Rebecca Fletcher interviews Anna Blackie, Editorial and Production Coordinator at Pantera Press.
What did you study?
I studied a Bachelor of Arts in English and Writing at Macquarie University.
What is the most useful skill you learned in your degree? And what was the most enjoyable part of your studies?
Not so much a skill, but when I first started at uni, I was doing a Bachelor of International Studies. One of my extra units was an English Lit subject and pouring over texts and talking about how wonderful books and words are inspired me to change my degree. Every book and author I studied reminded me of that passion for the written word, and without that I never would have started working in publishing.
You work as an Editorial and Production Coordinator at Pantera Press. Production coordination is a crucial role in publishing that not many people know about. What does an average day of work look like for you?
Production is such an interesting role, and I feel like I’m always learning something new with every book we publish. At this time of year, we’re preparing a lot of books for print, both as finals and ARCs. This involves a lot of coordinating and checking. As I’m on both the editorial and production teams, there’s a bit of crossover in my roles. On the editorial side, I work on the text—either editing, proofreading or project editing—and covers, collaborating with the team and designers to create covers that appeal to different audiences and best represent the book.
On the production side, I set-up our print-run with the printers and make sure our final covers and manuscripts have been fully checked by myself and various members of our team to ensure they’re as beautiful in real life as they are on screen. Once all our files are ready, I send them print and do one final round of checking once the soft proofs return from the printers. There’s a lot of checking and rechecking in a production role, and it’s amazing how many small steps there are and how valuable a fresh set of eyes can be on a project!
What do you think makes you successful in your role?
There’s so much to learn in both the editorial and production parts of my job, and I’ve found that the best thing has been asking questions! There has been so much new information to absorb in this role, and I’ve found the best way has been to fall into it and discover as much about every new challenge as I can. It sounds so simple, but the incredible and supportive team at Pantera has so much amazing knowledge and insight to share and being able to ask questions and work collaboratively with them has been such an important part of my development in this role.
You were previously a publishing assistant—how did this role differ from your current role?
My previous role as a Publishing Assistant had a much more all-round approach. I was involved with much more general admin for the business, as well as helping out with marketing, PR, rights and editorial. The Publishing Assistant role was such an amazing place to start, as it gave me a really wonderful opportunity to see all the diverse aspects of a publishing house and get a better understanding for how all those pieces work together to bring a book into the world.
Your book ‘How to Adult’ was released earlier this year. Congratulations! How did that come about?
Thank you! It’s still bizarre to think that I’m a published author, and I definitely have to pinch myself when I see ‘How to Adult’ out in bookstores! The concept for ‘How to Adult’ was something I’d been mulling over since I’d moved out of home at 19 and realised how terrible I was at keeping myself alive. After figuring out the areas of adulthood I was struggling with the most, I started writing and pitched my idea to Lost the Plot!
How do you think your experience in publishing changed your expectations as an author?
Working in the publishing industry while publishing a book of my own was an absolutely fascinating experience, and one I’m incredibly grateful for! Seeing the process from both sides isn’t something a lot of people get to do, and I think it gives you a whole different level of perspective. As an editor, understanding what the process entails from the author-side has taught me a lot about communication, giving me new ways to explain some of the more intricate or confusing parts of the process.
What would you say to budding editors and publishers who feel obligated to undertake postgraduate studies to be competitive?
I think that studying is such a wonderful and valuable thing, and if I could I’d probably spend my life doing it! I think that having as much knowledge and experience as you can is the best way to progress, but, that being said, I don’t believe that always needs to come from postgraduate studies. Since finishing my bachelor’s degree I’ve undertaken editing and proofreading courses at USYD’s Centre for Continuing Education, and I’d definitely recommend small courses like this for people who want to broaden their skills but aren’t able to undertake postgrad studies.
You have a varied working and volunteering past, which is great! Do you think that these have contributed to your career in publishing?
Definitely! Every different work experience has been a fundamental part of my journey into publishing. I’m fascinated by books, writing and communication, and having the opportunity to explore those passions in various settings, be it content writing, reviewing or PR, has taught me something new and pushed me to understand what it is I feel most passionate about! I think it’s so important to get some diversity in your work experience to know where it is you truly want to be.
You’ve spent a lot of time in independent publishers—what do you think they can offer people who want to work in publishing that bigger houses can’t?
I can only speak for the publishers I’ve worked for, but my experience in smaller publishing houses has been one that’s incredibly collaborative and considerate. We know the books inside and out, and the entire team champion the amazing titles we’re working on. There’s something so special about working in a publishing house that puts so much into every book it produces, and I’m excited to be a part of that!
What are most proud of in your career so far?
This question really stumped me, as there are honestly too many things to list! I’m incredibly proud of every book I’ve had the opportunity to work on, both in production and editorial, and seeing them out in the world never fails to bring me joy! I think one of my proudest moments was seeing the final result of a book I had worked on editorial and printed come to life. Seeing that book come out so beautifully and knowing it was about to go out into the world was a pretty amazing feeling!
And what are you hopeful for or excited about?
I’m excited to see all the amazing books that come out in 2021! While 2020 has been absolutely insane, I think next year is going to have an influx of fantastic new stories from a huge array of writers!