In these times when readers are responding to our books “more than ever,” when our authors—such as Cornel West, Anita Hill, and Christopher Emdin—are appearing in the media, their ideas going viral on social media, their voices being heard on so many platforms, we thought it might be good to take a break to focus on some of the staff who work hard to find, shape, edit, produce, and promote those works. Our blog series “Beacon Behind the Books” introduces to you a member of our staff and gives you a behind-the-scenes look, department by department, at what goes on at our office.
To kick off the New Year, meet our production director, Marcy Barnes!
What drew you to publishing, Marcy?
I’m sure my answer is true of 99.9% of us in this business: I am a life-long reader and lover of books! I can’t remember not reading. Every trip to the library or bookstore was magic and memorable for me. I looked forward to English class in school like none of my other subjects. I was an English and sociology major, and then did my graduate degree in library science. I knew I would be involved with books somehow. I worked in educational publishing for the first fifteen years of my career. I was always most drawn to the projects that felt they were directly serving the greater good, so when the position opened up at Beacon, I was thrilled at the opportunity to spend my days working with two of my greatest passions: books and social justice.
What’s a typical day in the life of a production person?
Production is the behind-the-scenes, soup-to-nuts (or manuscript-to-printed book) side of publishing. We take a manuscript from its acquired and line-edited state to the final project, so we’re responsible for hiring vendors and freelancers to typeset, proofread, index, and finally print our texts and covers. It takes an unusual set of skills in that we need to know writing style and grammar and also design and manufacturing. I work closely with almost everyone in the company, which is really my favorite part of the job. Production is very deadline driven, so I often tell people who ask what I do for a living that I’m a “professional prodder.” There’s a lot of problem solving in bookmaking, and it really keeps us on our toes! I still never tire of the thrill of opening a box of books to see the final product in all its glory; that the years of work by the editor and author and the many, many pieces of the puzzle that the rest of us coordinate all come together to make this piece of concrete literature still blows my mind.
There are also non-product related parts of the job. I am specifically quite excited that a year of laying the groundwork for our new title and content management system, Biblio, is about to come to fruition. Go live is in mere weeks!
What keeps you focused at work?
Having my production schedules and to-do lists in front of my face at all times is probably the key to keeping the trains running. Aside from that, knowing I have the author’s “baby” in my hands is very grounding. What else? I have lots of fun and personal cards and images from friends and colleagues pinned to my cubicle; and I keep a picture of my son over my computer for times when it looks like the trains are derailing. Sometimes just looking up at these mementos brings me back into the zone. Other than that? Podcasts. Lots of podcasts!
What’s your favorite book and what are you excited about upcoming?
I can’t narrow it down to one! I’m a bit of an Albaphile (def.: “A person who is fond of Scottish culture.”), so I will always mention Irvine Welsh, Ali Smith, Alan Warner, A. L. Kennedy, Duncan MacLean, Janice Galloway—so many (and none of them Tartan Noir, I may add). Janice Galloway’s The Trick Is to Keep Breathing is glorious, so I guess my fave of the Scots! But in 2017, I read a lot of memoirs and essays and they were all fantastic: W. Kamau Bell, Samantha Irby, Lindy West, Roxane Gay, Patti Smith, Sherman Alexie. It is incredible the poetic form and roaring humor that can bubble up through even the most painful recollections in these artists’ writing. Speaking of which, my favorite Beacon book of the year has been Gayle Brandeis’s memoir, The Art of Misdiagnosis. It so brilliantly captures the turmoil, tragedy, and perseverance of surviving a parent’s mental illness and suicide. The writing style and the layout of the book are just beautiful and a testament to the author’s special talent.
The upcoming books that I’m especially excited about are the brilliant Jeanne Theoharis’s exhaustively researched—and eye opening—A More Beautiful and Terrible History, which tackles long-held fables/misnomers of the civil rights movement, and journalist Joe Rosenbloom’s gripping account—Redemption—of the last thirty-one hours of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.
About Marcy Barnes
Prior to joining Beacon in 2011, Marcy Barnes held posts at Harvard Education Publishing Group, Harvard Business School Publishing, Elsevier Science, and Addison-Wesley Professional. She has an MA in Information and Library Science from Manchester Metropolitan University (UK) and a BA in English and Sociology from the University of Leeds (UK).