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Inside Publishing


How the Publishing Business Works

The Publishing Maze

I have spent my whole working life in publishing. I take for granted the inside knowledge which you absorb in any business or profession, but it struck me quite recently just how esoteric some of this information is.

This can make it tough for a writer trying to get their work published. It is not easy to understand how publishing works, let alone why it works the way it does. This tries to explain how the publishing business works.

Why revise it?

This series has been written over a number of years but revised recently to take account of changes in the book world.

Why Book Publishing?

I’ve worked for eight publishers, two book club groups, a literary agency and a literary charity. I still think that book publishing is about the most enjoyable thing you can do – aside from running a writers’ website, of course! It’s a curious mixture of a business, an industry, a profession and a compulsion, but those who work in publishing find it hard to tear themselves away from that heady mix of books, authors and commerce.

What about the Writers?

Inside Publishing has built into a series about publishing, which will help writers understand what goes on inside the business. Some columns will be a bit technical, but please keep reading if you want to understand what’s really happening inside publishing houses and what it all means for you. Even if self-publishing is what you have in mind, this series provides a lot of useful background.

These are the topics I have covered so far:


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.