What does a production manager do?
There are countless steps involved in turning a manuscript into a book. The role of a production manager is to, well, manage these steps. From costing and scheduling to making hiring decisions, they oversee the physical creation of the book and decide on the look and feel of the finished product. One of the production manager’s key responsibilities is coordinating the work of all the main actors involved in publishing a book: editors, proofreaders, typesetters, illustrators, photographers, and designers. They can also identify the best available printing and distribution options depending on the project’s budget, complexity, and expected sales volume. In a nutshell, you should hire a production manager for:
- Project costing
- Print management
- Project management
- Book specification
- File preparation
Do self-publishing authors need a production manager?
In the self-publishing world, authors tend to take care of production management themselves. They hire their own editors, designers, and formatters, and leverage self-publishing and print-on-demand companies, such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, to get their book out into the world. This approach offers greater creative control and is certainly more cost-effective, but it does have a learning curve… and it doesn’t work for everyone, nor for every project. Take a hardbound, high-resolution photography book, for example. On top of hiring an editor, a proofreader, and a cover and layout designer, you’ll also need to decide on trim size, page texture, page color, binding type, and a hundred other details you’ve probably never considered — nor know anything about. For these complex projects, it’s incredibly useful to have a professional in charge of production management. They have the knowledge (not to mention the industry contacts) to save you hours of research time and help you avoid costly mistakes. But where can you find a professional production manager with relevant experience for your project?
At the end of the day, think of your production manager as a partner in your publishing venture. You have the content. They have the knowledge and contacts. Together, you can publish your book in the best possible way.
What to expect from a production manager
The first stage in production management is creating a thorough plan and schedule of all the steps involved in publishing your particular book. Your manager will provide costing figures so you know exactly how much each step will cost, and the margin you can expect to make. Once you’ve agreed on a budget and schedule, they’ll implement it for you and handle communications with all external actors — keeping you updated on the progress. Depending on their experience, production managers may even help you put together a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for your project, and manage the fulfillment of the rewards.