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The publishing process, Part 2 August 20, 2008

Posted by Andrew Killick (Publishing Manager) in 1. How Castle Works, 6. The Publishing Process Part 2.
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For most people, books just magically appear, ready to purchase, on the shelves of bookshops. In this second part of my article I continue to uncover the secret processes of the publishing machine. Read on! (Read Part 1 here)

Edit. By the time you give your manuscript to a publisher you should already have made it as good as you possibly can. This might involve several rewrites as you take into account the feedback you’ve been given by people around you. It is well worth investing your time and effort on this. No matter how much work you’ve done though, most publishers will want to tweak things a little. This can be a scary prospect for authors, but don’t worry too much. Remember, publishers are experts so you can usually trust them – their main aim is to make the book better. If you feel strongly about something they are trying to change, you can tell them no! Castle always tweaks the titles we publish and always recommend that self-publishers get an edit done as well. It is important to use an experienced editor. The editing service that Castle offers has transformed lots of manuscripts into well-written and easy to read books beyond what the author could have achieved by him or herself.

Design. This is another crucial part of the book production process. A lot of people are keen to have a go at book cover design, or know someone who knows how to use Photoshop. But because the cover design will greatly affect how readers perceive your book, it is always a good idea to engage a book cover specialists for this service – or at least get the input of a specialist. I should mention the book title here too, which is also extremely important. For both the title and the design, you need to have something that is both accurate and impacting. In other words, the design and title need to accurately represent the content of the book and also capture the reader’s attention.

Typesetting and layout. Your book needs to be readable and while most readers don’t notice the finer points of good typesetting and layout they are definitely affected by them. ‘Easy reading’ can have a lot to do with the flow of the writing (taken care of in the editing stage) but it also has a lot to do with what typeface is used for the book, how the words and lines are spaced and how they appear on the page. The quality of the typesetting also impacts the perceived quality of the book (as does the design) and the overall aesthetic of the finished product. The cover design and internal pages need to match and be part of an overall design concept. There’s a far cry from having a go at creating the inside pages in Word and getting an experienced typesetter to do the work. So get a typesetter!

Proofreading. Probably the least glamorous and least exciting part of the publishing process. Once the typesetting and layout are complete, you should be given ‘reader’s spreads’. These are sheets, usually with two pages of your book to a sheet, that show what your pages will look like when printed. These need to be read carefully to make sure there are no errors in the text. It is important at this point not to confuse ‘proofreading’ with ‘editing’ – proofreaders are only looking for actual errors. A lot of authors can’t resist a few optional tweaks to the book at this stage, but these should be avoided because changes can affect the overall layout and create time-consuming problems. Generally we find that the authors we work with have friends and associates who make good proofreaders. This works well, but the person who takes the corrections in (based on the proofreaders’ work) should have the skill to vet these corrections. You can hire the services of an experienced proofreader, and this is sometimes a good idea (especially for technical books or books on specialist subjects). The author should be one of the proofreaders but he or she is likely to miss some errors simply because of over-familiarity with the text.

Print. So now your book is ready to be turned into a physical object. There are two main methods for printing: digital and offset. Offset is the traditional way. Digital is a new technology that is improving every year. Technical details aside, at this point is more feasible to print quantities of under 800 units digitally and more than 800 by offset.

Bind. This is how your book is put together. The most common form of binding (and the one that Castle usually uses) is called ‘perfect binding’. You see it on most soft cover books that you pick up – it is durable and neat. If your book is more of a ‘booklet’ you might want to consider ‘saddle stitch’ (also known as stapling) instead.

eBook. For a long time, people said that ebooks would change the face of publishing and the way we read books. It took a while to happen, but the ebook revolution is now officially here. People’s reservations about reading on an electronic device instead of a paper book are being put aside as they discover how easy it is to use the ebook format. In the world of ebooks, there are two main file formats – EPUB and MOBI. MOBI is used by the Amazon Kindle system and EPUB is used by everything else. Having your book as an ebook won’t guarantee that thousands of people will read it (there are a lot of books out there) but it does open your book up to that possibility. It pays to get some knowledgeable technical assistance when creating and distributing your ebook.

Delivery. This is a bit like Christmas Day for most authors. Boxes of books arrive from the bindery. You carefully slide a knife along the tape on the top box and open it up to reveal your book staring back at you – complete, in all its glory. There’s a huge sense of achievement in thumbing through the pages and seeing what your work has become, it’s the realisation of a dream. Now your book can go out and change the world – getting it into the reader’s hands is the next and trickiest bit…

So that’s the second part of the publishing process. In the next part we’ll look at marketing and sales – getting your book into the readers’ hands.