When I graduated with a degree in English from the University of St Andrews in 2015, I was, like most graduates, pretty uncertain about the direction of my future career. I wanted to do something that was related to my degree; many people assumed that I would go into teaching, but I knew that it wasn’t for me. Then I stumbled across publishing, and it seemed perfect – I could spend my days reading books and making them better, that’s what publishing is all about, right?
I soon learned how naive this assumption was. After applying to a range of publishing companies across the country, I was fortunate enough to be taken on by an independent company in the far north of Scotland as its Digital Content Producer. Here, I worked on specialised non-fiction books and science and engineering textbooks. Working here opened my eyes to the multifaceted nature of publishing; there were so many aspects that I hadn’t even considered before. I had presumed that publishing mostly involved lots of reading and editing, but my role was focussed predominantly on – as may be expected – producing digital content. Metadata and MOBI files soon became more familiar to me than the infamous red pen. Editing, promotional work and eBook distribution were further strings that were added to my bow – not only did this show me that there was more to publishing than I had realised, but also that there was more to my own skill set than I had thought.
However, as much as I loved working there and living in such a beautiful part of the world, I was missing being close to family, and the opportunities that being closer to them would provide. So, after two and a half years, I decided that it was time to pack up and head back down the A9.
I was familiar with Prepress from my job searches as a student, and I had been following them on Facebook ever since. I was confident that this was the company I wanted to work for. Situated in a great location not too far from my native Fife, it seemed that it was a fairly similar company that would invest in me and allow me to develop my recently acquired skills. After all, I had been exposed to so many different elements of publishing already, how many more could there be?
A lot, as it transpires. Even though I had moved from working on scientific books to working on medical journals, there wasn’t a great deal of overlap in terms of the content of material or what I had to do with it. I was used to there being a set number of books in production, and a finite number of tasks that could be undertaken at any one time, which had allowed me the luxury of flexible deadlines. It was therefore a shock to join a team in which there were dozens of projects being worked on simultaneously, all at different stages and all needing immediate attention. Despite being very different from books in terms of size and scale, there seemed to be a lot more processes in the production of a journal report, or at least, more that I would be involved in, such as different proof stages and XML checking.
Given the increase in projects, there was an increase in the number of different authors and clients that I had to work with, although there wasn’t the same scope for developing a personal relationship with them as I had been used to.
I have also had to adapt from being a client to working for clients, adhering to their requirements rather than setting my own. It has been fascinating to discover more about different writing styles and the contexts in which these can be applied. The independent style of working that I had become accustomed to was replaced with a much more interconnected way of working, in which everything that I worked on – be it copy-editing, proofreading or project management – would be directly related to the work of another team member, and vice versa. This gave the team a unique shared sense of purpose and unity.
A lot of the same skills, however, transcend companies: written and verbal communication, time management, organisation and attention to detail being just a few. Even though some of the tasks were new to me, they required a familiar skillset that was a relief to fall back on. The excitement of seeing something I had contributed to out in the public domain was the same, as was the fundamental underlying principle behind both companies: providing an excellent service throughout the production of high-quality content.