Anna Robinette, Junior Product Manager from Egmont, came to talk to us about her role and what it involves.
Egmont publishes books for infants to young adult, fiction and non-fiction, and they’re also the number one UK publisher for children’s magazines. Egmont produces a lot of novelty products, like a Star Wars book that has cut-outs to build your own Millennium Falcon and Minecraft’s Blockopedia. Other big franchises they produce products for include Tintin, Mr Men, Winnie the Pooh, Codedojo, and Halo.
All Egmont products have a FSC label, which ensures a chain of compliance. And any product that has play value needs safety testing and the CE Marking lable, i.e. a suitable warning (e.g. not suitable for kids under 3).
Print vs digital
The market is divided approx. 85% physical, 2% audio, and 10% ebook/app (of those 72% of products are for 17+) – not really Egmont’s target market so there’s less development, though they still produce some digital products.
Day-to-day as a Product Manager involves:
Costing, scheduling, printer and supplier amangement, digital production, product development, safety testing, content management of files, repro and typesetting management, and rework and correction of products.
Production works with the following departments: editorial, design, prepress, publicity and marketing, international sales, UK sales, publishing services.
Product Manager responsibilities:
Schedule budget, overall quality, colour, creativity, safety CE, proofing and printing, problem solving.
Products go through proofing stages. A lot of product decisions boil down to cost vs value.
Examples of product desicions:
Sign of One – foil vs metallic pantone – foil wasn’t much better than pantone so could not justify the cost
Minecraft – hexagonal shape – printers had to create special die cuts for the book and they had to figure out a way to display it correctly. They also had to produce a box to display the book in the right position (on the “tip” of the hexagon).
Have to factor in safety scheduling costs:
Mr Men mug and book sets – e.g. chose not to go for melamine plastic because of restirctions and added customs cost. Plastic has to be tested for heat (e.g. touch test). There can be long lead times, have to get an HMRC rating. Added complication that the book is VAT free but the mug isn’t, so have to factor that when projecting costs and potential revenue.
Minecraft book – barcode printed on wibalin can create barcode problems. In the testing stage, it only scanned half the time or came up as MS tuna – tried different methods until they got it right.
Always check titles letter by letter, because the one time you don’t is the one time it goes to the printers wrong.
Learning to work with different materials:
Depending on the paper, it affects the CMYK colors, e.g. on eucalyptus it comes out bluer. [CMYK substracts light and RGB adds light]
5 color = CMYK and a pantone
Foil and spot UV drying times – might need two layers to show properly, needs to dry in between, so longer lead times.
Depending on the paper, you might need to tweak the amount of ink because of different paper absorbtion and might need spot UV twice.
Sales vs production
less risk and more unit cost [multiple smaller runs] vs [larger fewer runs] more risk and less unit cost
option 1: multiple customers
option 2: co-editions, e.g. same book, different language (which is why text is in black in picture books so the text can be printed on a separate black plate).
option 3: automatic stock replenishment (ASR) – pros (automatic, not typing up capital, less work, almost as good costs as longer and fewer runs) vs cons (set pricing, longterm there’s more cost, no corrcetions).
Things will go wrong it’s how you deal with it (= problem solving).
E.g. Egmont had a book with a foil cover in a plastic pouch, the foil melted whilst in a container durin an exceptionally hot summer and all those books and the pouches were ruined; another time the Egmont logo printed brown instead of black; and you always have inconsistencies from print run to print run.
Oranges are really tricky to get right, especially if there is any blue in there. Yellow with even 2% cyan can make it look dark.
When there’s a problem: get your facts together, go to your manager, and suggest ways to fix it. You’ll also have to figure out which company’s responsibility it was – in a lot of cases the terms are negotiated as part of the contract, but unexpected things always happen.
Production is about figuring out if it really needs doing or redoing.
Advice from Anna Robinette:
Keep an eye out for jobs with:
Can ask companies:
What made you join this company?
What training will help me progress within the company?
Inquire about salaries, training, holidays.
Always do your research.
Know your production terms, e.g. slipcases, PVC, PLC/PPC (printed paper/laminate case), finishes, etc.
Self-train in Adobe products.
Get work experience to figure out which department you want to go for.