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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
Congratulations, your book is published!
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.