There are so many different jobs in the publishing industry, and it doesn’t help that often the same role will have a different job title at different publishers! This series will aim to provide some clarity and give you some insight into what those roles are like. Some of the questions I know you’re desperate to ask, I will try my darndest to answer.
There are a huge variety of roles in publishing, which mean that really anyone can find their home in the publishing world. To help us along, I will be giving the roles I profile in this blog series a ***5 star rating***, comparing:
Today we’ll be looking at the role of the Production Manager!
Production doesn’t get enough credit (I’m hoping to win some loyal production fans with this blog post)… It’s the Cinderella department of the publishing house. Unlike Journal Development, Production doesn’t receive the applause when journals achieve a high Impact Factor, and often they face challenges when authors and editors disagree on the position of a period or comma in the reference list. It’s a role that suits a certain type of person: detail-oriented to the point of obsession, strong-willed (ready to hold strong against those authors prepared to riot over Vancouver or Harvard reference styles), with a keen eye for finding loopholes for greater efficiency. Production teams also have to cope with often outdated production systems, with many systems screaming for a serious update on their early 2000’s style. Production systems can be clunky, and leave Production teams praying that the whole system doesn’t collapse into a heap because a heading needs to be in blue, not black.
In terms of the difficulty for entry, the entry path for this role is not too dissimilar from the Editorial Assistant role (check out the first blog post in this series here). A bachelor’s degree is usually required, but not necessarily in a specific subject. It certainly helps to have some knowledge of how an academic paper is generally laid out, but each publisher has its own production template and style, so on the whole no prior knowledge is required for the entry-level roles in Production departments. However, the role we are reviewing today is the Production Manager role, which can take a few years to attain, but is usually a role occupied by some of the most knowledgeable people in Production teams. Production Managers oversee the entire production process, from copyediting to typesetting and proofing. They need to keep the well-oiled production machine running smoothly and ensure that standards are being upheld, especially when production services are outsourced.
Taking all of this into account, for this role I will be giving a rating of 3 stars for difficulty for entry.
I like to think of the Production Manager role as a sort of perpetual Project Manager, but the project never ends. To move each manuscript through the production process and publish it is a project in itself and requires the coordination of a lot of moving parts. It also usually requires collaboration with companies abroad to ensure standards are maintained, often in India or the Philippines, where copyediting and other production services are frequently outsourced. Though this role mostly doesn’t come with business-critical targets for growth, without Production, manuscripts would not be published, which is basically the publisher’s entire job. However, remember those clunky platforms I mentioned earlier? These can be a real source of stress to Production Managers, so because of that I am rating this role slightly higher on the stress level…
In terms of stress level for this role, I will be giving it a rating of 3 stars.
I’m imagining a stressed Production Manager with steam blowing from their ears upon reading this. Believe me, I know you work really hard and are super busy. It’s a role that comes with real challenges at times, but from my (albeit somewhat limited) understanding of the role, I think the stress level is within the mid-range.
Now this might be controversial, but hear me out! Let’s not all go “pitchforks at dawn” because I have given career longevity a 2 out of 5 stars, I’ve got a good reason…
Increasingly, the Production Manager is tasked with overseeing the outsourcing of the production process. To have an entire Production team based in Europe or America is unusual nowadays. It’s not cost-effective for the publisher and companies abroad have refined their processes to be highly efficient, yet still provide a very high-quality product (the published paper). I think the Production Manager and senior managers in Production teams will always have an important role in overseeing the production process, but with much of the process now outsourced and with increasing levels of automation, we might find we have much smaller Production departments in-house in the future.
Thanks for sticking around for my review of the Production Manager role this week. It’s a really interesting and varied role, which brings a lot of technical challenges. And hey, it’s perhaps the only role in journal publishing in which you can really say you are personally responsible for publishing journals. Don’t forget, if you want to see a specific job profiled as part of this blog series, drop me an email!
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