The title “editor” is a convenient, self-explanatory name quite handy to say to people who ask what I do for a living. It’s a capsule of information about what editors do: edit.
One year into this editorial post, though, I understand that being an editor of a magazine is not just about trimming articles, spotting grammatical lapses, and adhering to an institution’s editorial style–these are just the tip of the iceberg.
The latest challenge in my work has to be the pinnacle of all struggles that the Rice Today team and I have experienced since I joined last year. The challenge was to finish the magazine three weeks ahead of the usual deadline and deliver some copies to an important conference in Bali, a few days after printing.
Four hundred magazines need to be shipped to Indonesia within a month.
At first, I thought of arguing with my boss that this is not possible, because it takes us about two months to complete the entire production and printing of the quarterly magazine. IRRI’s in-house writers need to pass the articles to scientists and experts for review and approval before the editors and associate publisher polish them. My co-editor Lanie (from IRRI’s Communication and Publication Services) and I need to team up to put together the essentials such as cover photo/art, centerfold photo, line up of story ideas and writers, and other featured pages.
Being the publisher’s representative, I am in charge of communicating with advertisers, printing press, and DHL Global Mail Singapore. The tricky part of the task is how to politely and professionally push all these units to work double time.
Instead of explaining to the boss that his demand cannot be done, I started emailing the team about the urgency of the October-December 2012 issue, and suggested a time plan. The most challenging emails I wrote are the ones for IRRI’s head economist Dr. Samarendu Mohanty (he’s usually the last one to submit because timeliness of his articles is important to him); another one is for our layout artist Grant Leceta, who will carry the burden of squeezing the layout job into one week if all articles arrive at the 11th hour. To cheer him up, I explained that about a quarter of the magazine will contain ads, so that means less pages for layout, plus, he will enjoy the rest of September instead of the usual month-long crunch time.
I received a bunch of “good lucks” and some hints of uncertainty. Many articles were sent after the deadline, and some writers could only give us updates because their reviewers are either out-of-town or working on an important project. That was the next challenge. I was calculating time; one more day of delays in submission would mean failure to deliver. There was no other choice but to contact some of the experts themselves. Normally, it’s Lanie who would contact them to follow up, but this time, I needed to step in and explain the urgency and apologize for the rush.
The impossible happened
While editing the articles and talking with advertisers, writers, and graphic artist, I had to coordinate a more complex set of players: the printing press and DHL in Singapore and the hotel coordinator who will receive the copies in Bali. First off, printing 4,000+ copies usually takes more than a week, but because some articles came in late, I had to persuade the printers to do it in 3-5 days (Nay Chi said they will try, we worked ways and bargained a condition or two, until Nay Chi gave a definite yes).
After finishing my edits and looking at the layout, I flew to Singapore to edit the proof copy, where one can see the actual appearance of the magazine, to check errors in printing or content one last time. Thankfully, with copy editor Bill Hardy, communication big boss Gene Hettel, editor Lanie Reyes, and PR director Sophie Clayton, all was finished and the printing started to run. Siew Teng and Nay Chi successfully finished the printing in 3 days after a day of creating the plates for the run.
My request for DHL Global was more incredible: to deliver 400 copies to Westin Bali in 1 day plus weekends, despite sure delays at the Indonesian customs. The boss was also busy with a thousand things for the conference, so he passed onto me the task of communicating with other couriers who can fill in DHL’s job–after long threads of emails with another courier, DHL still won as the best possible way to deliver.
But since I fear failing to send the copies on time, I asked the boss to carry at least half of the 400 copies (despite his back pains) from Singapore to Bali. After days of emails and Skype chats, he agreed. Right now, we have sure 200 copies at the conference.
What helped in the situation is the professionalism of DHL’s Elsie Soo and Hakim Nordim, and their understanding of our needs.
This issue was a crazy ride, but it just proves that the impossible can happen if one sets her eyes strictly on the goal.
(24 September, my birthday, the deadline)
The packages have been cleared at the Bali customs! And the magazines arrived at the hotel on 24 September, a few hours after noon.