Publishing outsourcing has grown from humble beginnings in the 1970s to a multi-billion-dollar industry today. Onshore outsourcing in publishing makes sense, especially for publishers of scholarly, scientific, technological, and medical titles. Getting a US doctor to proofread a medical title can be immensely costly, as doctors in the US earn substantial salaries in dollar terms. Getting a doctor in India to proofread the same title can be much more affordable, as that country’s lower income levels and favourable exchange rate drive down the price of such services.

Onshore outsourcing: the who, where, why and how much

The total global market for all outsourced services was $88.9 billion in 2015, down from a peak of $104.6 billion in 2014. According to Deloitte, companies that make use of outsourced service providers cite cost-cutting (59%), capacity issues (47%), and improved service quality (31%) as some of the main reasons.

As an aside, if Offshoring is a topic of interest, have a read of Onshore, offshore, unsure? Where we explore publisher-vendor partnerships.

In the publishing industry, most of the services that are outsourced relate to content, design, typesetting, and, more recently, XML tagging to ensure the appropriate metadata is in place. The bulk of this work goes to India: by the late 2000s, the country took a $650-million slice of the $800-million publishing outsourcing market.

However, many publishers have struggled to offshore the full publishing production process. Some types of content editing – such as editing journals, for example – are more suited to offshore editing than others. Understanding which aspects of publishing can be taken offshore and which should remain onshore  can be difficult to grasp.

I think the essential DNA of the ideal service provider would be able to have a high enough knowledge level to figure out what is needed and to be flexible enough to adapt to those needs

Lara Silva McDonnell, Senior Project Manager, Deanta


Working with a service provider that has built offshore operations to the same standards of onshore recruitment and training helps immensely. With the rise of the gig economy, many publishers are also turning to local freelancers. But this represents its own set of pitfalls and warning signs.

The gig economy: good enough?

Make no mistake, the gig economy is huge. A recent Gallup poll found that 57 million Americans have “an alternative work arrangement as their primary job”. In fact, more than one-third of all Millennial Americans are independent workers: in 2015, Millennials became the largest demographic group in the US workforce. Other countries – especially those with developed economies – have seen similar uptake of gig work.

Platforms such as Fiverr have connected businesses with gig workers on an unprecedented scale. A quick search on the site for “proofreading and editing” services produced more than 7 000 potential freelancers. For as little as $50, you could have a novel or journal formatted by a professional freelancer with a seven-day turnaround time. It’s an incredibly attractive proposition.

The challenge with using a platform such as Fiverr, however, is that it’s a bit of a hit-and-miss process of finding freelancers that fit with a publisher’s specific requirements. Getting stuck with an ineffective or disloyal freelancer when the pressure is on and deadlines are tight can be an expensive and stressful learning experience for publishers.

Poor quality work requires in-house editing which can increase costs and erode profit margins. But wholesale offshoring of editing also carries immense risk and can be costly when factors such as quality assurance and oversight are accounted for.

We’d argue that the best option for publishers who want to contain costs without sacrificing quality or adding heaps of stress and frustration to the process is to work with a service provider that can offer a mix of onshore outsourcing and offshore services.

The DNA of an ideal outsourced service provider

Outsourced pre-media teams should preferably be immersed in their subject fields as much as they are in their geographic region. They should understand the unique dynamics of their home market and be able to adapt their outsourced services to suit the exact requirements of their publisher customers.

One of the biggest challenges for any type of outsourcing relates to tasks that require a full understanding of very specific processes. This type of understanding is often driven by culture and is difficult if not impossible for offshore teams to be aware of and navigate.

Working with a team that is culturally aligned with the publisher’s way of working and has the agility to tailor services to a publisher’s unique requirements can free up valuable time and energy and leave publishers to focus on their core function.

Publishers should seek service providers that can streamline their production processes, improve the quality of editorial, cut down turnaround times and reduce costs. Considering the disruption brought by the digital transformation of the publishing industry, publishers should also make sure their service providers can offer highly skilled professionals as well as innovative technology to stay ahead of the curve.

Help is at hand

Deanta’s proprietary technology and team of expert professionals support some of the world’s leading academic, STM, and legal publishers through complete and customised publishing solutions. Get in touch to find out how we can support your next publishing project.