From Author to Reader: An Overview of the Book Publishing Process

Interior bookshelves at City Light Bookstore in San Francisco
The publishing process gets the manuscript from the author's desk into the hands of the reader. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images News

Wondering how a book gets from writer to reader? If you're an author being published by one of the major book publishers, then you’ll be happy to know there is a whole team of people involved in helping to "set up" your book for publication. If you are self-publishing your book, the phases of publication are the same, but you'll be doing more of it yourself, or you'll be paying someone to do some of the steps.



(Not sure whether you want to go traditional or DIY? Research the different types of traditional publishing houses, self-publishing companies, and whether or not you should self-publish.)

A publisher's team includes the book's editor, of course, but also tens of pros in many areas, like design, production, sales, contracts, subsidiary rights, marketing, publicity and more.

All the departments in a book publishing company (traditional or self-publishing) work to get your magnum opus from book proposal or manuscript to finished book. Here's the flow of the book publication process:

Book Editing

First stop, the editorial department where, in collaboration with the author, the editor spends months helping guide the content flow of the book and the language of the text, whipping the manuscript into readable and publishable shape. At the same time, the editor is also working with his or her colleagues (as well as the author) to come up with a brilliant title and subtitle that will entice readers to the book.



Understand the different members of the editorial team and what they do as well as the details of the book editorial process.

Learn how to craft a selling book title and examine one case study that took a book title from "meh" to marvelous.

Book Production

After your manuscript leaves editorial, it goes into the hands of production (first stop in production is copyediting).

In production, a host of hands design and lay out the pages of the book, determine its size and page count, work to get the cover of the book designed, and see the book through printing and binding or e-book creation.

Follow the steps of production from edited manuscript to finished book.

Book Marketing & Publicity

While the book is being edited, designed and produced, the marketing and publicity departments are working to prepare for launching the book into the marketplace.

The marketing and promotion department works with the editorial department to develop tools (like seasonal book catalogs) and marketing strategies and plans to help get the books in front of the account book buyers. A book's online marketing and social media also usually falls under the marketing department.

It is important to know the functions of the book publisher's marketing department.

The publicity department is responsible for dealing with the broadcast and print online media, all potentially powerful assets in getting the word about a new book.

How the book publicity department works.

Book Sales

The book sales departments "sell in" your book to the many and varied retailers who sell books—from small independent bookstores to wholesalers who supply a variety of accounts to special markets like gift stores.

The sub-rights department also "sells" books, more specifically, that department sells the right to publish a book in alternate formats, different languages, and to adapt it for different media).

See the different types of booksellers.

All of these processes work toward the "launch" of the book into the marketplace, and many (sales, publicity, marketing) continue afterward as well to help "sell through" the book—that is, get it out of the bookseller's hands and into the hands of the consumer.