Imagine an orchestra performing without a conductor. Sure, the musicians have the sheet music, but how do they know when to start playing? When should the violins recede and the cellos surge? Who sets the tempo? How will they express the true intent of the composer without someone leading the way? Without a conductor, you can imagine the orchestra going from concerto to chaos in a flash. And the same is true in book production.
The production editor’s job is to be your closest ally—and the only person on your team who understands your project in its entirety. He or she plans the production process that is uniquely suited to your book and manages the details along the way.
1. Setting Up the Game Plan
At your project’s kickoff, the production editor asks lots of questions and prompts you to fill out a couple of key briefing documents that help us capture the vision in your head. The answers help us get to know you, hand select the best team of editors and designers for your project, and set up a realistic production schedule. Early on in the process, your production editor establishes your printing plan and defines the book’s specs (trim size, paper stock, cover treatment, and which printer or print platform—or combination—makes the most sense for your project).
2. Assembling Your Team
A key role of the production editor is knowing which resource partners will be the best fit for your book. We work in conjunction with the editorial director and managing editor to carefully select the developmental editor, copyeditor, and proofreader who will work on your project, making sure they are well matched to your material and that their personal style will make for a good working relationship with you. We also make recommendations for cover and interior designers, choosing those with experience in your genre and the right sensibility.
3. Reviewing Work for Quality, Consistency, and Authenticity
At every stage of the process, the production editor reviews the editors’ and designers’ work to make sure the work is consistent and high quality and that it reflects your intent. The editorial process can be a time when an author makes their toughest decisions, and sometimes a writer’s “darlings” must die. But the production editor comes to the author’s aid as an advocate, providing options, ensuring quality—all while keeping the project moving on schedule and on budget. The production editor also works as a translator between the author and designer—who often think and speak in much different terms. The production editor provides a prospective reader’s viewpoint in terms of the online search, browsing, and point-of-sale habits of the author’s audience as well.
4. Managing the Minutiae
As a DIY self-publisher, you have to perform all the administrative tasks that a traditional publisher would handle on an author’s behalf. Production editors handle these kind of details on your behalf: buying and registering your ISBNs, determining the book’s retail price, setting up your copyright page, and uploading final files.
5. Reviewing the Proofs
Once the hard work of creating a book is complete, it’s time to finalize printing, pricing, and distribution options. For our White Glove and Deluxe projects, the production editor transmits book files and metadata to the printer and designated distribution sites for each format. We check, and recheck, every aspect of the book and ebook to ensure each edition is ready for publication and distribution. Part of this verification process includes closely reviewing ebook files and physical print proofs so you can be confident your book looks fantastic, whether its pages are in a reader’s hands or on their iPad.
6. Shaping the Marketing Collateral
Savvy authors know publication is just the first step to connecting with their audience. Effective book marketing includes the creation of a professionally designed website as well as other collateral such as custom logos and online content. Since the production editor has worked side by side with the author to produce the book, that person is perfect for helping to convey the right vision to the designers and strategists working on the various elements that will help deliver your book to market.
7. Taking Ownership
On a personal note, it’s hard to describe the satisfaction I feel helping a client bring their project to life. I’ve been known to talk to my screen while reviewing an author’s revision, announcing, “Yes! That’s perfect!” I’ve been moved to tears seeing a book in layout for the first time. I get a rush when I hold a finished book in my hands—I rub my hands over the cover, feel all the pages. I even smell the ink (TMI?). But what this tells you is that as a production editor, I’m deeply invested in helping the client reach their goals—every step of the way.