If you are looking to start your career as a writer or already into writing then you should know the process involved in getting a book published. The idea of the process can save you a big amount of a headache and hassle. Publishers don’t publish books one at a time, they’re running a production line, cranking them out like sausages at a rate of several a month.
Because each interchangeable fiction-module (book) on the assembly line needs the same sort of work doing to it before it’s publishable. Let us have a detailed look at the major steps involved in getting a book published:
What Are The Steps Followed To Get A Book or Novel Published?
- It needs substantive editing (most authors, especially first-timers, can’t turn in a book that zings: there are internal inconsistencies and plot holes, saggy bits, things that make no sense, and there may be length/pacing issues). Trust me, you’d rather not read a novel at this stage of development.
- Once the substantive edits are complete a final manuscript is submitted to the editor, who signs off on the delivery and acquisition payment (assuming a trad publishing book contract) and shoves the MS into the input hopper of the production pipeline. If it’s a regular author, they probably have an allocated slot on the conveyor belt that comes up once a year: if they’re a newbie they may have to wait for a free publication slot to become available, adding a delay of months — up to another year in extreme cases.
- A raw MS needs copy-editing: there are typos, the grammatical usage is inconsistent, the punctuation is inconsistent, and the author may randomly use “their” instead of “there” or “baited breath” instead of “bated breath” and similar whoopsies. I’d estimate my novels, when accepted, require on the order of 500-5000 minor tweaks at this stage. I’m not abnormal.
- It needs to pull quotes and reviews to entice readers who see it mentioned in the press, on online bookstores, or pick up a paper copy and look at the back cover. All of this takes a lot of time (so in many cases the raw manuscript gets sent out for review the very instant it shows up because other authors know the score and can see what the finished product will look like).
- It needs cover art commissioning and then a cover designing around the artwork and the pull quotes and marketing material.
- A press pack needs developing (later in the process, to push print/web reviews, to build a buzz).
- Marketing needs work: figure out who will want to buy the book and how to make them aware that it exists. NB: this isn’t just the readers, this is largely about bookstore buyers.
- It’s no use printing a book if nobody can order it. ISBN-10 and ISBN-13 need to be allocated, metadata collated and uploaded to wholesaler databases (along with the cover and cover blurb), publication date announced (the later stages of production work backward from this) and advance orders start ticking from about six months prior to release.
- Later, once the copy-edited manuscript is available, it needs to be sent to a typesetting agency (publishers outsource everything except Editorial, Accounting, and Management — trade fiction publishing is entirely a business of book supply chain management, basically).
- The typeset page proofs/PDF need proof-reading (checking). Typesetting usually introduces new mistakes because the typesetter is working from the manuscript and from editor’s notes, and isn’t infallible. So several someones — the author and a professional proofreader — need to crawl over the PDFs line by line looking for mistakes. As the PDF is a representation of how the book will appear when printed on paper, they’re also looking for things like ladders and runs — typographic ugliness on the page — as well as typos. (The ebook is generated from the same InDesign/Quark file as the PDF, so the typo hunt covers the ebook as well.) Again, the more eyes that check the project, the more bugs come to light: typically 50-500 changes are needed at this stage.
- Sales: the sales force take pre-orders from bookstore chains and wholesalers for hardcopy paper copies of the book. Working this up on the basis of advance promotion and publicity is itself a major job.
- The final PDF goes to the printer, another external company, who on the basis of the pre-orders and estimated further sales, is paid to print a bundle of hardcovers or trade paperbacks — anything from a thousand (small press publisher or publisher somewhere like Israel or Estonia with a small population) to hundreds of thousands (big-ass guaranteed runaway bestseller, e.g. a new major Stephen King item). Note that printing and manufacturing is itself a multi-step process; for example, printed signatures (bundles of printed papers) may be sent to a bindery for stitching/glueing into covers (separately manufactured card/cloth-bound flats), cutting (signatures are folded into position before stitching so the page edges aren’t free to be turned), and wrap-around dust jacket folding (which is another thing that needs preparing and printing).
- One or more shipping pallets loaded with lumps of dead tree are then shipped to the customer warehouses/depots/bookstores for synchronized release on the publication date (in hope of spiking sales into the bestseller charts — like a movie opening weekend).
- At the same time as all this is going on, synchronized marketing activity, blog tours, advertising, and promotion activities ramp up towards publication date.
- A couple of days prior to publication date an ebook version is uploaded to all the main ebook sales stores and on release day the publisher flips a bit to set the book status to “on sale”.
In project management terms, all of these steps are on the critical path on the GANT chart for producing a new book. If you skip any of them, you end up with an inferior product or reduced sales.
Now, you can rush this process. But if you’re a publisher and you try to rush out a novel in, say, 10 weeks, firstly, there’s no contingency time if anything goes wrong: secondly, you have to concentrate all your resources on one book, which means yanking them off someone else’s books, leaving a trail of workflow disruption in its wake: and thirdly, it’s expensive.
Getting a book published is not as simple as it looks from outside. Book or novel publishing involves long time taking steps, majorly including editing, proofreading, marketing, reviewing, printing & binding and marketing. Every step involved in this process is crucial for the success of the book and to be one the best-sellers.