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5 Best Things About Working in Book Publishing

1. Summer hours

I’m going to miss those relaxed Friday afternoons now that Labor Day has passed: the leisurely lunches, the movie matinees, the early start to the weekend. On the other hand, problems have a way of surfacing on a Friday in the summer—enormous changes at the last minute from an author, or the printer has a question that only the designer (who’s on vacation or just left for the day) can answer. Will the book still make its release date? Stay tuned…

2. Reading on the job

When I first get a manuscript, I need to prepare it for the copyeditor. So I have to read through it. Then I read through it again before sending it back to the editor. Then I check it before it goes to production, and again when it’s in first, second, and third pass. Finally I read it one more time when I review the epub. Good thing I love to read. The book could be something hot and outrageous, like The Average American Marriage by Chad Kultgen; or something timely and urgent, like Ralph Nader’s The Seventeen Solutions; or something deeply thought-provoking, like Coming of Age on Zoloft by Katherine Sharpe. It’s never boring.

3. Other people in book publishing

Everyone says the people who work on books are terrific: editors, publishers, designers, production managers, publicists—they’re smart, interesting, tuned in, witty, maybe a little obsessive, and odd at times, but always fun to be around—even when the pressure is on. (Just don’t kill me if I missed that typo; remember, no one’s perfect, and we’re all in this together!)

4. The information

If I didn’t work here, I’d know nothing about the upcoming film Life of Pi. But because I was the production editor on The Making of Life of Pi: A Film, a Journey by Jean-Christophe Castelli, I know that Suraj Sharma, the actor who plays Pi in the film, had never acted before and didn’t even know how to swim. I get to find out what it’s like to be an actress on a soap opera—for a period spanning three decades (Not Young, Still Restless, by Jeanne Cooper)! I get a backstage look at life on the road with Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart (Kicking and Dreaming). Once, the drummer from another band that was touring with Heart actually thought he could ask the Wilson sisters to babysit his child while he went off for the rest of the night to “see this guy about something.” Okay, I’ll be honest—the books I read on my own time aren’t always in this same category, but I’m glad to know what I know, thanks to working here.

5. The journey of the written word

It starts in a private place, as an idea, a proposal, a concept. Then it appears in a manuscript or Word file, where it works to tell a story, describe a time in history, argue a political point, expose a crime, bring about total destruction…from there, it gets line-edited and copyedited so it can do an even better job. After that, it is designed and typeset so that it’s pleasing to read on the page. It gets proofread so it won’t embarrass the author or editor, and then it’s published. Hardcover, paperback, epub, enhanced epub: finally, it’s ready for the world. I see titles I’ve worked on for sale at Barnes & Noble, on the Amazon home page, advertised in the New York Times, and I’m so proud of them. They made it! And the journey ends, as it began, in a private place—in the mind and heart of the reader. What a long, strange trip—and I was there to see it happen.

by Lelia Mander, Senior Production Editor, It Books, Harper Design, and Harper Perennial

Lelia Mander

Filed under publishing books It Books Harper Perennial Harper Design

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    True dat. ~ eP
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    It’s a little different in scholarly publishing, but still.
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