Publishing Diaries: What is Production?

Hi folks! Today I’m going to be a little bit self-indulgent and talk about myself. Specifically, my job.

I wrote a post when I got my first job in publishing: A Beginner’s Guide to Publishing (From a Beginner). Here, I spoke about my journey into publishing and some tips/tricks I picked up while applying. This post gets quite a bit of traffic still so I’m going to write more posts specifically about working in publishing. And where better to start than the thing I know most about?

Production is an important role in publishing, it’s the last step of the process before printing but a lot of people don’t know what production is and so I’m here to shed some light.

I’m a Production Editor (also sometimes known as a Production Controller). When I explain to people what I do for a living, I say that I take a manuscript and turn it into a book.

Get ready for some jargon: bold words will appear in a glossary at the end of the post! Also, just to note – all publisher’s are different and I work for Bloomsbury, so this is based on my experience here.

Pre-production

There is a LOT that happens pre-production – from authors talking to agents, editors pitching books in publishing meetings for approval to writing the book itself. The author will sign a contract and the book will then be with editorial.

Writing

Before the book is in production, the author must write it, take in editorial feedback and make sure they make the contracted word count (that affects the length of the book and therefore the budget). Between signing a contract and publication, they will have a deadline to deliver a completed manuscript at which point it will move into production.

Production

Profit & Loss

The book is received by production and we check the data on Biblio and run a Profit and Loss Report. This report will tell you what the profit margin is on any given book and the Production Editor (PE) needs to check that the book is making enough profit.

anita

If it is, this will to be approved by the relevant editorial director, if not, the PE can suggests ways of saving costs; changing the paper, changing suppliers or cutting down on fancy trimmings (I work in academic, so we tend not to get any fancy trimmings in the first place 😞). Sometimes the editor or the editorial director will also suggest changes to save money.

MS Briefs

Is the book making profit? Yes? Yay!

In that case, the PE checks a manuscript form called an MS Brief. This has all of the information about that book; title, format, what the manuscript should consist of etc. The PE then checks the manuscript and the data in Biblio to check that everything is okay.

Gaston.gif

Some things I might look out for include:

  • Does the title match the database? Sometimes this changes between contract stage and once the book is written.
  • Are the author details correct – do we want to include a middle initial?
  • Does all the information about how we are printing the book – trim size, extent, paper, printer – all look good?
Copyediting and Typesetting 

If everything looks peachy, the next next step is to send the manuscript out to project management companies who will copyedit and typeset books. Project managers are chosen based on price and the book’s requirements.

Peter Pan book

Often PM companies are based in India because they’re more affordable. This is standard across the industry no, that doesn’t mean that the quality is lower.

Proofing Stage

Once the book has been typeset, it now enters proofing stage – there are three proofing stages and the proofs will pass between the PM and the author as well as the PM and the PE (me!).

Tarzan reading

Authors will add comments/corrections – only to make minor changes and not rewrite the book (though, we have to keep an eye on authors to make sure they do that…) and PEs will check details such as folios, running heads, extents and house style.

Right, that’s it, all author corrections have been added, all QA checks done by the PE – what’s next?

Sending to Press

If the cover design is ready (it should be by now – this is all sorted between the editor, author and designer) – the PE makes a few final checks on the cover: is the spine width correct? Is the trim size correct? Does the cover copy look okay?

The printer will usually be chosen back at the P&L stage. The kind of book determines whether the book will be printed onshore or offshore. 

Alice book

Colour books – think children’s picture books and big, glossy cookery books – are usually printed in China because it’s cheaper there, whereas your basic, text-based novel will usually print in the UK. (This detail is usually included in the copyright page if you are interested!).

Print files are sent to the printer and now, we wait.

Advances & E-files

Once the book has been sent to press, e-files need to be requested from the PM companies and these need to be checked too.

Advance copies arrive in the office before the publication date for authors, editors and the production archive.

Cinderella

Congratulations, your book is published!

Flourish

Glossary

Biblio: this is a database system that’s used across different publishers. It holds all the information you can imagine about a book. It’s not the most user-friendly of all programmes, but it is essential.

copyedit: this is done by a copyeditor, and the text is checked for spelling, grammar, mistakes, consistency and accuracy.

cover copy: copy is a word used in marketing and in publishing and refers to any piece of text. Cover copy specifically is the text found on the back of a cover – blurb text, endorsements from other authors, author bios.

extent: this is how long the book is and will usually be divisible by 8 or 16. This is because books are printed in giant sheets and then cut down to size.

folios: this is a fancy term for page

format: there are lots of standard sizes for books and these are known as formats. Examples include B-format, Demy, Royal, Crown Quarto. See also trim size.

house style: this refers to what style your text will be written in. Academic texts have certain referencing systems, on top of which there are differences between UK and US grammar and finally, publishing houses have preferences on certain terms and spellings. House style is all of the above and ensures consistency across books.

offshore: not in the UK. A book printing ‘offshore’ is being printed abroad.

onshore: in the UK. A book printing ‘onshore’ is being printed domestically.

Profit and Loss Report: very important, these outline the costs, sales and profit margin on any given book.

proofing/proofs: once the book has been typeset, the author will receive proofs. These are electronic files where the text and any images have been set out as they would in the printed book

QA: quality assessment

running heads: these appear on the top of every page, usually they will include the name of the book and either the name of the chapter or the name of the author

trim size: this is the size of the book; each format is a standard size across the industry and the trim size refers to the numerical measurements

typeset: this comes from original publishing practices. Setting type would involve taking something called a metal sort – individual letters and symbols – and creating words, lines and paragraphs, which were then put through a printing press. It’s all done digitally now of course, but basically this process takes the words from a word file and puts it nicely into a PDF so that it is ready to send to press.

Flourish

Let me know if you have any questions, I’d be more than happy to answer them!

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3 thoughts on “Publishing Diaries: What is Production?

  1. I love this post! It’s amazing that you work over at Bloomsbury! Who would’ve thought? I do have a question that probably doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with production but I was wondering how the cover artist is chosen. Are their multiple artists who offer their art for the book and someone in particular chooses it? Who has the last word on the art, the author or the publisher? Thanks again for sharing this with everyone?

    Like

    1. Hey Lashaan! Thank you and happy to answer your question.

      I actually used to work with designers on covers in my first production role so I have a bit of an idea about cover design! Based on my experience the cover designer is either in house (works for the publishing company) or a freelancer.

      When the designer is in house, they will usually automatically work on certain books. Freelancers will have worked with publishing houses in the past and will be selected based on their portfolio or what kind of designs they have done for the publisher in the past and whether they suit the project/budget.

      Editorial will give the designer a brief on what they want the cover to look like. This might include an image, colours, fonts or general design. This might be completely vague and up to the designer. Designers will come up with ‘roughs’ – so maybe 4 or 5 potential front cover designs for editorial to choose from. Then the author is shown the chosen design and gives feedback/approval.

      For the most part the author usually has very little say on covers. They might be able to suggest or provide an image (especially in academic) but at the end of the day, it is editorial and design who know and understand the market and knows what will sell. (So next time you don’t like a cover, don’t blame the author!)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow. I greatly appreciate your exhaustive answer! I now have a much better idea of how it works. It’s sort of how it also works with my organization when it comes to producing something graphic by checking out freelancers and what not. Pretty interesting.

        Like

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