We interviewed Heather Boisseau, Publishing Manager at RedDoor and on of 2016’s Unsung Heroes of Publishing, about her role, her prediction for the future of project management in publishing and her most rewarding project to date.
1. Tell us a little about your role at RedDoor, and what you handle on a day-to-day basis.
What I love about working for a small business like RedDoor is the diversity of the role, and the flexibility it allows. I’m extremely lucky in that my day-to-day tasks are varied; I get to be involved in lots of different aspects of the publishing process, and manage them in my own way.
On a day-to-day basis, first point of call is always the production schedule – to ensure it is up to date and everything is running on time (or not, as can happen). I manage all the editorial and production at RedDoor, so I have to know what’s going on at every stage of the process when I catch up with Clare. I spend a good deal of time dealing with author queries (for projects in progress, and published books), and then try to handle all queries from the various freelancers that work for us. Obviously if the printer gets in touch that’s a priority – particularly if we have a book going to, or on the press. Then I can focus on the most urgent editorial task; this could be writing cover copy, commissioning an artist or designer, proofreading a manuscript, reading a submission, picture research, checking e-book files and so forth.
2. You’ve worked as a managing editor in both a freelance and an in-house capacity, how does project management differ in the two instances?
I think fundamental project management skills are the same whether you’re in-house or freelance… it’s the setting and situation that’s different. An example would be the involvement of in-house colleagues from other departments within the decision-making/ sign-off process. Whilst in-house, I felt it was important to do as much of this as possible face-to-face, to establish rapport and build relationships. It’s far too easy to slip into an e-mail routine, generating message after message – which could be resolved with a ten-minute telephone call or a trip to the next floor. I think it’s better for the soul.
As a freelancer you are more isolated, therefore building and maintaining solid relationships with your fellow freelancers and contacts, be it by e-mail, telephone or Skype, is crucial. I find the plus side to freelancing is the flexibility to structure and design my working day… and far less red tape!
At the end of the day, whether in-house or freelance, you want to produce a brilliant book.
3. What about your job took some time to get used to? Are there things you know now that you wish you knew when you began your career?
At RedDoor we bridge the gap between the traditional publishing house and self-publishing services; this means we apply all the traditional publishing values to those authors who want to publish their own book. We are entirely selective in what we commission and will only take on a book if we feel it is a strong commercial proposition. It is a far more collaborative process and it can be hard to relinquish that ultimate control, but this is something that continues to grow and evolve organically as the business expands.
I have learnt two valuable lessons in my career to date: always ask questions (it really is the best way to learn), and always take responsibility for the good… and the not so good.
4. In an industry increasingly populated with freelancers, what do you predict for the role of project managers?
Project managers will need to keep adding strings to their bows. But at the same time, I think it’s important for everyone in the publishing industry to be open-minded and flexible going forwards – we’re all striving for the same goal, we’ll just get there in different ways. I suspect there will be more cross-pollination between industries in the future – it’s good to take ideas and processes from other areas, and learn from them.
5. What has been your most rewarding project to date?
That’s a tricky question, because every project I’ve worked on has been rewarding, just in different ways, be it technical or creative. At RedDoor I get a great sense of achievement – it clearly means a lot to the authors.
There is nothing better than taking a book you’ve signed, all the way through to finished copy. One that still resonates is Tuk-Tuk to the Road, the blog to book diary of two young women who drove a pimped up tuk-tuk from Bangkok to Brighton, to raise money for the mental health charity, Mind (commissioned at The Friday Project).
It’s easy to get lost in the minutiae of the job… of any job… but it’s important to remember the bigger picture. An author’s book is their baby – and it should always be handled with care.