Sinead Hering is a Production Controller at Hardie Grant Publishing. Here she talks to us about working in production.
How did you get into publishing? Did you always want to work in production?
I have an MSc in Spatial Development and Natural Resource Management, through which I gained a lot of skills in data management and numeracy. Production always struck me as the department in publishing most suited for my skills, and I was intrigued by the idea of being able to work in a technical and numerical manner.
For those who don’t know, what role does production play in the publishing process?
I work in trade publishing, which is very different to production in academic publishing. The role of production at my company is to organise and control the printing, e-book creation and shipping of our titles.
What does your role as production controller involve and what does a typical day look like for you (if there is such a thing)?
My typical day involves checking my emails and organising these based on priority. Then, I tend to check my titles in the data system and decide whether I need to chase the creative teams or external suppliers for files or colour work. I also send purchase orders for shipping and print, and I will pre-check plotters from a production perspective.
How has COVID-19, or working from home, affected your job day to day?
Due to COVID-19, I don't always get to see the colour that I'm working with in real life, and I don't see the finished books. I really miss it! The first thing I’ll do when I go back to the office will be look at all of the books that I have produced throughout this time.
What’s your favourite thing about working in production?
The advances are sent to the production department first, and I enjoy being able to distribute the books to the other departments. It's really rewarding being able to see the creative team’s first reaction.
What do you enjoy about working for Hardie Grant?
I enjoy working with Hardie Grant as we do a lot of fun projects. We work with four-colour books a lot of the time, which allows me to work with colour proofs. I particularly enjoy working with photography and illustrations. A lot of the books we do have interesting cover specifications. For example, we do a book series that uses cloth for the covers. I love being able to work with a medium other than paper and it is really intriguing to see what the pantone colour looks like on cloth compared to the chips that they are selected from.
What’s been your favourite project so far that you’ve worked on?
Seeing Stars. It's a twelve-book series on the zodiac and I absolutely adored working on it. Each book has a bold background with an illustration of the respective zodiac sign, and the font on each cover is different for every sign. The foil was one of my favourite aspects of this series as it was used for large surfaces such as the titles, and tiny details, such as the eye of the woman on the Virgo symbol of the spine. It was one of my larger projects as I managed and controlled the production of all twelve titles that would be published on the same date. I also had the opportunity to produce a counter pack, which allowed me to learn more about a different side of production.
What advice would you give someone who wants to get into publishing, specifically production?
If you're interested in production, have a look at how books are made. I would get a hardback and a paperback and explore them to gain an understanding of all the components that go into making a book. See where the head and tail bands are placed, the sewn sections, what endpapers are, and other components of the book. Have a look at any physical books you have and learn to identify different finishes, e.g. spray block, foil, embossing, deckled edges, spot UV.
How could an applicant for a production role stand out? What key skills should applicants emphasise if they have little to no experience of a production specific role?
I would discuss a book from the publisher that you are applying to, one that you find particularly intriguing from a production perspective. For example, did the finishes stand out to you? We work a lot with numbers and it's important to feel comfortable with basic calculations. It's also crucial to understand how to manage your time, how to prioritise and be organised, as it's quite common to have tight deadlines in publishing. As we communicate with colleagues from other departments and external suppliers daily, understanding how to communicate effectively is a key skill.
Lastly, a question for our readers to get to know you! What is your favourite book?
My favourite book is The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. It's such a thrilling and magical story, and it is so descriptive. If you decide to read it, keep an eye open for the saree and food descriptions!