by Jennifer Zaczek, Collaborative EditorJenn Zaczek

Last week, I received an email from a client saying that she’d committed “a big oops.” She’d sent me the wrong version of her manuscript for ebook formatting. All the work had to be redone.

If this hasn’t happened to you, it can happen if you don’t have an organized file management system in place. When I worked as an editorial project manager for a book production company, file management was extremely important. We needed to be able to find certain files quickly and track the progression of the manuscript through the publication process.

File management is important to authors too, especially those who are publishing themselves. If you are an indie publisher, you are the publisher, and quality control—to a certain extent—is in your hands. You are the one who must put an organized file system into place. If there’s a problem, you have to be able to track it down and solve it.

No doubt, you have countless drafts saved in various parts of your computer. Maybe you want to pull several previously published short stories together and release them as a single volume. Or maybe you want to have additional ebook formats prepared, but only your typesetter has the most recent version of your book, with all those last-minute proofreading corrections implemented, and your designer no longer has the file. You can take care of these things easily with good file management.

All files relating to your book project should be kept in a hierarchical file system on your computer with appropriate file and folder names. For each project, consider creating an editorial production folder with the following subfolders: Admin, Dev Edit, Line Edit, Proofread, Layout, Ebook. The files in the Line Edit folder might look something like this:

  • Title_original.doc (the file you sent to your editor for line editing)
  • Title_LEsource.doc (the line edited file you received from your editor)
  • Title_LEreview.doc (the line edited file you received from your editor but with your revisions, which you send to your editor for review)
  • Title_LEaccepted.doc (the file you receive from your editor after all revisions have been edited and all tracked changes have been accepted; this would be the final manuscript file that you send to your proofreader or typesetter/formatter)

Keeping a copy of the manuscript at each stage of the process is beneficial for several reasons:

  • You’ll be able to find files quickly. No more hunting through your emails to retrieve a specific attachment.
  • You’ll have a record of your manuscript at each stage of the publishing process.
  • If there’s a problem, such as a typo in the final product, you can go back to each part of the process to see where the problem occurred and learn how to prevent it from happening again in the future.
  • You are forced to keep one version, and one version only, of the manuscript active at one time.
  • Backing up your files will be much easier.
  • Being conscious of how and where you save your files can help improve your computer’s performance.

When you work with contractors, such as editors, designers, and formatters, always ask them to send you the final files when the work is complete. Once you put a file-management system into place, be consistent. Over time, you won’t even have to think about how to name and store your files; the process will be like second nature to you. Just remember to keep it simple, and soon you’ll see that having a well-structured file management process in place leaves you with more time for writing and the more glamorous aspects of publishing.

Jenn Zaczek has been working in publishing since 2006. She helps clients with ebook formatting, but her main areas of concentration are line editing and proofreading. Her organized file management system has saved her clients on more than one occasion.