Who are they?
The Project Management Institute (PMI) has this to say on the topic:
“They [project managers] work well under pressure and are comfortable with change and complexity in dynamic environments. They can shift readily between the ‘big picture’ and the small-but-crucial details, knowing when to concentrate on each.
“They have a broad and flexible toolkit of techniques, resolving complex, interdependent activities into tasks and sub-tasks that are documented, monitored and controlled. They adapt their approach to the context and constraints of each project, knowing that no ‘one size’ can fit all the variety of projects. And they are always improving their own and their teams' skills through lessons-learned reviews at project completion.” (https://www.pmi.org/about/learn-about-pmi/who-are-project-managers)
In the publishing world, a Project Manager requires a broad knowledge of the production process from editing through publication—be it in print, online, or both. It may require oversight of a team of writers, editors, designers, photographers, and production artists. Depending on the industry, this team may be made up of professionals, volunteers, or a combination of both. As PMI notes, there is no “one size” to the scope of tasks to be undertaken and managed. Much depends on the type of publication being produced and the size and capabilities of the organization (or in the case of self-publishing authors, an individual) requiring services.
Who needs one, and why?
Non-Profit Organizations, Professional Associations, Businesses
Any entity that publishes a periodical, annual report, donor magazine, and/or directory may be in need of a professional project manager to assist the process along in a timely, accurate, and cost-effective manner. This is especially true for non-profits, associations, and small businesses who rarely have the funds or need for a full-time staff member to take on this role. Most have a point person (acquisitions editor) on staff, who takes in submissions from board members, co-workers, association members, and the like, and hands it over to a production team for completion. This process can vary in efficiency depending on the skill sets of the staff member, in addition to their own time constraints depending on how many other “hats” they may be wearing for the organization or business. A project manager (who may also serve as a member of the creative production team as I often do), can ensure that publications stay on schedule and get to press without expensive surprises or edits in the process.
Despite Guy Kawaski’s advice in his book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur–How to Publish a Book, it’s not always the best route for an author to opt for the DIY approach. Professional copyediting, proofreading, cover design, and page layout can help a self-published work stand out from the ever-growing crowd. A project manager can assist the author in deciding just what they can and can’t handle on their own, and advise and assist them in selecting team members to help make their publishing dreams come true. This is especially important for writers of non-fiction and technical books that may have an abundance of tables, charts, and other graphics. Ensuring that these elements translate well to the printed page is a job for someone experienced in digital production requirements.
Academic Associations, Journal Publishers, Small Publishers
Academic journals are not always published by a university press. They are sometimes the product of a professional association or society to foster research and discussion in their field of study. Though they usually have more-than-qualified editors and peer reviewers, they often need help with the production process. Tasks can include coordinating the post-layout proof process with the contributing authors in addition to the aforementioned design and production services and liaison with the printer/publisher as well.
Over my 40+-year career, I have acted as project manager for a wide variety of publications for publishers, organizations, businesses, and individuals. To find out if your project could benefit from the assistance of a project manager, contact me for a free half-hour consultation.