t that a better way to work?

Don’t you end up taking control away from us?

No. We never do this, because you know your business, we don’t. We’re confident we can help, but we also provide enough checking stages to make sure you are happy with our work. It helps if you trust us – of course. We also understand we have to earn that trust. We believe in the virtues of good service for the same reason that we stay on budget and meet deadlines: if you like us and the things we do, you will use us again.

How many people work at The Running Head?

Currently two. We also have a wide range of experienced and skilled freelancers to whom we send out work (or who come in). Sometimes we have people in-house doing work experience.

What kind of backgrounds do you have?

We have jointly many years’ experience in working in book publishing companies. I (David) have a degree in English from Oxford, a management diploma, eight years working in-house in publishing production at Reader’s Digest and Pluto Press, 11 years freelancing in editorial and production, now 19 years MD of The Running Head.

I am an undergraduate/postgraduate interested in working in publishing. Do you offer work experience placements?

Sometimes. We are delighted to have new people come to our office and take an interest in what we do, but a very few in the past have wasted our time. Clearly we will be most useful if you are looking for jobs in the desk-editing or production side of publishing. Read (and look at our work on) Giles Clark and Angus Phillips’s Inside Book Publishing (fourth edition) too.

The dates, duration and other arrangements are all negotiable. Send us your CV as a Word file – and make sure it is well written and spelled! Please note that despite the Google results for ‘Cambridge’ ‘book’ and ‘publishing’, we do not publish as such. We are like a standalone publishing production department with added typesetting and more interaction with authors.

I am an author. My publisher has told me my book has been subcontracted to The Running Head, and would like to know how you will be working with me.

I or my colleague will be in touch with you, explaining carefully what we do and how we do it; we will also discuss a schedule with you.

We will always work carefully, creatively and respectfully with you, so that your book expresses most communicatively – in its entirely new incarnation in the book medium and in the public sphere – what you would like it to say. We will consult with you and not make you do, say or have anything you do not want – subject, that is, to a brief from our customer, your publisher. We will work considerately and efficiently so that we do not waste your time or ours; we politely ask that you will work with us like this too. A small preliminary point about page proofs: because we nearly always show you the edited typescript and allow reasonable revision before we get to page proofs, we ask that the marking of alterations, ‘updates’ and ‘improvements’ (as opposed to outright errors) at this stage be kept to the minimum.

Many authors enjoy working with us because communications are unusually direct. (See also What people say.) Just one person onscreen edits, typesets, corrects the pages and edits the index of their book, so he or she will know it inside out and be able to check or change something important straight away – they do it themselves, they don’t e-mail someone in the front office of a huge company in (for example) Pondicherry.

We love working with authors – one of the nicest things about the publishing world – and feel proud to be part of the republic of letters.

I am the commissioning editor at a book publisher. What do I get from working with you?

If you are generating new publishing concepts from scratch you need to work fast and to generate creative ideas, often bouncing off technical constraints. For example, some e-books might very usefully and easily have embedded video and soundclips – this sparks some very different publishing ideas. Not all production departments – for all their many other excellent skills – are set up to foster the kind of generative thinking/high-bandwidth interactivity that we are uniquely placed to offer. People routinely throw comparatively base metals at us and we try very hard to turn them into gold. You need be no more than curious to arrange a meeting; we can show you the kinds of work we have done and discuss possibilities. (See also Book packaging.)

I am an author looking to self-publish. How can The Running Head help?

Publishing as a business is changing fast, and routes to market that don’t go through traditional publishers are nowadays much easier and more economically viable. Unfortunately self-publishers can be poorly served by companies with invasive/aggressive marketing; these companies may in fact offer a highly standardized (at best) rubber-stamping service with very little added value. One of the best things about traditional publishers is that they can work carefully and closely with the author. They use their expertise and experience to get (sometimes) spectacular results: the self-published and sinister-sounding Alice Underground became eventually (at Macmillan) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. We at The Running Head rarely suggest changing the title, but I hope you can see the virtues of having other stages of reflection and creativity before you publish. Most of our work is concerned with the look of the text, the quality of the editing and the many other signifiers that announce the (usual) differences in standards between professional and self-publishing. We can also advise on cover design, printing and both conventional and digital distribution.

How do you charge?

Our prices divide into two parts, to match your existing structures (if you are a publishing company, that is). I will quote on direct costs – the ones that usually appear in the production estimate and are out-of-house – to beat your existing suppliers of similar quality. Actually this is rather unfair, because our quality will always be better, so let us just say I will price to the market rate.

When we project manage or ‘package’ we are substituting for in-house time. As a rule of thumb guide, per book we will charge to beat substantially the cost of

(Equivalent production salaries + Share of annual overheads)

Number of new books published per year

Clearly there are plenty of percentages and variations that need to be discussed, but in essence I promise we will save you money and improve quality.

How can we start working with you?

Typically, you might be overloaded inhouse. Some books might be particularly tricky and need careful handling. You might just be curious to see how you can do things differently and better. You might feel like exploring how we can develop new products or save you money. As an author you might be looking for constructive, insightful and civilized help with your typescript. Whatever the reason, please contact me.