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How the HowStuffWorks Book Works 2001


Looks Like a Book!
Now you have something that is starting to resemble an actual book. At this point, it's time to work on the remaining pieces like the table of contents, the index and the front and back matter -- all the "stuff" that you find at the beginning and end of the book. For us, this was a fun but surprisingly time-consuming process. Since the actual cover wasn't quite finished, we were having an interesting time trying to make the design of the table of contents, title page and other front and back matter "fit." The process for this was a lot like working on the cover. Rick, Michele, and Cynthia created treatments and then we all met to go over everything. Eventually, it was all was finalized and the blues (proofs) were sent to press. Depending on the printer, "blues" look either like regular laser proofs or they're kind of funny-smelling pages of light blue paper with blue ink -- hence the name "blues."

Meanwhile, there was another process going on to get the book into the bookstore. This process was led by Kathy and implemented by Michele, Cindy and the sales force. Michele and Cindy created a blad -- an eight-page mini-book that acts as a sample. The "How Stuff Works" blad contained three short articles, a sample cover and several different pieces describing the book.

The sales force uses the blad to talk with buyers at bookstores, discount stores, warehouses and so on to generate interest in the book and, ideally, orders for it. As these orders are fulfilled, you are able to find the book on a shelf in a store so you can buy it and take it home.


Cover of the blad: Notice how it closely resembles the final cover.

The incredible thing about projects like this is that all of these different threads are running simultaneously. The words, art, sidebars, proofing, cover, layout and sales processes were all taking place at the same time, with everyone coordinating and working together to get everything done on time. At any given point, perhaps two-dozen people were working on the book in some way. In addition to the processes described here, there were lots of daily meetings and discussions that had a huge impact on the finished product. Little things like the color-coded bars at the tops of the pages, and the different types of sidebars -- "Cool Facts," "And Another Thing...," "Did You Know?" -- were all ideas that germinated during those discussions.


If you have ever seen a movie being produced, you will recognize the same sort of process. In a big movie, hundreds of people are working together to get the project done in a short amount of time. One of the most amazing things about a project like this is watching individuals work together toward a common goal. It allows us to accomplish extraordinary things in much less time than it would take any single person, and this type of teamwork is the underpinning of our society as a whole. It is a crucial part of how people get things done -- together!

For more information on "How Stuff Works," "How Much Does the Earth Weigh?" and lots of related topics, check out the links on the next page.


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