If it were only as easy as getting hypnotized!

If you don’t have a solid performing arts program book production department in place, then you are really doing a disservice to your organization. Having a top notch program book production department is crucial to getting your program books produced in record time, having them 100% error free, and most important, having a great program book to hand out to your audience.

Setting up your killer program book production department can be done in 7 easy steps. The below 7 steps will guide you through setting up your program book production department.


Your program book production department basically starts after the advertising sale. So if you look at anything beyond the sales department, this is your program book production department.

After the sale is closed, your program book production department starts by checking the advertising contracts and data entering them. When you are checking the advertising contract, you are looking to make sure all the fields are filled out properly to include billing instructions. If there is something missing or not correct on the advertising contract and cannot be fixed by the production department, a query needs to be generated. This is simply a form that goes back to the sales rep with the identified problem so they can fix it and get it back into the production department as soon as they are able.

After the advertising contract passes the checking department, they get entered into your database. This can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet all the way up to a customized program book production database. At Onstage Publications, we use the latter to allow us to gain much more insight on any one of our program book advertising campaigns at any one time. It also allows us to keep a close eye on our advertising inventory and gives instant information to our sales force so they can quickly tell which premium items are still available to sell, or other important information about the particular market being worked.

After the contracts are entered, they need to be audited to make sure they were entered properly. A good contract entry database can produce a quick report of all the information entered for that day and that report can then be quickly audited.

After the contracts are audited, simply split the contract. The advertising agreement portion will go to your billing department and the ad copy sheet will go to your art department where the ad will be built and proofed out to the customer.


Your accounting department now has an error free advertising agreement to bill the customer with. The reason step 1 is so important is because once the invoice is generated and emailed, you do not want to have questions from the customer because this will only delay payment.


At this step, your program book starts to take form. Ads that were being built by your art department should now be in a folder on your server properly named, program book content from the various departments in your organization should start to be gathered, and the program book can now start to be laid out in your pagination program. You will still have holes in the program book at this point, but it will slowly start to come together if all the deadlines are met (see 5 Tips For A Bullet Proof Pub Schedule).

4. PROOF #1

You now have your first program book draft to be proofed out to all that need to see it. Using hard deadlines, gather up all the changes, and get it back to your production artist to make the changes.

5. PROOF #2

After all the first round changes have been made, you are ready to proof out the second proof. This is your final proof to all that need to be proofed, and this needs to be well communicated to everyone. Using hard deadlines again, gather up all the changes, and once again get it back to your production artist.

6. PROOF #3

This is the final proof. If everything was followed properly in the steps above, this should be a quick look over and once again, should not go back out to everyone again. This will just open up the door for “oh I needed to add…” which will only cause delays in getting the final program book files to the printer and could cause you to lose your print press time window.


After you have uploaded the print files to your printer, you should receive a printer proof. If you have a good working relationship with your printer, this should be a matter of hours, not days.

After you receive the printer proofs, you are simply looking for file errors—DO NOT MAKE ADDITIONAL CHANGES AT THIS STEP, nor let anyone proof this other than your designated proofer—this will only cost you time and money. If everything was proofed properly prior to uploading the files to your printer, there should be no more changes at this point, unless it is a file issue. A lot of organizations think that this is another proofing opportunity to make changes, but don’t kid yourself. This will cost you a lot of money and risk losing your print press time window, which at this point could cause you to not have a program book for the performance.

After you submit your approval on the print files you can now sit back and relax knowing that you will have an error free awesome program book for all to see. Good selling!

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