Monday, March 30, 2020

Publication Process from Submission to Bookshelf

 The Process of Publication from Submission to Bookshelf

         An author often misses one step on the way to having a book published, may fail to know exists: the process of publication. An author may become frustrated and angry because he thinks his book takes too long to be released. She may not understand why an editor requires revision after revision.
         Writers who have an idea of the process they and their manuscripts follow until a book sits on a bookshelf feel more secure and confident. Of course, the process varies from publisher to publisher and from one type of publishing to other types, but the general route taken by manuscripts is roughly similar.

1. Submission: Each publisher has guidelines that need to be followed. For the best chance of receiving a contract, follow those guidelines because they are not suggestions. Guidelines can be found on the publisher's website.

2. Assigned to acquisition: Some heads of a company make the acquisition decisions; some companies have an editor-in-chief who does or who assigns to an acquisition editor; some companies have imprint editors who assign submissions to acquisition editors. Whatever the method, someone will evaluate the manuscript and recommend whether it is accepted or rejected. This step can take up to six months, sometimes longer. A writer may contact the publisher after three months to make sure the publisher received the submission – a nice way of inquiring as to whether or not anything has happened.

3. Recommend accept or reject: A recommendation is given to whoever makes the final decision and to the person who offers contracts if the a recommendation is to accept the manuscript. Our AE has several types of recommendations he/she can make: reject, make revision and resubmit, ask for the full manuscript, after a full manuscript is evaluated – recommend contract or rejection.

4. Author notified: A rejection letter is sent to the author or notice of contract offered and request for information required for contract OR however a company handles the notification process. Our company gives a summary of the information given in the evaluation, whether the submission is rejected or accepted, as a way to help the author. Many publishers don't give a reason for rejection.

5. A contract is offered, often within a month: The author needs to be sure he/she understands the contract before accepting or rejecting it. If the contract is accepted, the author should follow the instructions given by the publisher. NOTE: If an agent is used, that person will be the go-between.

6. If the contract is accepted, editing begins. Each company handles editing in a different manner. Some require authors to pay for the service either before or after the contract step. 4RV Publishing assigns a lead editor who works with the author one on one. This step can take several weeks to many months, depending on the amount of work the manuscript requires to make it the best it can be and on the availability of qualified editors.

         After the lead editor and author have made all corrections they see, a proofreader searches for grammar, sentence structure, spelling, and other mechanical problems missed.

7. After editing, comes formatting or design work, illustrating or cover art preparation, and preparing for proof. Depending on the company and the number of manuscripts in the schedule, the availability of artists and designers, this step may take up more than a year.

8. When design and artwork are finished, a proof is sent for copy editing and approval. Again, different publishers handle this step in various ways. 4RV sends a PDF proof to the author and editors (and the illustrator, if the manuscript is illustrated). Everyone in the loop looks for errors, but the copy editing is not the time for major rewrites. This step takes more than one proof edit.

9. After the proof is approved, the files are prepared for the printer. In a week or less, the book is available for purchase. Most publishing houses use Ingram as their distributor, but some add other distribution methods.

10. Major publishing houses often take several years to move a project from acceptance to finished book. Smaller houses take anywhere from two or three months to three or four years, depending on the process and set up of the house.

         Many authors begin their journey believing once a book is written it will be in print quickly. However, once a book is written, the real work begins.

A sig given as gift.


  1. Terrific post, Vivian, thank you. I'm looking forward to seeing ALPHABET ZOO come to life!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks for outlining this process, Vivian. There really are many steps to get to a published book, and it helps to be aware of them.