Do labels have any real significance? Some publishers refer to the folks who make the books as the production department, and others as the manufacturing department. Publishers who have succumbed to the precision bug tend to refer to a production and manufacturing department or separately to a production department which goes from manuscript to print-ready copy, and a manufacturing department which deals with paper, printing and binding.  I always worked in a production department until my last job, when I was in a stock planning department. The distinction being made by the precisionists is a bit precious I think. Manufacturing conjures up images in their mind of clanking machines, and now that typesetting is done by humming (at the most) computers, the crashing of Linotypes is no longer heard in the land.

To my mind the important distinction between production and the rest of the company is that production buys things which create the product: the rest of the company either processes it or sells it. In a way I suppose you could posit the editor/author relationship in terms of purchasing, but we can all, I think, see that there is a difference. The production department generates invoices from other companies which need to be processed by an accounts department. As head of a production/ manufacturing department I have generally reported to general admin., the head of the company; but I think two of the places I reported to were by far and away better. The last place production should report to is editorial: the editorial mind-set is invariably focussed on making the book better at whatever cost. Have production report to editorial and you’ll quickly bankrupt the company. Production people are buyers, and need to get their satisfaction from bargaining, getting a better product for a better price, bringing things in under budget, and so on. The best two departments into which I have reported are Finance and Stock planning: Finance obviously because apart from salaries, real estate, and maybe royalties, production costs must be the largest outgoing at a publishing company, and financial control over your outgoings should be as direct as possible. Stock planning makes sense too because what production is doing is moving books into the warehouse, ideally not too soon and definitely not too late, so in a way it’s a large stock replenishment machine. In an ideal world Stock planning would probably report in to Finance.

I do think that that distinction between production and manufacturing based on the transition from copy preparation to printing is silly. “Production” doesn’t really describe the copyediting, proof-reading, typesetting nexus — it would make more sense to call it “Editorial” if that label hadn’t already been bagged by “Acquisitions”. But of course what you call things really doesn’t matter: the books get made whoever takes care of whatever.

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