I spent my two week placement at Palimpsest, a book production company based in Falkirk. Taking as their name the term for ‘a manuscript on which two or more successive texts have been written, each one being erased to make room for the next”, Palimpsest may not be as immediately recognisable to the lay reader as Penguin or Oxford University Press will be. Nevertheless, Palimpsest are important in the world of publishing; they work with many of the big names in UK publishing and appear on the imprint page of books as varied as Tony Blair’s autobiography, The Story of the Jews by Simon Schama and Solo, a new James Bond novel by William Boyd. The number of publishers Palimpsest work with, along with the variety of books they typeset, meant that I was able to observe how many different publishing houses operate and the differing requirements each one has.
My first week was mainly spent in the proofreading department, where I honed my skills checking old jobs. Towards the end of the week I was trusted with checking the galley of a book due for publication in November 2014. This involved verifying that the publisher’s corrections had been taken in, removing any bad breaks and ensuring that all styling had been followed. During this week I also sat with Becky, who is in charge of digital publishing. She spent a morning talking through the different types of digital files required for different e-readers and how to style and tag files in InDesign and Word before letting me loose on an old job to tag it up and design as I saw fit. From this one day alone, it is clear to me that possessing basic coding skills is a real asset when it comes to the more technical side of publishing since while there no immediate danger of print books being phased out, the industry is moving more and more towards digital media.
My second week was split between Production and Customer Service. Here I got to use my Photoshop and InDesign skills, while being constantly in awe of the skills possessed by the professional typesetters. Customer Service is the hub of the entire company; it is here that new jobs are booked into Palimpsest’s bespoke system then passed onto the operators and readers. The constant flurry of emails and ability of the CS staff to multi-task is definitely worthy of recognition.
One of the most striking things about Palimpsest is how busy they are. This is noticeable as soon as you walk into reception, where you are faced with a wall containing hundreds of job boxes. On one afternoon alone in CS I booked in 10 new jobs, but I was led to believe that this was a quiet day. It is clear that while a fairly small company, Palimpsest is thriving.
I would like to thank everyone at Palimpsest who allowed me to sit and watch them work and answered my constant questions about every aspect of their job. These two weeks have been invaluable in helping me to better understand the inner workings of the publishing industry.