01 April 2008

Tutor Focus: Mirjana Misina

Mirjana MisinaMirjana has worked in publishing for over 20 years, specialising in pre-press and production. She now runs her own company, PT33 Publishing Consultancy, working for a variety of publishers, including Blackwell Publishing, Imago and Attwooll Associates. She also lectures on the publishing degree course at Oxford Brookes University. Mirjana has been a tutor for the PTC since 2000; she teaches our two day Management of Production course and the production section on Book Publishing: An Introduction.

Did you start your career in pre-press and production? Or was that something you worked towards?

My career started as a work experience placement at Oxford University Press. I was then invited to apply for a position in the Educational Division. On 30 June 1986 I started work in the Production Department as a secretary/PA to the Production Director of the Education Division.

Whilst working in this department I decided a career in publishing was something that I wanted to aim towards. Within 18 months of working in the Education division I moved to the Academic Division as a production assistant where I managed the new book lists for politics and economics. My job involved managing both pre-press and production tasks. I was fortunate enough to have received typography training from Rachel Woodforde who taught me everything I needed to know about designing books, and Mike Payne who taught me manufacturing processes.

Whilst working in the Academic Division I decided to attend the Publishing Degree, on a day release basis, at the then Oxford Polytechnic. Five years later I graduated with a 2:1 Honours degree in Publishing and Business Management. Having decided that my days of studying were over I learnt that Oxford Brookes University were introducing anew course at the publishing school – a Masters Degree in Electronic Media. Once again I embarked on a second degree and two years later gained my Masters. This was definitely the last degree for me!

During my career in the Academic Division I was promoted to production controller and worked on business books. Having worked in this division for eight years I decided that it was time for a new challenge. I applied for the position of Senior Production Controller in the Pre-press department of the English Language Teaching Division at OUP. I was successful in gaining this position and worked for a fabulous boss, Jeff Borer, for four years where I learnt a vast amount about the pre-press activities of four colour books and other components that contributed to English Language courses.

After working in publishing for some time, you set up your own consultancy company. What made you decide to make this move?

One of the main reasons for setting up my own business, PT33 Publishing Consultancy Ltd, was that I wanted to have more control over the hours I worked. I had two young children and needed the flexibility of self-employment to achieve an acceptable work-life balance.

At that time there were very few people who offered production services in a freelance capacity and I felt that I had found a niche market in which to start my business. My aim was to work a four day week but since starting the business in 2002 I have worked full time. Being self-employed is great due to the variety of work that I have to manage but balancing the work and home life is a real discipline.

And what service do you provide?

As we are all aware, women make up a large proportion of the publishing industry. When starting the business my objective was to work in-house for publishing companies, covering the maternity leave of their production staff.

As time passed publishers that I had worked for invited me back to cover non-production roles such as development editor, working on large projects as a project manager, co-ordinating an acquisition, and project managing books out of house, from my own office.

Many publishing houses aim to increase the number of titles that they wish to publish each year without increasing the head count within the company. This sometimes puts pressure on in-house structures and work is outsourced to project managers such as myself.

The services I now offer include maternity cover, short term cover during busy periods (books and journal work), management of large projects, and project management of books (taking books from manuscript stage to final print files or final copies, depending on the client's requirements).

By offering flexible working practices to the publishing industry I am able to offer them a cost effective way of resourcing work when in-house capacity has reached its limit.

What do you think are the main changes that have been made in production in publishing since you first started?

The role of production has changed dramatically since I started working in the industry in 1986. The electronic age has certainly made an impact on the process by making it much more streamlined and cost effective. Publishers’ objectives are to publish books as quickly and as cost effectively as possible in order to see a return on their investments. New technology is one of the components that have allowed this to happen. The hard work undertaken by the people working on these books is also a contributing factor.

There is more emphasis on producing electronic artwork in order to cut out the scanning stages; digital proofing procedures, and print PDFs which has eliminated the need for films which were costly to produce and difficult to transport. We also have facilities such as ftp sites and e-mail where data can be transferred to overseas suppliers within minutes, whereas 15 years ago we had fax machines and the postal system!

Print on demand has been enormously successful for publishers where only very few copies of a book are required. In the past, where production costs were not cost effective for very short runs, the books were usually put out of print. Print on demand has enabled publishers to keep those books in print.

How did you get involved with the PTC?

One of my clients recommended me to the PTC. As well as offering services to the publishing industry, I also teach at Oxford Brookes University on the Publishing Degrees (Honours degree and Masters degree) so had a few years of teaching experience before coming to the PTC.

Initially I was invited to teach the production slot on the two-day course, Book Publishing: An Introduction, that runs at the PTC and then I was approached to write a two day course on the Management of Production.

How do you keep the course content up to date considering how fast the industry is moving?

I work for a number of publishing houses and therefore I am able to keep up to date with how the industry is changing. I also have regular contact with suppliers and much is learnt through discussions with them and visits to their factories.

Reading industry magazines on a regular basis is also vital to keep on top of what is happening and to learn about the emergence of new technologies.

The feedback forms from delegates at the end of the two-day course are an important factor in gauging how the course was received and what they found useful.

A variety of visiting speakers also come to Oxford Brookes University from industries that I wouldn’t usually have contact with. Having this background knowledge can also contribute to how I keep course content up to date.

Who is the course aimed at and how will it benefit them?

Management of Production is a two-day course aimed at a varied level of competencies within the book production department, ranging from Production Assistants through to Production Controllers/ Production Editors and Managers.

The course examines the main drivers of production – cost, time and quality and suggests ways in which the processes can be streamlined, reducing the time and costs required to produce books.

The overall objective is to help people plan and manage their workloads more efficiently. The course guides the delegates through ways to develop their project management skills and looks at developing interpersonal skills through managing themselves and others.

Many delegates leave the course with at least two things they plan to change when they return to their jobs.

What are your plans for the future?

Over the last six years I have been fortunate enough to work with many reputable publishing houses in Oxfordshire, teach at PTC and at Oxford Brookes University. My plans for the future are to widen my client base and recruit another person to work alongside me to expand the business.

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