Friday, July 9, 2010

Book Publishing

Since we have been talking about the future of publishing and the always-available-option of self-publishing, I thought we might dig a little deeper into that subject and take a look at the journey your darling manuscript takes when you hand it over to a traditional publishing house. Although a lot of the steps involved in traditional publishing can be eliminated if you decide to self-publish, some of them need to be included in order to produce the highest quality product that will compete favorably with a traditionally printed book.

The processes and procedures listed below are merely an overview. Typically, there are additional steps and many more people involved (sometimes gumming up things more than helping), but the steps listed are closely related to similar steps required in self-publishing. So, let’s send your middle grade fiction manuscript off to the traditional publisher and follow it through the major production phases.

We’re striving for perfection, and long before the pages of your book are printed, there are several steps required to make certain it’s perfect in every way. During that metamorphosis from manuscript draft to print-ready copy, your work must undergo some severe scrutiny and modification before the ink hits the paper. Here’s a typical flow that your work might take before your words get into your reader’s hands.

Developmental Editing (Recommended for Self-publishers, too.)
You’ve given the publisher the best you have to offer. It’s been edited to death and read to pieces by your beta readers. Everything has been corrected and altered until it’s as perfect as you can make it. But it’s not ready to print yet. It’s now in the publisher’s control, and developmental editing is the first step. This involves making certain the concept and scope of the book are properly developed for the intended audience. It also involves checking the plotting and the way the elements of the book are arranged so the story unfolds for the reader in the right manner with no plot holes and no consistency and flow issues. Self-publishers who make use of this type of editing will hire freelance editors to help with the development of their project.

Copy Editing (Recommended for Self-publishers, too.)
When the developmental editor and the author have finished organizing the manuscript during the developmental editing phase, it will pass on to a copy editor. A copy editor is like a Buzz Lightyear version of an uber spellcheck program - with a turbocharger. This editor will peruse the manuscript, line by line and word by word. Nothing escapes their laser vision. Copy editors have an excellent familiarity with the English language, vocabulary, and usage. Their job is to examine the manuscript, paying particular attention to correcting any errors involving punctuation, capitalization, spelling, grammar, usage, consistency, style, formatting, ambiguity, and any other areas that require correcting. If your infinitives are split or your participles are dangling, they will catch it. They are the final word in accuracy and perfection. When the copy editor’s work is finished, the manuscript goes back to the author for clarification or approval, and the revisions are edited into the manuscript.

Production Editing
The manuscript’s next stop is the production editor. Typically performing the role of a project manager, this person schedules the project and tracks its progress. They typically assign the book designers, illustrators, proofreaders and other professionals needed to produce the book. This is the stage in which the overall format of the book is determined, along with the typography, folio style (page numbers), and any other repeating graphic elements. In addition, the production editor may be responsible for requesting estimates from printers or print brokers for the print production and bindery processes.

Proofreading (Recommended for Self-publishers, too.)
The last stage in the editorial process is proofreading. In addition to checking for typographical errors, the proofreaders are also watching for inconsistent line, word or page spacing, improper word breaks, widows and orphans, page numbers, and correct abbreviations and acronyms.

Print Ready
After the final proofing and correction of any errors, the book is ready to go to press.

Obviously, if you decide to self-publish, you won’t need to utilize all of the human resources listed, although the services of a good developmental editor, copy editor and proofreader would be money well spent prior to publishing.

Regardless of the direction you take, be sure to investigate the legitimacy of any individual or organization you deal with in your journey toward publication. Here is a great site that provides a valuable service to writers in steering them away from those who might take advantage of them. WRITER BEWARE.


  1. If a person is self-publishing they should definately use the copy edit, developmental edit and the proofreader. In addition they may want to check out some writing tools like autocrit and grammarly to get them started.

  2. Wow, that's a lot of editing. I never realized that's what happened. Thanks so much for the post. Very informative.

    Even with all that editing, however, I know things slip by. Is it because an author or publisher has skipped a step? Or do they just happen?

  3. Even with all that editing, however, I know things slip by. Is it because an author or publisher has skipped a step? Or do they just happen?


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