Write it now: the twelve steps to traditional publishing

Although traditional publishing is in upheaval these days, there are lessons we can learn from its processes. The new age of e-publishing hasn’t changed the need for quality control – which trad publishing has had down pat for decades.

Part of my list.

Part of my list.

The traditional publishing process breaks down into twelve broad steps. They vary a little from publisher to publisher, but the intent is always the same; quality control. The steps typically go like this:

1. Manuscript (MS) submitted.
2. MS read and confirmed for quality – or returned to the author for amendments.
3. MS sent for proof-editing. Most publishing houses operate a ‘virtual’ editorial process – they’ll have a stable of contractors who are brought in as needed for this work.
4. Proof-edited MS checked back with the author to confirm changes. The author needs to avoid the temptation to re-write at this point (and will likely incur costs if they do – this is built into contracts).
5. MS line-proofed.
6. MS sent for typesetting. Usually the design will be run past the author for comment although most contracts give final say to the publisher.
7. Typeset MS proof-checked by publisher and run past author for final comments.
8. Typeset MS line-proofed.
9. Index usually implemented at this stage (if there is one).
10. Typeset MS checked again and sent for printing.
11. Printer provides proofs (lasers, ozilit or, these days, more usually high-quality inkjet) – these are carefully line-checked.
12. Any amendments implemented – book then printed.

Usually a handful of initial copies are sent before the main delivery – and it’s about this stage that the author finds a typo. Nature of the beast.

The main focus is on change control – on making sure that amendments are contained, and that they’re always proofed. Repeated proofing pays dividends, although in these cost-conscious days, not all the proofing steps are always applied.

Traditional publishing has gone down this track for good reason. It’s quality assurance. It gives a professional edge, and in this age where one of the biggest challenges is discovery, there are lessons therein for self-publishers.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014

Coming up: More writing tips, science geekery and more. Watch this space.

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8 comments on “Write it now: the twelve steps to traditional publishing

  1. I’m glad you posted this. I’ve been reading a lot about self-publishing lately and most of the posts don’t discuss many of these critical QC areas.

  2. Rebecca Douglass says:

    A hearty second to the need for lots of proofing–and the importance of not revising at this point. I just wrote about that yesterday.
    Rebecca at The Ninja Librarian

    • Proofing is easily as important as drafting. It’s a vital part of the whole wruting and publishing process, but one that so often gets pushed to the end of the priority queue.

  3. SleepyDragon1320 says:

    Reblogged this on Sleepy Book Dragon and commented:
    Proofreading is critical these days I feel as I have come across books recently published with typos.

    • Proof reading is vital! Part of the problem these days as the industry reorganises is that this is where the corners seem to get cut. I have seen some awful clangers in published material in recent years.

  4. […] 4. There is a discrete process to prepare something for release to a publisher, or if you’re self-pubbing, for that publication. I’ve posted on it before. […]

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