By Nirmaldasan

The making of a book is a result of the publishing process. This process involves a team of people who have to interact with one another before the printed word can reach the reader. Interestingly and importantly, the reader also has a role to play in the publishing process. The publisher, who is at the helm of affairs in the book publishing business, has to have a finger on the pulse of the readers, who reveal their likes and dislikes through surveys. The publisher's own experience may also serve as a guide to understanding the market. After all, it is the publisher's money which is at stake.

Next in the hierarchy is the acquisitions editor, who helps identify authors in various subjects. The identified authors are sent a book proposal form. If the publisher accepts the proposal, then an agreement on the terms and conditions is signed. The author would now have to work on his book and meet a deadline. The writing of a book is a creative process. But it is also a tedious process. Authors themselves have to play the role of editors. They may write a whole chapter and, not being happy with it, start all over again. They may, on the other hand, restructure the chapter by a process called substantive editing. In the newspaper industry, substantive editing is done by copy-editors because deadlines may not be met if the copy is sent back to the author. Not so in the book publishing industry.

After rewriting or revising the manuscript, the author will send it to the publisher hoping to get the first proofs at the earliest. The author may now be satisfied with his manuscript. Even the publisher may be happy. Yet, the manuscript will be sent for peer review. This is because, as we noted earlier, it is the publisher's money which is at stake.

Suppose there is a manuscript on archaeology. This will be sent for peer review to one or more experts in the field. They will go through it and make suggestions. These suggestions are forwarded to the author by the acquisitions editor. Some authors dislike any changes to their writings. So the relationship between the acquisitions editor and the author is not an easy one. It requires tact on the part of the acquisitions editor to deal with such authors. After the author incorporates substantially the changes suggested by the peer reviewers, the manuscript is taken up for copy-editing.

Unlike substantive editing, copy-editing focuses on spelling, punctuation and grammar. It may also call attention to factual errors or inconsistencies. The copy-edited text is proofread and sent to the author. The author also reads the proofs. The author's corrections are incorporated and a formatted second proof is sent to the author. The formatting is done by the design team.

Many of the publishing functions are done simultaneously. Suitable types are chosen for the text and headlines. Illustrations and tables may have to be prepared for the book. An attractive cover must be designed.

When all this is done, we have what is called a camera-ready copy. The book is printed and is ready to reach the hands of readers. It is now the turn of the marketing team to bring the publishing process to a fruitful end.

(This article appeared in the HCAS magazine 2005-2006)

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