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Thursday, October 18, 2018

Meet the Press

As part of our Intro to Publishing class, I had the opportunity to talk with Beth Collins, Production Manager at Beacon Press. Having majored in English and minored in film, Beth had initially planned to make documentaries. A few years after finishing her undergrad at Mount Holyoke, she went to Boston University for television production but found it difficult to find jobs that weren't freelance, which is certainly a common complaint amongst documentary filmmakers. Eventually, Beth started working as a temp at Houghton Mifflin while still making documentaries on the side. Thus began her road to publishing.

After realizing that she wanted a home in publishing, Beth found that Emerson College offered a certificate in publishing and she completed the program, adding some crucial publishing skills to her repertoire. Soon after finishing the program at Emerson, Beth was hired at Beacon.

As a production manager, Beth works closely with the finished manuscripts to get them through publication and ready for marketing. After a manuscript has been edited, Beth's department has to book for up to nine months, prepping it for printing. At any one time, Production may have up to ten books in different phases of production and each book may be in a different phase on any given day.

The production team, with Beth's guidance, works to ensure that the edits have been input correctly, that the covers look good and the jacket copy is correct, and that the finished product is ready for manufacture. Prior to production, cover designers have chosen a font package that will be used throughout the book and the cover itself is created. All of this is fed into InDesign and the book layout is finalized. The manuscript is then sent out to be typeset and printed to one of the group of printers that Beacon works with consistently. The production director (Marcy Barnes) is responsible for maintaining the list of printers as they do change frequently. If the book will become an eBook or Audiobook, those services are outsourced to companies that specialize in those formats.

At Beacon, authors can be certain they will be working with the same production specialist throughout the entire process, ensuring continuity through the entire project as production is where all the finishing touches happen. In many cases, Beth says, the books are rather straightforward academic texts that don't vary much in layout, making the process relatively simple to streamline. On occasion Beacon also produces books of poetry, in which case the author is generally responsible for directing the layout and appearance of the book as poetry takes its own form in the printing process.

As a reader, Beth says she's excited about a couple of Young Adult titles that Beacon will be producing which is something they haven't done before. The books have quite a few images and text boxes and Beth says she is looking forward to seeing what that process is like. Knowing my interest in mental health, Beth recommended The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease by Jonathan Metzl. "I was a production assistant at the time this book was published so I just reviewed the page proofs and jacket, but it’s stuck in my memory," Beth said of the book. Now Beth has a great deal more responsibility but says she greatly enjoys being a part of the production team at Beacon and having a hand in producing meaningful works of nonfiction.

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