Working with Editors

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This month we kick off a new monthly column in which we'll meet all the various professionals who work closely with editors. We start with production controller Dominic Harman.

In order to explain my job, I often have to refer to an analogy in which, distilling my friendship group down to people who understand the subject, I'll go to film. The problem then becomes what their knowledge is of the closest (and simplest) analogue I can get to a production controller in the film world: a producer. Which is to be expected really; after all, in publishing people understand the role of an author, designer or editor* just as they would understand the role of a writer, director or editor in film.

So where a film auteur may want to shoot their film on 70mm it is the job of the producer to either make that happen or confront them with the reality in regards to cost. Similarly in publishing, how a title looks in regards to paper stock and print quality must be weighed up against the market reality, which is something I can be called on to do. This, of course, being among other things  which is where the blank stares usually begin, because the intricacies of production can be confusing and I'm usually stuck in the middle, where people have a tendency to blank out at the not-so-glamorous nature of what I do.

Key to my role is the relationship with editorial. Working primarily with reprints, I'm in frequent communication with the editorial staff doing corrections on titles. While the processes are generally in place to ensure that everything runs smoothly, quite often issues arise and being able to speak to editorial easily is important. The easiest way to put it is that I need to know when I can send a book to the printer but I also have to understand that things aren't often straightforward, that everything from rebranding to web icons needs to be looked over before we go to press. In my view, editors check to make sure things are perfect so, knowing that, I'm more than happy to let them do their thing.

Of course, this means a lot of my editorial interaction amounts to “hey is this done yet?” But I try to do it in the nicest way possible. In my mind, it is important that those working in production understand what an editor does and how they work and to also understand that there often isn't a simple solution to what they do. I mean, theoretically I could do my job without them, but the end product wouldn't exactly be something one would take pride in.

Okay, enough of this editorial love in  there are times when they really annoy me too. Yeah, not really, I just wanted to see who was still paying attention! There is a lot more to the job, but it's best not to outstay one's welcome. I hope this has given you a bit of insight into what it is we in production do. It's certainly helped me find ways to explain it so personal victory there.

*okay, perhaps not explicitly, but they get the general idea.

Dominic Harman