How a Book Goes from Writer to Reader in Traditional Publishing

The writer writes a novel or a nonfiction book proposal.

The writer queries a literary agent with a query letter about his novel or his nonfiction book.

The agent expresses interest and asks to see the entire novel or the completed nonfiction book proposal.

The agent likes the work and agrees to represent the writer.

The agent pitches the work to several book editors.

Interested editors ask to see the novel or the nonfiction book proposal.

If the editor likes what he sees he discusses it at the weekly editorial meeting. If there is a positive response the editor asks other editors to read the material and give him feedback.

If there is a good response from other editors to the material, the editor asks someone from Publicity, Subsidiary rights and Foreign rights to take a look.

If everyone likes what they read the editor creates a Profit and Loss statement (P&L) using different advance and print run scenarios to insure that the book will be profitable.

If the P&L works out the editor presents it to the publisher and editorial director for the okay to make an offer to the agent for the book.

If the agent likes the offer he consults with the writer and if gets the okay from the writer he accepts the offer. The agent and the editor have a virtual good faith handshake and the editor and agent then negotiate the contract.

The contract is signed by the writer and the publisher, each gets an original copy.

The first part of the writer’s book advance, known as “on signing” is sent from the publisher to the agent. The agent take his percentage then pays the writer.

The writer revises his novel or writes his non-fiction book based on the editor’s feedback with an eye on the contractual due date for the manuscript (ms.).

The writer delivers the book by or before the contractual due date. The editor edits and revises the manuscript and returns it to the writer.

The writer revises the manuscript based on the editors edits and delivers the revised ms.

If the editor is happy with the revised ms. the editor releases the advance due on delivery and acceptance of the ms.

At this point the editor puts the book into Production.

A production supervisor is assigned: He assigns a copy chief.

The copy chief selects a copy editor.

The art director assigns a designer for the interior of the book and a jacket designer for the cover.

If the book is illustrated an illustrator is assigned to the book.

A publicist is assigned to the book. The publicist will eventually create press materials and a publicity tour if the book has a good reception at publication.

The copyedited ms. is returned to the writer. The writer signs off on the changes and revisions, answers any queries then returns it to the editor.

The editor reviews the ms. then sends the ms. back to Production. The copy editor inputs the edits.

The interior designer and jacket designer are coming up with ideas, which the editor reviews with various departments then sends to the writer and agent.

A book jacket or cover is chosen.

The writer signs off on the interior design and layout.

The book goes to the compositor/typesetter

If the manuscript is clean enough, bound galleys are made from the typeset ms. Bound galleys are bound versions of the book. They sometimes look like paperback versions of the finished book, often with the same cover but with the copy Bound Uncorrected Proof on the front of the galley.

The publicist and editor send out the bound galleys to established authors for quotes for the book, also known as blurbs, and to publications for excerpts and reviews.

Any quotes or early reviews go on the book flap, or back cover.

During this time the Subsidiary Rights department sends out bound galleys to Book Clubs and to magazines for serialization sales: First serial sales are pre-publication excerpts in magazines, second serial sales are post publication magazine excerpts. The house and the writer have a split of the percentages if he has sold those rights to the publisher.

If the Publisher acquired the foreign rights: the Foreign Rights department sends out bound galleys for foreign interest and sales.

During this time the proofreader is proofing the book and the indexer is creating an index if one is needed.

The copy editor, the editor, and the writer, make another pass of the typeset, copyedited manuscript, now called a galley or proofs, for mistakes.

If no mistakes are found, the book goes to the printer.

Then to the binder.

The book is published and the writer receives his advance due on publication.

Books go from the distributor to the bookstore.

Books then go from the bookstore to the reader.

The writer promotes his book with readings, interviews and perhaps a publicity tour.

Please keep in mind that since every book and every publishing house is different, their process may require more or less steps. The size of the publisher, the type of book and the genre, and the condition of the manuscript all play a part. This (best case scenario) is simply a guideline to show the key stages most books will take on their journey from writer to reader.

Carol Taylor, Edit 1st


 Check out a humorous take on this process from Weldon Owen

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