Book Publishing Process- An Overview of the Publishing Process – Part 1

Curious about what happens to your book manuscript after you turn it in to the publisher? This article provides a step-by-step overview of the first stage of the book publishing process. You’ll learn what happens after you submit your manuscript but before it officially goes into production. During this phase, the acquisitions editor, line editor, or developmental editor may recommend changes, and you’ll make the necessary revisions.
Types of Books
The details of the book publishing process differ somewhat depending on the type of book you’ve written. Books can be categorized in various ways; one possible distinction is between five major (though overlapping) types: trade, mass-market paperback, textbook, scholarly, and reference.
Trade books are commercial books aimed at a general audience and include most bestsellers. They’re usually sold in bookstores–in contrast, say, to textbooks, which are often ordered through school systems, and in contrast to mass-market paperbacks, available not only in bookstores but also in supermarkets, airports, and other locations. Like trade books, scholarly and reference books are primarily available in bookstores.

The specifics of the book publishing process vary from publisher to publisher and are also changing as new technology emerges. But the following outline generally holds true.

After you’ve signed a contract, you’ll complete your book within six months or a year or whatever timeframe is specified in the contract. Ideally, you’ll receive feedback from your agent (if you have one) or from the publishing house during the writing process, so that the manuscript you turn in to the publisher is nearly flawless. But the publisher may decide the book needs more work at this point.

Line Editing or Developmental Editing
Any of several types of editors could suggest revisions. Publishers use a mystifying array of terms for their editorial staff; the terms vary from one area of the publishing industry to another and even from one company to another. But at this stage, most editors are concerned with the larger picture–that is, with aspects of your manuscript like organization, readability, and accuracy–rather than with smaller details like grammar and spelling.

For example, the acquisitions or acquiring editor could recommend revisions; in the case of scholarly books, these may be based on suggestions from peer reviewers. Or if you’ve written a trade book, the (line) editor, content editor, or substantive editor handling the book may suggest improvements. Textbooks are sometimes sent to a developmental editor, who will recommend organizational, stylistic, and other changes that can make a book more competitive with similar books.

After you’ve made the necessary changes, the manuscript goes into production. That process involves further editing, typesetting, and other work that will turn your manuscript into a printed book.

Elizabeth C. Judd, PhD, is the owner of Casco Bay Literary Services, an editorial services firm that provides book editing, ghostwriting, manuscript evaluation, consultation, and other publishing services. Our goal is to create the best possible publishing outcome for you, at prices you can afford. Click on for more information and writers’ resources, including other articles on publishing topics.

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