I recently got an assignment to put together an art catalog involving around 60 artists (me being one of them). I was sent a list of artists, a boatload of images that mostly had the artists' names in the titles, and a web site to refer to. I requested a spreadsheet from the project coordinator but it never came, then I began to hear from artists wondering about the status of the catalog, so I decided to breathe deep and belly=flopped in the pool by first cross-checking the list against the web site. Most of it matched, but several new names came up, so I added those. Then I cross-checked the new list against the image files (883 images), and found additional names, as well as file names by first & last name, last name, and no name. Not to mention a lot of duplicate images. Not to mention some images that were dangerously low-rez. Checking the images revealed that some of the projects were done by teams of artists. Other artists on the list had no image files. In between, I sent my checklist to a project coordinator for confirmation and queries. I logged at least eight hours of organizing time before I could even start design. Do I even need to add that this is a pro bono job?
The point is that book organization and production is a game of thousands, if not millions of details... and a checklist that is checked over and over and over again by several people is kind of mandatory. This isn't the first client I've had that assumes organizing this much material is magic. I honestly don't think this much organizing is the designer's job, but continually I receive material that's promised to be clean, easy to interpret, labeled, proofread, etc. I request lists and spreadsheets, and rarely get them. Yet it's always the first place I start. It's so simple yet so helpful. It's the subject of a great book, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande. It may sound like a “duh” but how come it's so rarely put in practice (at least for my projects & clients; maye you're luckier)?
Checklists are you friends...your really good friends... they may be your best [inanimate] friends.