The Stages of the Publishing Process
If you’ve never written a book or published an article, the regular production of excellent quality published manuscripts can seem like a magic trick. How does a rough paper get transformed into a masterpiece that people want to buy and put on their bookshelves? The publishing process is surprisingly complex, and to the uninitiated, seems as mysterious as any black box. But in fact, it’s just like any process that creates the products around us. Let’s pull back the curtain and look at everything that goes into transforming an idea in a writer’s head to an influential book or article that you read in your classroom.
What are the Stages of Publishing?
Let’s begin with a quick look at the basic steps of the publishing process. What comes first in the publishing process? How long is the publishing process?
The publishing process comprises:
- Structural editing
- Content editing
- Technical editing
- Design and typesetting
As you can see, publishing is actually a complex and multi-stage process, so you won’t be surprised to learn that it can take at least one year to complete. However, this time can be shortened if you have an existing relationship with a publisher or publishing company and some advance interest in your work. First-time authors will have a harder time making it through the first step, i.e, acquisitions, if they are relatively unknown. However, once you have successfully published and sold one book, the duration of the publishing process will get shortened during your next project.
Preliminary Steps: Acquisition and Editing
The first steps of the publishing process are acquisition and editing. Acquisition can occur in different ways, but generally authors send either a draft of their manuscript or a proposal to multiple publishers. If a publisher is interested in your work, he or she will call a meeting with their acquisitions team to discuss its pros and cons. The acquisitions team isn’t just limited to editors. It includes people from sales, marketing, and publicity departments as well to evaluate how well your book will sell in the current market. If they like your proposal or your manuscript, they will offer you a contract. However, keep in mind that most major publishing houses won’t read an unsolicited manuscript. For this reason, many aspiring authors seek out publication support services or agents to help them shop their work to potential publishers.
Once you have drawn up a contract, either with the help of publication support services or on your own, and signed the contract, your book will begin its journey through the editing process. As shown above, the editing process can be broadly summarized in three steps: structural editing, content editing, and technical editing. Structural editing focuses on the way your manuscript is organized and whether it makes sense. The publishing house editors or in-house publication support services will make suggestions for big changes, which you will be asked to review and accept or reject. After everyone is happy with the way your manuscript is organized, the publishing process moves on to content editing. This reviews your book for factual accuracy as well as flow, transitions, wording, and so on. An aggressive content editor will revise your work to make sure the style is consistent and the content is impeccable.
It is important to recognize that your editors may make some suggestions that you find difficult to understand or accept based on their knowledge of the current publishing market. While you have some control over what to accept, in reality, your editor has a lot of power as soon as you sign your contract. Remember to be flexible and keep the market in mind. Once you have accepted the major changes, a technical editor will review your work to make sure it is free of grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. Once you have reviewed and accepted the changes, this part of the publishing process is over.
Next Steps: Design, Typesetting, Printing, and Proofreading
Now the publisher or their in-house publication support services will work with you to make sure that your book looks presentable when printed. You will choose a cover design, a font, and someone will typeset the book for you so that it looks great. A test print will be made and then proofread to ensure there are no hidden errors that were not caught by the editing process. Once you have worked with the publisher to get a beautiful draft of your book in print, it is time to move on to the final steps of the publishing process.
Final Steps: Sales, Marketing, Publicity
Even the best-written books need marketing and publicity to make sure they end up in front of the readers who will be interested in them. Major publishers and publication support services engage in marketing and publicity of promising new books to ensure that sales are high, and your new book will be no exception. In today’s world, marketing can include a vast number of methods. Your book may be marketed via ads in newspapers or journals, but you might also be asked to market it on podcasts, through interviews, and among well-known authors to get your name and the book out there. The publication support services offered by your publishing team will also hype you as they work with their network of book distributors and convince them to acquire your book and sell it. Soon, your book will be printed and hit the shelves.
It is important to note that the steps for online journal publication are a bit different than those of book publishing. Online journals generally do their own publicity, sales, and marketing, and without a print version, design and typesetting are less involved processes as well. Most online journals offer publication support services. However, if you are submitting a manuscript for online journal publication, you might need to seek out publication support or research publication solutions that are specifically tailored to academics. Regardless of whether you are writing a book or an article, knowing the stages of the publishing process can help you know what to expect and ease your way through.