Discovering Production

As a reader, I used to pick up a book and judge it by the cover and story. Now that I have been studying publishing for a few months, when I pick up a book, I think about the production choices. I think about what paper, typeface and other design decisions went into the book. Over the last few months, I learned that a lot more goes into the production of a book than the average reader would ever guess.

I chose to move to Edinburgh and attend Edinburgh Napier because of their emphasis on vocational training. (I also just really wanted the opportunity to live in Scotland.) I knew enthusiasm could only get me so far. I wanted to develop a practical skillset.

Napier’s MSc Publishing course gives you a year of dedicated learning in editorial, marketing, rights, production and everything in-between. It’s an in-depth overview of the entire publishing industry—books and magazines. I’ve always been interested in design but didn’t really know what it entailed. I didn’t even know what production was a few months ago. I knew someone had to design a book’s cover, but I never thought about the work required in typesetting and designing a book’s interior.

I’ve learned that it’s the production department creating the overall look and feel of the book, transforming a word document to a polished and professional product. Production meticulously goes through the text eliminating “widows” and “orphans.” They’re the ones ensuring the formatting is clear and readable, preparing the book for printing. Never had I considered how the choice of typeface changes someone’s perception of a book. For example, a production designer wouldn’t use Helvetica for a Sherlock Holmes novel. Baskerville, a typeface fitting to the story’s period and setting, would be a much  better choice.

Production choices define a reader’s experience with a book. A good example of this is the work of Scottish publisher Barrington Stoke. They use a specific type of paper and a specially designed typeface to create dyslexic-friendly books. Production choices like these can make a book more attractive and accessible to readers.

I enjoyed learning about editorial, rights, the fiction market, etc., but production has been my favorite topic this trimester. I learned how to navigate InDesign and put what I learned into practice by designing AI sheets and book templates. I’m happy to report that my prior dread of InDesign has morphed into (mostly) genuine enjoyment. Three months ago, I didn’t even know how to use a Mac computer. Now, I can typeset a book. Seeing myself and my fellow PC loyalists progress has been immensely satisfying.

I came to Napier thinking I wanted to pursue either editorial and marketing. While I’m still very interested in those areas, I’ve now added production to my list of ideal jobs. I’ve no doubt that as I continue through this course, I’ll discover new and exciting areas of the publishing industry to add to my list of dream careers. Hopefully, after completing Napier’s MSc Publishing course, I’ll find myself working in one of them.

Photo via gizmodo
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My Placement with Jennie Renton

This trimester, I am working with Jennie Renton as an editorial intern. As most of us who now belong to Edinburgh’s book world will probably already know, Jennie can be found in Main Point Books, one of West Port’s eclectic and exciting second-hand bookshops. An admirable multi-tasker, one of Jennie’s many roles is freelance editing in the offices at the back of her quirky shop.

Working with Jennie has been an ideal opportunity for me for many reasons. At the beginning of the internship, we got together to speak about my interests and how they may align with editorial projects she is interesting in working on. Keeping my passions relevant has always been important to me, and it soon appeared my interest in social activism and community work linked up with a local history project that Jennie is working on. Without further ado we began our adventure in planning a new book together.

This is a project Jennie is obviously very passionate about, so I was quite daunted at first. After a few weeks, however, I began to feel at ease and more confident that this is a project I could be helpful with, and certainly one I could be passionate about.

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The ever-changing window display at Main Point Books

My work so far has included researching and reading through archives relevant to central Edinburgh’s history, conducting interviews, and editing and transcribing voice recordings. As the weeks go on, I will hopefully play a role in planning the book layout itself.

It has been an extremely interesting project for me personally, as well as a productive learning experience. I’m not from Edinburgh, though I have fallen in love with this city, so it has also been a great way for me to become closer with the history and community of this fantastic place that has taken me into its arms.

The location of Jennie’s offices is my favourite thing about this placement. I have always loved nothing more than being lost in a bookshop and no better place for a book lover than Main Point Books. It’s a place I wandered into on the first week I moved to Scotland last August, and where I picked up a number of obscure Woolfian works that I had not been able to find elsewhere. Needless to say, it’s been a favourite ever since!

Seeing Jennie manage the shop along with many other tasks has been particularly interesting for me, as a person who would like to dabble in several different areas of publishing and book selling. There’s always a story to be told about the eccentric characters who come into Jennie’s shop, and the interesting books they buy and sell there. With her clever wit and impressive amount of experience, the greatest character is probably Jennie herself and she has a lot of wisdom and witticisms to impart on any budding young publisher. She’ll be sure to send you on your way with a smile on your face at the end of the day.

I would recommend an internship with Jennie Renton to anyone interested in gaining first hand experience of original and challenging publishing projects. This placement is especially relevant to anyone hoping to become more involved in the book world of central Edinburgh, and gather an insight into the Edinburgh publishing scene.