Jan Hugo

Book publishing process

 The book comes into existence in several stages

1. Manuscript

  • While we say "book comes into existence", the manuscript is created; and creating it takes much longer than to process the manuscript into the final product. Of course, the manuscript is the soul of the book, editing and typesetting does more or less formal job. But it is editing and typesetting that differentiate the book from many ingenious but amateur-style texts freely available on the internet.

2. Peer-reviewing

  • Peer-reviewing is an essential step in STM book production. The philosophy of book reviewing is the same as with peer reviewed journal articles - the reades of the textbook or science book expect to get reliable, up-to-date and effectively presented information. However, while the reviewer of the journal article may be felt like a judge (although formally being a "peer"), reviewer of the book ought to be a person helping the author, like kind of "silent co-author".
  • Remember: there are two meanigs of the term reviewer: in addition to the context of processing the manuscript (peer-review) the same term is used for an expert writing an article about the book to a journal or a newspaper (book review). In this case the resemblance with the judge is more appropriate.

3. Copy-editing

  • Copy editing (abbreviated CE) is a key stage of book production – this is where the book is born. Copy-editor makes considerable changes to the manuscript. In addition to correcting errors in grammar, spelling, or style, he or she changes the sentences to read smooth and being understandable in the first reading. Editor is responsible for the consistency (of ... everything) and makes any effort to find and correct mistakes in the content of the text (this is author's job, of course), although there are some differences in this; changing the content of the text is termed general editing or developmental editing in many publishing houses. Compared to proof-reading, copy-editing is higher-level job, although proof-reading makes its core constituent. In book publishing, copy-editing is done before typesetting

5Cs Principle: Copy-editors are expected to make the textClear, Correct, Concise, Comprehensible and Consistent


4. Typesetting

  • In most publishing houses, two groups of people take part in making the book - (a) editors (in a broad sense, incl. proof-readers etc.) and (b) graphic design people, i.e. graphic designers, illustrators and typesetters. Their responsibilities depend on the size of the graphic studio the typesetters being the only profession indispensible for the publishing business as it is. Type-setting is multi-layer job reaching from layout proposal (made by a graphic designers in bigger studios), to correcting hyphens or indexes. 

5. Graphics, illustrations

  • For generations, books with nice and attractive graphics sold better, but with the advent of internet book graphics and design got much higher priority in publication business. Some decades ago a book could be sold just because it contained information not available elsewhere. Of course, information – correct, well chosen and didactically structured – will always remain the chief reason for buying the book. However, the competition of information sources justifies what we did before mostly for the "pleasure of the eye": making the books nice.  

6. Authors proofs

  • Once the manuscript is copy-edited and typeset, the author gets the proofs. Customary, at least two consecutive proofs are needed, the first of them should be read verbatim by the author; and better both. The corrections have to be made manually to the printed copy or to PDF. However, it is technically not possible to make the corrections to the original manuscript (what authors frequently tend to do), as by the time of proofs the "live" text is structured in Adobe InDesign typesetting program and moreover it has changed considerably having tens of hours of editors’ work "inside", which would be (at leaset) partly wasted if new raw manusript had arrived.

7. Proof-reading

  • Proof-readers do not change the text, anymore, but search for mistakes in spelling, grammar, hyphenation, interpunction etc. Large publishing houses have specialized proof-readers (often junior persons aiming to become copy-editors in the future; or life-long proof-readers without any such ambitions), but even there often copy-editors do the proof-reading themselves. 

8. Pre-press

  • The final production stage – the steps after the editors "release" the book for print – changed dramatically during last three decades. Prior to IT (or "electronics" in eighties) gained control over the publishing technology, the book used to be typeset in printing houses. Making proofs to send them to editors and authors was lenghty but there was no fear that what you’d seen in proofs might look different in print. Desk-top publishing had caused an earthquake in the publishing industry with old experienced typesetters – the "nobility" of that industry for generations – having lost their jobs (unless they were ready to transform to DTP operators) and typesetting having been transfered from printing houses to publishing houses or independent sudios. And what used to be solid became kind of "moving sand". Even prestigious books appeared with spaces in the text (where special characters were supposed to be), b/w images instead of color ones, weird typeface islands in the middle of the Times ocean etc. It took next 20 years before widely adopted standards started to dominate the publishing industry again. And even today, we are all very careful about all the pre-press process and control.
  • When Maxdorf Publishing was launched, "films" were the standard technological intermediate in preparation of printing plates with old-fashioned EPS formate as a "DTP studio output" often brought personally to imagesetting studio. CTP technology (direct Computer-to-Plate) with standardized PDF-X format (with still increasing numeral added) accelerated further the process, of course with skipping the chance of "low-cost" catching the possible mistake on film. Fortunately, the check-list backed SOP system we developed during those "wild years" proved very useful and reliable ever since.

 9. Printing and binding

  • Authors frequently ask how long does it take to print to book. The book is usually printed within days from sending the print-data – one to several days according to the size of the book and the print-run. Then the lose sheets are bound and the binding process makes the bulk of the time the book spends in the printing house. Paperback books are usually bound ("glued" should be a more appropriate term) in straight line with the printing so the 200-page small-size paperback can be ready within 24 hours. However, it is advisable to let the books stay pressed in stacks on palettes for some time, otherwise they can twist or curl. 
  • Hardcover takes longer to be made, you’d better to let the sheet dry up after printing - i.e. before they are folded and sewn together. Hardcover binding can add a week or two. 


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