Thursday, May 27, 2010

From Manuscript to Printed Book: Production, the Unsung Heroes of Publishing

Sometimes newbies to the publishing industry can be confused by terms and they see the words "production editor" and yet they only see the word "editor". They can be quite surprised to find out what the job actually entails. On the other hand, I know quite a few people who were very happy in this job. It's definitely behind-the-scenes which also means out-of-the-crossfire, and it pays well and doesn't have homework.

When the book has been edited by the editor and author until they are happy with it, then it is sent to production, along with an estimated page count, requested trim size and season or month of publication. The head of the production department will assign it to a production editor and a production manager. As an editor, I worked much more with the production editor, and I was never 100% sure what the production manager did. These jobs always seemed to have a lot of overlap to me, and I'm sure some publishing houses divide them differently, so take my descriptions with a grain of salt:

Production Editor:
First, they make up the production schedule, based on what needs to be done between now the the publication date, which they then distribute. After checking to be sure they have all parts of the manuscript and making copies, they would contract with a copyeditor and send the ms. out for copyediting. When it returns, the copyedited manuscript goes to the editor who gets it to the author to approve or not (stet) the changes. When it's returned from the author, the production editor reviews the changes to be sure nothing unusual was been added/omitted, all pages are still included, etc. Meanwhile, the interior designer has come up with a design concept which has been approved by the editor, and the production editor now send the copyedited manuscript off to be typeset. They apply for the copyright and Library of Congress information. When the typeset pages come back, the production editor send them off to be proofread. While that is going on, all the headers for consistency, spacing, and accuracy, including page numbers. They also check for and adjust "ladders" which is when the first word of 3 or more consecutive lines happens to be the same (two is okay but not great. More than two is bad. It's difficult for the reader to stay on the correct line when they encounter a ladder.) They check all hyphenations (it's preferable to not have a hyphenated word to turn a page. It's okay on an even-numbered page where it continues on the top of the right-hand page, but it's not great to have it continue after you turn the page, from a right-hand page to the left.) If it's a heavily designed book with photos, captions, sidebars, footnotes, glossary, etc., it will be a very involved job for the production editor. They also will send the book off to an indexer and coordinate the index. Most publishing houses do a second copyedit, before the pages are ready to be printed. They make sure the jacket designers stay on schedule, they copyedit the jacket/flap copy, make the jacket routing schedule and be sure that keeps moving through all the stages of sign-offs.

Production Manager:
Responsible for production of final proofs and print-ready / web-ready PDFs and plates, Managing print orders with printers. Maintains records of all volumes in production. Conducts all bidding and consultation with printers. Serves as primary liaison with domestic and international fulfillment houses; ensures book orders that come to office are directed to appropriate distributor in a timely manner; Approves all invoices related to production and passes them on for processing.

Once the Production department has sent off the book to the printer, more stuff happens but that's not a job in publishing, that's a job in printing. Here is a super cool graphic (too big for me to copy here - you'll want to be able to see it full-screen size) that goes through all the steps of printing. It shows the Printer's support reps who price out the job for the publisher's Production team, and who the files go to. Between steps 3 and 4 is when the galleys are produced which the author needs to check those over (see the Editorial Assistant posts), and those are also made into ARCs for review/blurbs. Case is the binding type for the vast majority of hardcover trade publishing. Perfect binding is often used for paperbacks.

Here are some videos of the book printing process:

a little arty but you can see the 16-page pages (I know it looks like 8 but the other 8 are on the back)

A short-run printer, for POD (print-on-demand) projects:

This one is probably the most accurate, although long and a bit boring. Shows a lot of the parts that were in that above link to the huge PDF.

So, that's the production process! Until eBooks take over the world, the most important part of the whole process. And the most undervalued.

This post is part of my Thursday series on Getting a Job in the Book Business. For more info, click on the label below, or a list of the posts is on the right sidebar.

1 comment:

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