Robyn Watts is a production assistant at HarperCollins Publishers. Follow Robyn on Twitter @RobynMWatts.
Production is all about looking at the book as a product. It’s about the material value of it – what finishes look good? How is this cost-effective? It’s about building relationships with suppliers and trying to get the highest quality product for the best price.
Maths is a key skill as costing products is an important part of the role. You don’t need to be the world’s greatest mathematician but having a good understanding of the basics such as percentages will really help. If you’re good at maths, definitely highlight this in interviews, but if you’re not, don’t stress (there’s no Pythagoras or anything!).
You also need good interpersonal skills as you’ll be working with everyone from editorial, marketing and design. Also, make sure to take ownership of your own workload. The books you look after are the babies of authors and editors and you have to show them you are 100% committed to seeing their vision through to the finished printed product.
While you might not be required to use it, knowing how InDesign works is key to understanding the design team’s workflow and you can schedule realistically.
If you are studying a degree in publishing, look for book production modules that offer insight into the role. You can also teach yourself with books about production by David Bann or Adrian Bullock.