I love book production people, and that’s a view developed and confirmed over years of working with production departments in many companies. I can’t count the number of times that production controllers have saved the bacon of me and my projects with their technical know-how, negotiation skills and plain ability to get things done despite never having enough time, money or resources. They are the fourth emergency service, as far as publishing is concerned.
They are also the most practical people on Earth. Wander into a book production department with any question, problem, or wish, and someone will be able to help. A few random examples:
- Production departments have stuff. They are given gifts by printers and other suppliers, which they save and share. So if an impromptu celebration (or commiseration) is required, the production folk will invariably and generously produce wine, coffee, chocolates, wasabi peas, crisps and biscuits.
- I needed one Treasury tag. Anyone remember what they are? How long has it been since anyone used them in an office? For reasons I cannot to this day explain, it was a requirement that one particular Open University assignment had to be submitted on paper with the pages held together by such a tag – not a staple or a paperclip. The minimum number of tags you can buy is 100. I happened to bemoan this in the production department, and in moments one of the controllers had produced a small stash of historic Treasury tags and given me two (one and a spare, of course). Equally, I expect that if I’d wandered in asking for suggestions on practical things to do with 99 Treasury tags, they would have obliged.
- A few of us mention wistfully that it would be lovely to get our old crowd of ex-colleagues together for a drink. The production person finds everyone’s email addresses, sends the invitation, fixes the date, books the pub, and is there early to greet everyone with wine in the cooler and the right number of glasses.
- Recently I knitted a garment for a new small relative and wanted to buy some funky buttons for it – not the usual boring shirt-button-style plastic ones that all the department stores provide. Who knew the names and locations of two specialist haberdashers in obscure side streets within walking distance of the office? Yep, the production person.
If the zombie apocalypse starts and we all have to flee for our lives, I predict this: while the editors are fussing over the spelling of the emergency notices (or trying to print out all their manuscripts before the electricity goes off), the designers are taking photographs and the marketeers are looking for their lipstick, the production people will be quietly tooling up with baseball bats and crossbows, stockpiling provisions and bottled water, and holing up in a fortified position in the book warehouse.
So if there’s something strange in the neighbourhood, whether it be a hiccup with a craft project or the collapse of modern civilization as we know it … who you gonna call?