Preparing for Publication
Have you managed to find a publisher for your work and are now enjoying the thrill of knowing that your book will soon be published? If you’re wondering what happens next, here is an outline of the processes involved.
There are links to pages on the site to which will help you prepare for publication. Your publisher is going to prepare your manuscript for the printer, but it’s still a good idea to understand what’s involved and to be clear both about what your publisher is doing and what is expected of you.
Understanding what is going on is a good place to start.
Have a look at the Inside Publishing series, which gives helpful background on what’s going on inside your publishing house. As well as understanding important subjects such as subsidiary rights, advances and royalties, check out what the production, marketing and sales departments do and how you will be expected to work with them.
Unless you are an exception – the much-hyped first-time author who is expected to leap into immediate bestsellerdom - publishers have a lot of other books on their lists and will not just be focused on your baby. Your editor will be your key contact, so make sure you work closely with him or her to help your publisher do the best they can for your book.
Your delivery date
Assuming that you have a contract with the publisher for your book, the next step will be to get the text ready for publication. If your book has been bought on an outline or synopsis and is still to be written, incomplete or needing further revision, the first thing will be to finish writing it. If you agree a delivery date, it can be particularly important to the publisher that you should produce the complete manuscript when you said you would. Your book may already be in forward lists and catalogues and may form part of their budget and publicity plans. It isn’t just a minor inconvenience for the publisher if you are late. It can be a real headache and jeopardise your book’s chances.
Preparing your manuscript
If your manuscript is already complete, then it will be prepared to go into production and a publication date will be set. Make sure you will be available on publication in case you are required to publicise the book, but don’t expect publishers to fix the publication date to fit your holiday plans.
Your publisher is likely to feel that they are the best judge of when to publish and your book will have to fit in with other titles on the list. Usually a production schedule will be produced at this stage. This should show you what you have to do and when.
On disk or ‘hard copy’
Most publishers now prefer to have typescripts delivered on disk, but some are still in transition as regards the use of new technology and it is best to ask your editor about the publisher’s preference on this. If you deliver as ‘hard copy’, i.e. a typescript, it should be double-spaced and ‘clean’, which means free of handwritten annotations. (We have a page in services with a good spec for checking material before you send it in.)
Your work should go in to the publisher in the best shape you can manage. It is their job to copy edit it, but it may help to know what is involved (see our Copy editing service). These days, publishers’ copy editing is generally carried out by freelances who are paid by the hour, so the publisher will be keen for this work to be kept to a minimum.
When the copy editing is complete, check your work to make sure that you are happy with the changes. There will often be queries from the editor and the writer to be sorted out at this stage. The copy editor will have prepared the prelim pages (see Preparing your Prelim Pages) and it is vital that you check carefully through these. Make sure that any biographical details and the copyright line are correct and that any dedication or acknowledgements have been added.
The proof stage
The typescript will then usually go to the typesetters on disk and the proofs will come back to be checked by you and by a proof-reader, often another freelance. The changes will be collated and returned to the typesetters for the corrections to be made. This is not an opportunity to rewrite!
Make sure you check your Contents page carefully.
Most Non-fiction will have an index and your contract will make it clear whose job it is to supply this. Making an Index gives the basics, but many publishing houses take on the responsibility for organising this and send the proofs out to a specialist indexer.
If your book has pictures, there should be a clause in the contract specifying who will provide these and who will pay for them. There’s very little point in delivering the text on time if the pictures are late. If you are providing the pictures, allow plenty of time for clearing permissions and make sure you keep a careful note of the acknowledgments.
If the publisher is getting the pictures or commissioning an artist, then you will need to approve what is going into your book. You will in any case have to help brief the illustrations. You should have general agreement about the approach and number of illustrations before the contract is signed.
If the book is being laid out with sections of pictures, then the pictures can be on a different schedule from the text, but the acknowledgments, list of illustrations and captions must still be ready when required.
These days many books have integrated pictures, which means that the designer will style the book and the pictures will need laying out, together with the corrected text. This is usually done by a designer working on screen. You should see the layouts to check them.
Clearing Copyright Permissions
It is often the author’s responsibility to clear any text permissions, although the publisher sometimes provides a budget for this. How to Clear Copyright gives the details and you should start work on this early, as it can be a long-winded business.
The cover or book jacket
Publishers are required by chain booksellers to work several months ahead on ‘selling in’ to them, so the paperback cover or the hardback jacket may be one of the first things publishers start work on. Your view will be solicited but your ideas will not necessarily be followed. There is more argument between authors and publishers about book jackets and covers than on almost any other single issue, so it’s worth being clear from the outset where you stand on this.
It is hard not to have a strong personal view after you’ve spent months or years writing your book, but publishers are generally more closely in touch with the market-place than you are, and will often have to deal with tricky feedback from powerful chain book-buyers. It’s a good idea to listen to what they have to say and to remember your top priority should be to sell as many of your books as possible.
Assuming that all goes well and your proofs are corrected, you are now on the home stretch. Your publisher will get an ISBN for your book ( the essential book number used all over the world for ordering the title). Once finished copies are available they will arrange for the legal deposit copies to be sent.
The sales and publicity departments should now be working on your book and will be in touch if they have publicity plans which require your involvement. The more efficient publishers will have sent you an author questionnaire. This is all about you and will help the professionals plan how to promote you. Think carefully about how you complete it.
Even if you think their plans for you, such as bookshop signings or promotional events directed at the book trade, are a waste of time, do everything you can to co-operate. Quite a few bestselling authors owe part of their success to their skill at charming the book trade and the sales force.
Authors used to be able to assume they would be taken out to lunch by their editor on publication day. Don’t count on it! But whatever happens it’s an exciting moment when your book is published and, after all your efforts, you make the transition to being a published author. You are the star but try not to forget the supporting cast of editors, your agent, illustrators and designers. It’s a big day for their creative efforts as well.
© Chris HolifieldManaging director of WritersServices; spent working life in publishing,employed by everything from global corporations to start-ups; track record includes: editorial director of Sphere Books, publishing director of The Bodley Head, publishing director for start-up of upmarket book club, The Softback Preview, editorial director of Britain’s biggest book club group, BCA, and, most recently, deputy MD and publisher of Cassell & Co. She is also currently the Director of the Poetry Book Society; During all of this time aware of problems faced by writers, as publishing changed from idiosyncratic cottage industry, 'occupation for gentlemen', into corporate business of today. Writers encountered increasing difficulty in getting books edited or published. Authors create the books which are the raw material for the whole business. She believes it is time to bring them back to centre stage. 2006
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