Ever wondered what happens when a main-stream publisher receives a contracted manuscript? It’s worth knowing because even if you’re self-publishing, the process is industry standard – I’ve been through it many times, and it’s followed by everybody from Penguin Random House to some of the smaller houses I’ve published with.
It’s evolved that way for a reason – and you’ll need to follow it too, for the same reason. Two words: quality assurance. Here’s how it works.
1. The MS is read for quality. Most contracts (certainly every contract I’ve ever signed) has a ‘quality’ clause. If the book’s not up to par, it’s sent back for revision (and the contract usually specifies the time the author has).
2. If the MS is on spec (to length, to specified content, and up to par), the author’s paid their ‘delivery advance’, usually half the full advance-on-royalties. These days, this is often the last money the author sees for that title.
3. The MS is then sent to a proof-editor. This is a ‘high level’ read for sense, wording, style and content. The author is sent the proof-editor’s adjustments, for comment or further work.
4. While the proof-editing’s going on, designers are working up the cover and internal look of the book. These matters are wholly controlled by the publisher – by contract – but the author’s consulted.
5. The proof-edited manuscript is then typeset, proof-checked for literal errors (typos), and sent to the author for checking. At this point, the author shouldn’t ask for changes beyond any literal corrections (typos) – and publisher contracts have a clause in them levelling the cost of change on the author if it exceeds a certain point, usually ten percent.
6. The whole thing is read once more, sometimes twice, and corrections made. Sometimes the author gets a second check at this stage too, often in parallel with the proofing.
7. It’s sent to the printer. Meanwhile, the publisher’s marketing department is working up their strategy for selling the book.
8. Advance copies are received and sent to the author.
9. The book’s finally available in quantity and published. Of course, that’s only the beginning of the hard work for the author and publisher alike – especially these days. The main challenge, inevitably, is marketing.
More on that in a while.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014