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I want to be... in Production

First off in the "I want to be..." series, we're going to look at Production.

The Production team can consist of a Production Assistant, Production Controller, Senior Production Controller, Production Manager, Senior Production Manager, Production Director, or any mix of these roles.

The Production team "costs" books, which means they take numbers from across the business - taking into consideration the advances the editorial team are going to pay authors and/or illustrators, design fees, the number of books the company wants to print (which is obviously led by the number of books the sales team thinks they're actually going to sell), company overheads (that is, the cost to the business of employing everyone in the first place) and the book production costs (paper, inks, cover board, illustrations, special finishes on the cover, special finishes inside the book). To cost a book, a Production Controller (for example) will get quotes from a number of different printers. Why not just contact one and be done with it? Well, we want the best price, so any member of the Production team will gradually learn how to be a shrewd negotiator and drive those initial quotes down as much as they can to force printers to give us a competitive price.

As a Production Controller, you will need to be a highly organised project manager. You'll manage a large and varied workload - every book running to a slightly different schedule and being at a slightly different point in that schedule. It can blow your mind at first - you'll wonder how on earth you're supposed to keep track of everything - but being organised is partly a learned skill. Some of the best project managers I know are fully aware of their strengths and weaknesses and factor in ways to manage them. If you think you're forgetful, write lists and set yourself reminders. If you think you're disorganised, create spreadsheets, run reports, organise your inbox so that you can find everything you need easily and efficiently. No one does this stuff perfectly from the very beginning - we all learn it as we go along, and there's always more to learn.

Working in Production means that it's your job to keep the creative teams (Editorial and Design) on track. Editorial and Design have a habit of missing deadlines (more on that later), and that can be a highly frustrating inevitability for the Production team. But, a lot of the time, missing a deadline can be out of all of our control, so it's important to get to know your team members across the business to help you know when you need to be sympathetic and when you need to be stern. You'll likely need to be both most of the time.

Each publisher structures their teams slightly differently. Some may have different people working on different publishing lists - for example, one person might work on the picture books and novelty list, another on cook books, and another still on fiction - but a core skillset is essential for any good Production team member.

So, if I described what someone working in book production does, I would say:

Project manage;

Build relationships;

Organise (both people and projects);


Take pride in the process and the end result.

And if I could give you six skills that you'll develop while working in Production, they would be:

Becoming a highly organised multi-tasker;

Becoming a problem-solver;

Relationship building;

Learning an effective way to negotiate (that feels right for you);




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