Understanding the Book Publication Process

Books have provided mankind with a platform to learn, to entertain, and to inform. Since olden times, books have been regarded as a symbol for knowledge and organization. While books do reflect a certain level of cultural significance, their longevity is now being challenged by the seemingly expansive nature of the technology.

Hardbound books are being reproduced less and less these days because of the advent of the ebooks and readers. Knowledge is expanding much faster over the Internet, with every bit of information being transformed to a digital form. However, the good thing about it is that while technology has provided a new platform to read, books are still fighting for their lives in the physical realm. Besides, nothing beats a good book in hand on a rainy Tuesday – not an iPad or an Android Tablet. A book provides that venerated vibe that true readers would only understand.


The question now is “How does one’s favorite book come to be?”

In order to truly appreciate a book, one must comprehend the stages  it undergoes before it lands on your fingertips. This article zeroes in on the book publication process, the intricacies behind it, and how it is still thriving in the market today.

The Manuscript

Before any book is published, the exists the person behind the words. An author would have to spend a considerable amount of time creating his or her piece of art before it even goes to the press. Utilizing various writing processes, a writer whips up a story specific to the genre he or she has selected. Authors are aware of the best works out there, and try to scan each and every resource they can to create something authentic that would satiate consumers all across the globe.


An author’s manuscript can have varying lengths that require varying amounts of production time to finally be considered finished. Some authors finish their pieces of art in days such as John Boyne when writing the “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”. That was done in 2 and a half days. Anthony Burgess wrote “A Clockwork Orange” in 3 weeks. Then again, there are some authors who take their time in writing their great works. J.D Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” was a 10-year work, while Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” was a 12-year masterpiece. J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy trilogy “The Lord of the Rings” is a work of art that took 16-years to complete.

All in all, the manuscript a writer produces takes some time to complete. This is where the book publishing process starts.


When the manuscript is ready, it then undergoes the acquisition stage. This is where publishing houses look at an author’s work and decide whether it is publishable or not. Once an editor agrees to read a manuscript, it has passed a critical test. If the editors likes what they read  and think it’s a good fit for their list, they would then move forward with a proposal to acquire the book. However, this doesn’t mean it’s a done deal.


Publishing begins with acquisition and highly depends on this step. Acquisition for a publisher is like planting seeds for a farmer, or creating new models for a car manufacturer. Without it, there would be no products to sell in the future, thus no income. This is why publishers are so careful about what they acquire, and take so much time deciding over it. Committing to publish one book means committing to spending or otherwise investing thousands, if not millions, of dollars in advances, staff time, plant costs, paper/printing/binding costs, and marketing expenses, with income from the book not expected for at least a year.

Once an author’s work is selected by the editor, it is time for both parties to sign a contract. When the author and the publishers have agreed to the acquisition, the writer loses all rights and control over how the book would be published.


As soon as the manuscript is acquired by the publishing house, it undergoes a variety of edits and revisions. This is one of the most arduous stages in the process as everyone is trying to provide the best possible content. In fact, many writers often highlight editing as the hardest part there is in the writing process. Today’s book industry is so competitive that most acquired manuscripts don’t require significant editorial overhauls. Those needing lots of attention—whether they’re riddled with technical errors or in need of heavy restructuring—rarely make it past the agent.


Today’s editors more often request minor rewrites or reworks on the manuscripts they acquire. When it is reviewed, it is then passed back to the author to revise under strict deadlines. When the author of the book returns on the set deadline, it undergoes review again. All in all, there are no specific numbers for editor revisions. It depends on how satisfied the editor is.


As soon as the author and the editors of the book are satisfied with the work, it is passed onto the production line. In the moment when the title is ready, it is scheduled for publication together with its release month. Publishers recognize timeliness as a factor in their sales, so the release date is set on a month that they think is perfect timing.


The release dates often depend on the number of contracts under the genre of the writer, as well as how timely the topic is. Say for example, a book regarding politics would be more effective if it were released during the months leading up to an election. Publishers often have a good idea when a book can have the greatest chance to sell.

Publishing houses then provide a set number of copies, which are developed during acquisition. The publishers have a legitimate claim on the number of copies they will produce in order to be profitable for both the author and the company. This is usually known as the “budget number” for each book. This number is the basis of how much attention to detail your title receives. With limited time and resources to produce thousands of titles, the budget number is one way for publishers to prioritize projects.

Another element in the production line is the development of the book cover. While it may be a relatively minor factor for readers, it is a huge deal for publisher because it provides the first impression of the contents of the book itself.

When the designs are ready and the number of copies has been achieved, publishers market the book through advertising activities, promotions, and publicity gigs. Bigger houses often provide authors a book conference where writers can discuss the contents of their books in a more personal way.

Sales and Distribution

Once the title has been marketed, sales representatives begin to present it to bookstores for selling. Titles are typically sold months in advance of publication, so most titles being presented usually come out months from the actual publication and release date. This gives the publisher plenty of time to assess all orders, make adjustments as needed, and print the right number of copies for distribution to the marketplace.


Publishers utilize a variety of ways to distribute the copies. It all depends on the proximity, convenience, and costs of distribution. For example, many publishers in Canada acquire services from Toronto movers, who then deliver books in bulk orders to the nearest bookstores, and even to farther book hot spots as dictated by the distribution list.

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