I’m going to be completely honest with you all: I had no idea that the job of Production Editor even existed until I applied for my current position. Despite copious amounts of research into the publishing industry, I always glazed over the “Production Editor” job openings, focusing on the golden snitch of entry-level publishing jobs: Editorial Assistant. As graduation got closer and I had to get serious about the job hunt, I also had to get serious about my strengths as an applicant. Anyone who knows me well could tell you, I’m insanely detail-oriented. I started to realize their might be more of a niche for me within the publishing industry; a role where I could use my obsession with getting the little things right to contribute to the industry I'm passionate about. Then I found the job opening for my current role: Production Editor and Copyeditor.
So what in the world does a Production Editor really do? A little disclaimer before I explain my daily responsibilities: every publishing company is different. I currently work for an independent publisher of reference materials, and I am speaking only from that experience. I’m constantly trying to learn more about the ways other companies within the larger publishing industry work, but for now, this information solely relates to my current job.
Being a Production Editor is all about quality control. It differs from being an Editor in the scale at which you are making changes to a book (think micro vs. macro). A Production Editor deals with small-scale, non-substantive changes, while an Editor implements thematic, large-scale substantive changes. As a Production Editor, one misplaced comma can put a bad taste in my mouth, and spoil my impression of a whole book. (No, really, I'm not exaggerating.) I love finding that one typo within hundreds of perfect pages, it will seriously make my day!
I am assigned a number of books per year (so far, I’ve only been at the company 1 year), and I work under a Production Manager to ensure each chapter of the book goes through numerous steps. It’s a bit different since we work with reference materials, but each chapter of our books needs extensive research and analysis to make sure we’re providing customers with up-to-date information. The research itself is done by a team of experts in that field. My coworkers and I then incorporate the resulting updates and changes into our books through an XML program.
Along with our assigned books, Production Editors are also trained in other quality control checks that we can perform on any of the books we publish. This includes proofreading, copyediting, extensive formatting checks, and more. Basically, a Production Editor is responsible for catching any non-substantive errors, whether that’s a typo, a grammatical error, a weird layout issue, anything like that.
As you guys can probably tell from Instagram, I do enjoy having some creative freedom—that’s been one of my favorite things about Instagram, getting to try my hand at something a little artsy that’s totally my own to create. A Production Editor role is not inherently a creative one—it’s really about attention to detail and adherence to conventions. My supervisors at my job have been totally receptive to my interest in finding ways to be a bit creative at work, which I seriously appreciate. I’ve recently started learning a bit about book cover design, and though I’ll never be a graphic designer, it’s been so fun to add a more creative responsibility to my job!
There are so many facets of the publishing industry, I think it's incredibly valuable to research these lesser known jobs within the industry, and I'm so excited you guys expressed interest in learning about my job. Every publishing job is so essential to creating the books we love, whether that's crime fiction, reference books, or anything in between! I'm so thankful for all that I continue to learn in my first job in the industry. Definitely feel free to comment below if you have more questions about what exactly it means to be a Production Editor!