Ever wondered how a book is published? Yeah, me neither—until I started working in the book publishing industry!
I’ve been involved in some form of publishing since 1992, when I first discovered a desktop publishing program called PageMaker. I produced football game programs for Compton College using that now-extinct software.
I remained involved in desktop publishing in a variety of positions, using a variety of software programs, until 2011. Advertisements, online banners, game programs, college catalogs, phone books—you name it, and I’ve probably been involved in publishing it at least once.
My publishing path reached its most interesting point when, in 2012, I began working for a book publisher. My path first crossed Cedar Fort Publishing & Media’s path in 1988 when I read its first book, “Beyond the Veil” by Lee Nelson. Our paths crossed again in 2002, when a Cedar Fort acquisitions editor contacted me about turning a collection of my feature articles on high-profile LDS athletes and coaches in to a book. That project never took off, but, in 2008, Anne Bradshaw invited me to contribute an essay for her compilation, “Famous Family Nights,” which was published by Cedar Fort in 2009.
In 2012, I interviewed for a graphic design position at Cedar Fort, but was hired to work in its public relations and marketing department instead. This is when things really got interesting.
My job was (and is) to help authors promote and market their books. One of the little-known facts about today’s book publishing industry is that the author, not the publisher, is responsible for promoting and marketing books. A publisher’s marketing staff is in place to offer marketing support. Kind of like a coach, or counselor. There was a time when the publisher handled all aspects of publishing—including marketing and promotions—but those days are long gone. So, unless your name is Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, don’t expect to sit back and let the publisher market and promote for you.
As I became familiar with how to help authors market their books, I started learning more about the publishing process as a whole. From submitting a manuscript for publishing consideration to shipping the finished product off to bookstores—I learned a little bit about it all!
However, when I submitted a manuscript for publishing consideration in 2014, I began gaining a new perspective on the publishing path—from that of an author’s point of view. It’s been quite an adventure.
(SIDE NOTE: Cedar Fort accepted that manuscript and will publish it in book form as “From Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher” on Oct. 13, 2015.)
As a general rule, authors whose books are published can expect the entire process—from submission to publication—to take at least 18 months. As with anything, there are always exceptions to this rule, but 18 months is a good estimate.
Here’s what else is involved with the book publishing process (at Cedar Fort, at least):
One virtue prospective authors need to develop to survive in today’s publishing industry is patience. It takes anywhere from two to nine months to hear back from a publisher once you’ve submitted a manuscript. The news isn’t always going to be good, either. In fact, only a small percentage of the manuscripts submitted to a publisher actually get published.
‘We like it!’
If the acquisitions editor likes an author’s submission and sees that it has the potential to sell, she’ll present the manuscript to the board of directors for publishing approval. With board approval, the acquisitions editor lets the author know that the publishing house would like to publish the book.
Soon thereafter, the author and publisher sign a contract that spells out the legalities involved in publishing a book. Be sure to study this document carefully before signing the dotted line, it contains all the info you need to know.
With a signed contract in place, the first—and one of the most exciting—step is the book’s cover. Cedar Fort happens to have some of the best cover designers in the industry. (I’m not just saying that because I work there.) The designer produces a cover design about nine months prior to a book’s release, but it needs to go through a committee review process—which includes author feedback and input—before it is finalized. Generally, the finalized cover is ready no later than six months prior to a book’s release.
At about three to six months prior to launch day, the acquisitions editor reads through the accepted manuscript looking for ways to improve the book’s contents. He looks for things such as continuity, cohesiveness, and if the story flows smoothly. He then asks the author to fix the things that he’s found that need fixing. For some authors, this step, known as a “subedit,” will involve only a few changes. For some, it’ll involve extensive changes. It really boils down to how much care an author puts in to writing and editing the original manuscript.
Next come the copy edits, which happen about two to three months prior to launch day. This step involves fixing typos, correcting grammar and spelling, and minor rewriting. An in-house copy editor makes these changes, and then sends them to the author to either accept or decline the changes. If the author disagrees on a change, then the copy editor discusses the matter with the author. Expect this step in the publishing process to take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
Proof and proofreading
When the author resubmits the copy-edited manuscript, the copy editor produces a proof of the book that includes the fonts, flourishes, chapter headings, etc., which the final product will contain. As a courtesy, the copy editor sends the proof to the author to make sure everything is to the author’s liking.
The last step before sending the book to press involves in-house copy editors (different from the one who did the original copy edits) proofreading the book at least once before sending the book off to press. Typically, this step yields only a few grammar, spelling, and typos fixes. If anything big pops up, the author is informed. Ideally, the book goes to press about two months prior to launch day.
Release day is always an exciting day at Cedar Fort (and all publishing houses, I presume). For the authors, it signifies a dream come true and months—if not years—of hard work. For Cedar Fort staff, release day is a time to share in the satisfaction of collaborative efforts resulting in published books. The smell of new books is pretty cool, too!
Marketing and promoting is a big part of the publishing process. You’ll notice I didn’t say much about it here, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Authors should expect to receive marketing coaching from the publisher’s marketing staff throughout the entire process, from contract signing to release day—and beyond! Because marketing is so involved, I’ll save advice on that topic for another blog post.
Kelly Martinez is the co-author of “From Baptist Preacher to Mormon Teacher,” which was released on October 13, 2015.