I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT THE PUBLISHING PROCESS FROM BEGINNING TO END. CAN YOU RECOMMEND SOME HELPFUL RESOURCES?
THE PUBLISHING PROCESS, OR HOW TO COMMIT PUBLISHING
What happens to a contracted manuscript when it is processed by a publisher?How is it turned into a finished book?First, keep in mind that what might happen to your manuscript and what happens to a manuscript authored by, say, Dean Koontz or Stephen King, can differ as much as day differs from night.Why?Doesn’t a publisher process each manuscript in exactly the same way?
The answer is no.Publishers need to set their priorities like everyone else in business.This means they have to determine which books are more vital to their well-being, and it means they have to decide what amount of time, energy, and money needs to go into each book project.Naturally, the greater the sales potential a book has, the more time, energy, and money a publisher is willing to spend in editing, book production, advertising, promoting, marketing, and selling the book.So when you consider making books and processing manuscripts, the first thing you have to know is that what happens depends a good deal on the available peoplepower and money that a publisher is willing to spend on the book.Editorial and book production work, then, is done on a priority basis.
Another thing.Even though the actual number of editorial and production hours spent on your book may add up to only several weeks of work, the incubation period for the average book is close to a year (often longer) at most commercial publishing houses.Why does it take so long?Many different things need to be done, and here is a sketch of some of the steps involved.
Substantive Editing.This is when the sponsoring or acquiring editor reads the entire manuscript to double-check it and see if it’s in acceptable shape.Basically, it is the study of the text of a given manuscript to come to terms with the overall intent of the material and to determine if the writing has in any way fallen short.At this point, light or heavy revisions could be suggested.
Reviews.Many editors find they are not in the best position to approve a finished manuscript for publication.Some books require a technical level of expertise the editor does not possess.As a precaution, they have other people take a look.Getting a reader’s report of three to five pages with comments about the manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses is done especially with controversial or scholarly books.Remember that your contract will always state you are to deliver an acceptable manuscript, and what is “acceptable” is determined by the publisher.
Permissions/Rights.If your manuscript contains things quoted or otherwise used from other publishing sources (maps, charts, illustrations, lengthy quotes, etc.), the editor has to be careful that you have obtained the proper permissions in order to use the material.In most cases, you are required to get permission from other publishers to reprint material under copyright protection in your book.Most publishing houses put you, the author, in charge of getting permissions.This makes good sense because you know what you are using and what is going to require permission.If you haven’t done it before finishing the manuscript, you will usually be able to secure the permissions while your manuscript is being edited and designed.
The Author’s Questionnaire and Other Forms.The publisher will ask you to fill out certain forms to provide more information about yourself.This information is needed by several people in different departments within the publishing house—editorial, sales, marketing, advertising, and publicity.Completing the forms will be helpful to a number of people whose job is to help you.
Transmittal and Copyediting.The sponsoring or acquiring editor now sends the manuscript over to the copyediting and production department(s).The acquisitions editor goes over with the copy editor whatever original evaluation he or she has gathered and what they think needs to be done with the material, including the sort of copyediting it requires.At this stage, a line-by-line editing is done on the manuscript.The task of the copy editor is to sit down and carefully read all of the manuscript, to reason about each line or paragraph of it.It is to check the entire typescript and to bring it into consistency with house style.In other words, the copy editor enforces the mechanical conventions of style, things like syntax, spelling, grammar, and punctuation.The copy editor also looks for typographical errors, infelicities of style, errors of fact, and logical inconsistencies.They try catching the circular argument, the anachronism, or the potentially libelous remark.
Production and Design.After the material has been copyedited, it then goes to the people in the production area.Either at this stage, or sometimes before this stage during the review and copyediting process, various decisions are made on the book—what it will look like, what it will cost, how it will be marketed and sold, and dozens of other considerations.Usually a committee of people from the appropriate departments will meet to decide things such as the design and format of the book, the sort of cover art that will be used, what binding the book will have, what the trim size will be, what list or retail price the book should sell for, what discounts will be offered to buyers, the nature and number of the first print run, what illustrations or artwork should be involved, what projected publication date makes sense, when the book will be introduced in the publisher’s catalog and to the retail market, the method of printing, the type and weight of paper used, the size and style of the typesetting, and various other manufacturing aspects.Many questions arise during the production and design stage in book publishing.Once all these questions are answered and the printing schedule is set up, the manuscript is launched.
Interior Design.The book designer is responsible for choosing the dimensions of the book in relation to the printed text—in other words, for choosing the technical specifications of the book.The work of the book designer guides the typesetter, the printer, the binder, and the cover artist.
Preparation of Artwork.In bookmaking, the definition of “art” is a bit different from how art is viewed in most other contexts.In book publishing, art is anything that is not set in type.This could be charts, graphs, photographs (called halftones), diagrams (called line art), a table of figures, or even a diacritical mark over a letter in a foreign word.In book work, then, art is not defined by its content but rather by the technique that produces it.If any artwork is required for your book, now is the time the artists and graphic designers begin working on it.
Cover Design and Jacket Copy.While all of the production and interior design work has been taking place, the cover design has not been forgotten.The development and design of the book cover or book jacket usually goes on at the same time the text is being developed and edited.In fact, exterior or cover design receives as much or more attention from the various departments in a publishing house as just about anything else.What a book looks like physically is very important because it is the exterior of the book that bookstore buyers and readers see first.And of course all authors want their books to look attractive and appealing.Covers are almost always done by artists or designers who specialize in book cover art, and the artist could be either a staff artist or a freelancer.
SOME RECOMMENDED RESOURCES ON ASPECTS OF THE PUBLISHING PROCESS