The Publishing Post
Upskilling for the Production Department
The Production Department is responsible for making sure that there is a final product to deliver on publication day. They oversee the printing, binding, budgeting, expenditure and delivering of a book. Working in Production is certainly fast-paced and is the department with some of the most technical roles in the entire industry.
If you are a strong multi-tasker, can budget/schedule and know how to prioritise effectively, then Production could be the perfect department for you!
Production Assistant: At this junior level, you may be responsible for administrative tasks and handling re-prints. Training is likely to be provided for internal procedures.
Production Controller: After a few years of experience, you would manage your own list and communicate with suppliers on a regular basis.
Senior Production Controller: With added responsibilities, you would handle new books and have more complex titles to project manage.
Production Manager: You would be responsible for the department and selecting external suppliers. You would also negotiate terms, costs and budget, all these being based on how many books are published.
Publishing is an ever-changing, and therefore fascinating, industry to work in. Here are some of the most important qualities that we think you need:
Attention to Detail: This is important for analysing the layout and design of the book jacket. For instance, if the fonts are not aligned or the colours are too saturated, a careful eye will ensure both print and digital books are visually appealing.
Organisation: You will be working on multiple covers at the same time, whilst making changes and processing requests from the project manager. You will need to stay organised to meet competing deadlines.
Time Management: You will need to effectively balance multiple tasks. This means making SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed) decisions to ensure that you are delivering products on time and to a high standard.
Communication: An assistant role involves working closely with the sales and editorial departments, as well as maintaining good relationships with the Production Manager and their suppliers. This role is both autonomous and interdependent: you will be assigned a list of books to work on independently, but you will also interact with your team.
Project Management: As someone who has to monitor and control various processes, you will need to manage the all logistical details of a book such as schedules and costings, as well as the overall plan and project execution.
QuarkXpress & AdobeInDesign: These are the leading desktop and digital publishing software to create high quality visual book materials. They offer great tools for front, back, cover and spine designs, as well as for colour correction and typesetting.
Adobe Illustrator: An editing programme suitable for graphic and text design, allowing you to figure out which colours work best for print and digital books. There is a 7 day free trial, and students and teachers receive more than 65% off the Adobe Creative Cloud package.
Adobe PostScript: This is popular one for publishers because of how easily it allows typographic errors to be edited. Manuscripts and book jackets can also be adapted for printing.
Microsoft Excel: This is used daily to create and interpret databases that manage tasks, suppliers and the list of books you need to work on.
Eleanor Marie Rose (@eleanormrosee on Twitter) has a video titled Day in the Life as a Production Assistant, among other publishing vlogs. Why not subscribe while you’re there?
Penguin Random House UK has several videos that cover Production, including one on their publishing processes and another on how to turn a manuscript into a book. Please note that specific processes will vary depending on the publisher, but this will offer some industry insights to get you started.
Bonus tip: Ain Chiara Bensenouci (@AinChiara on Twitter) started her own YouTube channel a few months ago which is dedicated to book careers and other publishing advice. Although not specific to Production alone, we would recommend her videos if you are on the publishing job hunt.
Society of Young Publishers: Following last year’s Digital Conference, their blog post series is dedicated to publishing departments. Check out this interview with Rebecca Bonallie, Production & Inventory Controller at Canongate Books, for department insights, how COVID-19 has affected her job and more.
Robyn Watts (@RobynMWatts on Twitter): A Production Controller at Harper Voyager and The Borough Press who regularly shares insights into production and printing processes.
Bookmachine Unplugged - Talking Production: Featuring panelists across trade fiction, non-fiction and professional publishing, this virtual event is happening on 10 February at 6pm (GMT).
Book Production, Adrian Bullock: This book covers all production processes and practicalities. From raw materials to manufacturing, it will act as your guide for traditional book production. Blackwell’s currently have a discount: if you’re interested, order it while you can!
That concludes the last instalment of our department series! Join us again on Issue 17, where the Upskilling team will be starting something new …