Working Wednesday: Production Assistant

Working Wednesday – Production Assistant

This week we’re talking to Laura, one of our Production Assistants at Impress Books.
What is your role at Impress Books?

As a production assistant for Swales & Willis I’m responsible for project managing titles through the stages of production. I’ll liaise with copy-editors, typesetters, indexers, publishers and authors to get the manuscript into shape and print-ready. For Impress Books I work on the editorial side of the company, reading submissions and commissioning titles for publication.

Tell us about the stages of production.

Once I’ve received a manuscript I’ll send it off to a copy-editor who will check the proof for general errors and tag it with instructions for the typesetter. Once the copy-edited files are returned, they’ll be checked and sent off to be typeset. The typesetter then coverts the word file into a PDF proof using a design specification, my brief and the copy-editors instructions. It is at this point that a manuscript begins to resemble a book. The proof will then be proofread and sent out to the publishers and authors for correction. I’ll then collate the corrections and send out for a corrected proof. The proof will then undergo checks and corrections until the final files are ready. The final PDF will then be delivered and the book will be ready to be printed and digitally released.

How long does it take to produce a book?

A book will take about 4 months to produce.

What is it like to be a project manager? Who do you get to work with?

Being a project manager requires good time management. You have to keep an eye on the schedule, balance your workload across your titles and always keep your projects moving forward, despite challenges or obstacles. It requires liaising with people from many walks of life from all over the world. My most frequent contacts will be typesetters, indexers, copy-editors and publishers. Authors are typically academics, but can range from nurses to dancers, it just depends on the book.

What is the best part of your job?

The most satisfying part of the job is seeing the finished product, and knowing that that book is better for your work on it.

What project are you most looking forward to working on?

I’m looking forward to getting involved in an upcoming title Gender and Forests. I haven’t proofread it yet, but I’m sure the links between the two will be fascinating. I’m also excited about the winner of this year’s Impress Prize The Joyce Girl. It’ll be a great project to work on and a great book. At the very least I’m hoping to enjoy wearing my 1920s dress in honour of the publication.

What skills do you need to be a Production Assistant?

As I mentioned time management is crucial. You also need to have good communication skills in order to process and give instructions. An eye for detail and a thorough knowledge of the English language is also very important when it comes to checking files and proofreading.

How did you get into publishing?

I think work experience was essential in securing me my first job. I’d done a number of placements with different publishing houses, ranging from a week to a month. I also volunteered at book festivals, worked as an online editor for my university newspaper and completed a publishing course. Being a member of the Society of Young Publishers and attending events such as the London Book Fair was also really helpful as it improved my knowledge and understanding of the industry as a whole.


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