Ever wonder how all the puzzle pieces come together to create a bimonthly publication? Take a peek into the process for American Spirit, a history- and preservation-focused magazine Hammock publishes for the Daughters of the American Revolution. The upcoming May/June issue is a special one, as it will be distributed to all DAR members to commemorate the three-year term of President General Linda Gist Calvin. No two cycles of the magazine are the same, but here are roughly the steps the editors and designers take from initial story ideas to the magazine landing on the coffee table:
- Compiling the slate. Working closely with the DAR publications staff, Hammock’s editors compile the list of stories for American Spirit a year in advance. We refine the list of stories, which we call the editorial slate, closer to the date of the issue, generally about two months before the issue’s in-home date.
Last-minute additions and changes occur depending on current needs and interest of the membership. For instance, because the National Society requested a greater geographical diversity for this all-member issue, the Spirited Adventures story changed to cover a Western travel destination (Jackson Hole, Wyo.) rather than a Northeastern one (Bar Harbor, Maine).
- Refining the editorial. After assigning and receiving stories from in-house and freelance writers, the managing editor then passes those stories to the edit team and DAR publications staff for input and, let’s face it, for red-pen editing. We take advantage of the association’s expertise whenever possible. Because this issue will feature a story on Revolutionary POWs, Editor Lena Anthony interviewed DAR historians and plugged a related exhibit in the DAR Americana Room
- Finding the right images. A preview meeting is next on the agenda, with editors presenting story ideas to Art Director Kerri Davis, Senior Designer Lynne Boyer and Graphic Designer Ben Stewart. The designers grab a few assignments, then start their search for images. Sometimes they contract with outside photographers and illustrators; other times they work with archivists, museums, historical collections, libraries, convention and visitor bureaus and other contacts tipped by the story’s writers.
For an upcoming article on America’s passion for bicycles, Lynne contacted curators from the Bicycle Museum of America, whose staff provided cool images of bikes throughout history.
- Tweaking the layouts. This stage brings together editors and designers to create layouts that will grab readers’ attention and reward that attention with powerful stories. For the upcoming photo-heavy feature on covered bridges, Editor Emily McMackin is working closely with Ben to accent the beautiful photographs he has found with evocative text.
And even though the manuscripts are in the design stage, that doesn’t mean that the copy is final. The stories undergo a lot more back-and-forth, with editors fact-checking and fine-tuning the copy. At the same time, designers are asking for copy to be cut and for visual elements like pull quotes, sidebars, subheads and infographics be added.
This often takes place at our wall, where we post layouts and then meet as a group to critique everything. The layouts are usually posted for a couple of days before the meeting to allow everyone a chance to look, even people not directly involved in American Spirit.
Sometimes the editors and designers hash out a completely new headline that combines the images and text more accurately. (This is usually when Senior Editor Bill Hudgins is employed for his unparalleled punny ability.) Though not always the smoothest part of the process, this creative, collaborative stage can often be the most rewarding.
- Finessing the production. As layouts are being finalized, Production Manager Patrick Burns focuses on image retouching and color correcting, making sure the entire piece is print-ready and good to go. Hammock proofreaders then comb over hard-copy proofs before Patrick uploads files electronically for a final-stage “soft” proof. After sign-off by an editor and designer, Patrick uploads the files to the printer and we review them one more time online before the presses roll. The audible sigh of relief doesn’t happen until a couple of weeks later when the printed version lands in mailboxes and on desks.