Saturday, February 17, 2007

Senior Production Editor

After just three years at Macmillan, I had gained enough experience and seniority to be promoted to senior production editor. Sounds incredible, doesn't it? But we had so much growth and turnover, and so many young people on staff, that it was a normal occurrence.

My job as senior production editor was much the same as when I was a production editor: Manage three to four complete book projects simultaneously. Even though the books averaged 600 pages each, it was still doable because there were often times when I'd done all I could on a project and needed to wait while someone else did their part. So then I could work on another part of another project.

As senior production editor, I was often assigned the biggest, most challenging, and most important books for our team. These were the ones that absolutely, positively had to hit the shelves the very same day that the software/language did. So this was a trick: How do you produce a book about a product that hasn't yet been released? Often our authors got early test versions of the software (called betas) that they used to write the books. And every time a new beta came out, they'd revise the whole book. And nobody ever knew for sure whether this was the last beta, and release was imminent, or whether there would be yet another version. So it was complicated.

In addition to my own books, I was the "prioritizer" for my team of six production and copy editors. Every day I'd decide which of our projects was most important or urgent and make sure we had adequate resources working on it. I also made sure that if someone had nothing of their own to do, they were helping the person on the team who needed it most. I also helped the team leader interview new candidates for hiring. And occasionally I was asked to help train people, such as by evaluating their editing, or by presenting a seminar on editorial processes to the production team (layout, proofreading, and indexing).

It was all a lot of hard work and a lot of fun. But one day I got the chance to move into product development (which was a stretch for someone who wasn't a techie).

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