To publish is to make public. Publishing is the process of book or content production and dissemination of literature. It is a complex activity demanding at every stage, ideas, flexibility and great attention to detail and the close liaison of many specialist staff from editorial through the sales and distribution. It involves turning a messages into readable form and bringing the printed word to general public in form of books.

According to Bishop Love, publishing is the process of producing for dissemination of books, films, computer programmes, records, newspapers, periodicals, discs, bulletins, magazine and other literary materials. They can either be for free distribution or for sale.

Traditionally, the term refers to the distribution of printed works such as books ( the “book trade”) and newspapers. With the advent of digital information systems and the internet, the scope of publishing has expanded to include electronic resources, such as the electronic versions of books and periodicals, as well as micro-publishing, websites, blogs, video game publishers and the like.

Publishing includes the stages of the development, acquisition, copy editing, graphic design, production – printing ( and its electronic equivalents ), and marketing plus distribution of newspapers, magazines, books, literary works, musical works, software and other works dealing with information, including the electronic media.


There are two categories of publisher:

  1. Non-Paid Publishers: The term non-paid publisher refers to those publication houses which do not charge the author at all to publish their work
  2. Paid Publishers: The author has to meet the total expense to get the book published and author has full right to set up marketing policies. This is also known as vanity publishing.


Many book publishing companies around the world maintain a strict “no unsolicited submissions” policy and will only accept submissions via a literary agent. Manuscripts are the blood life of publishing. However, it doesn’t matter how the manuscript is acquired, but in whichever way, the following factors influence the editor’s decision to publish any new product.

  1. Suitability of the Title: A title has to fit the style and aims of the publishing firm’s list so that it’s compatible with the firm’s particular marketing system. This therefore means taking on a book in a new subject area has implications for marketing and sales which may cause new risk.
  2. Author Assessment: This covers the author’s qualifications, writing ability, motivation, public standing, responsiveness to suggestions and time available to write a book. Whether the author is promotable is a key question in this case.
  3. Unique Sales Propositions: This considers what will make this book different from others or what makes it special. The quality of the author, and any new treatment of the subject or some differentiation by price. What are the special marketing opportunities through which the book can be promoted?
  4. Marketing: Understanding the main audience for which the book is intended, who will buy it and the possible take home and abroad. The sales records for the author’s previous books or those of similar books may be used as a guide.
  5. Competition: The title’s features and benefits compared with the competing titles are evaluated. This is very important for understanding the risk that could be involved.
  6. Front List and Backlist Potential: Is the expected to have a short life on the front list or does it have the potential to backlist for a long period?
  7. Investment and Return: How much time and money needs to be used on acquiring the book, such as the size of the advance expected by the agent and on developing it and marketing it through to publication in relation to its expected earnings and profitability.
  8. Risk and Innovation: What are the external factors at play affecting risk investment, such as the timing of the publication in relation to the optimum time to publish? What is the down side if the expectations are not realized. To what extent is the project experimental in terms of taking on a new author, or publishing in a new area, or format or price?
  9. Content: The quality and appropriateness of the content is judged. The editor is aided by others while non-fiction editors may ask specialist experts such as teachers, academicians, and professionals to comment on specialist titles, fiction editors may use junior editors. The management of the peer review process is critically important in academic and journal publishing.
  10. Physical Appearance and Price: The editor envisages a proposed title’s desirable physical packaging and price. This covers word length, illustration, content, size, binding style and production quality. The likely costs and the price range within which it could be sold.


The process of publishing a book begins when a manuscript is accepted for publication until it reaches the reader and the commissioning editor in a publishing house is the one responsible for acquiring manuscripts from authors. The process of publishing takes the following steps:

Step1: Acquiring the Manuscript.

This can be through one of the following ways:

  • Receiving them unsolicited from authors. This means soliciting from authors whereby the editor is not fully in contract with the author but merely shows keen interest on the possible author.
  • Commissioning authors to write an academic book. This means that the editor searches for writing talent and once it is found, the editor contracts that person to write with full knowledge that the author will be paid.
  • Manuscript can get into a publishing house through a publisher’s travelling sales person. In the course of distributing and promoting books in the market, the sales person may have an additional function from the publishing house to seek for manuscripts from the field. The sales person plays the role of literary scouts for the publishing house.

Step2: Evaluating the Manuscript.

When the book is acquired, it is taken to the editorial department ( commissioning editor ) where it is checked for length, content, completeness and quality. The book is also evaluated in terms of costs and revenue by the commissioning editor who works hand in hand with the accountants to determine the costs of production and the book price. This stage is very crucial and therefore needs to be very carefully done. At this stage manuscript may be returned to the author for revision and once the author has reviewed the text and accepted the changes, he then gives consent to the editor. Or may be accepted and passed on for production.

Step3: Signing the Contract

Once a book has been acquired from an author, the contract is signed with the author specifying the advance and royalties. The book then is monitored while being written and planning begins for editing, design and production stages that are interlinked with the book marketing.

Step4: Editing the Manuscript

The text is then copy edited by the editor who ensures that the text and illustrations are clear, correct, consistent and accurate for both the printer and the ultimate readers. The aim is to rid the text of problems or mistakes which can alter meanings originally intended. Copy editing also aims to present the book the way the author would have written if he had more time. During this time, the editor picks a pencil, starts reading through the manuscript, corrects the typographical errors and notes pages that may confuse a reader and usages. The task seems simple but it isn’t. Therefore if not well done, it is very risky.

Step5: Designing the Publication

The next activity is designing the manuscript. This involves shaping it to the final product in terms of its size, the cover design, typefaces and physical appearance making it ready for the type setter.

Step6: Typesetting, Processing and Proof-reading

The next activity is typesetting. But since many authors and typesetters are poor at spellings, the manuscript is then proofread. At this stage, the typesetter arranges the page breaks, inserts any illustrations and returns proofs of pages numbered as they will finally appear. The corrections and improvements are organized by the editor and inserted using standard symbols.

Step7: Printing and Binding

This is the time the editor has to ensure that all plates for printing are assembled, well packed and more than ready for printing. The market estimation determines the number of copies to be printed.

Step8: Marketing and Promoting the Product

When the manuscript is printed and bound, it is then promoted and marketed. The more the book is promoted and marketed, the more sales realized.

Step9: Selling the Product

During the promotion activity, orders for the book are made and sales people are responsible for the distribution of the book from the ware house to the distribution outlets. These usually include university libraries, wholesalers, retail shops, book shops and all other book outlet centres


A publishing firm consists of several departments, each with its own function. Effective publication requires close collaboration and communication among all departments in the publishing house. In the decision to publish a particular title; each department should contribute its own expertise to establishing a publishing strategy. These departments include:

  1. Editorial Department: Establishes the need for a publishing project, seeks authors, and in other ways acquires manuscripts, evaluates manuscripts using expert advisers, copy-edits manuscripts to check for accuracy, ensures completeness, improves readability, increases effectiveness, evaluates final drafts using field tests, secures licences and permissions as needed to reproduce material already in copyright.
  2. Production Department: This department establishes the format and design of the final book, identifies suppliers of manufacturing services, obtains estimates and controls costs, acts as liaison with suppliers and checks the physical quality and quantity of books delivered.
  3. Sales and Marketing Department: This ensures public awareness of the publisher’s books, using a variety of means including catalogues, brochures, advertisements, press announcements, exhibits and special events, makes personal calls on booksellers and other potential customers, acts as liaison with customers and maintains historical sales records.
  4. Order Fulfillment and Distribution Department: Supervises safe, efficient warehousing of books, receives orders for books and checks them for accuracy and completeness, fills orders for books in stock, informs customers if a book is not in stock or is not the publisher’s title, generates invoices for purchases, generates delivery instructions and schedules, maintains inventory ( stock ) records and controls, and acts as front-line contact with customers.
  5. Financial Administration Department: This ensures the financial viability of publishing projects, operates routine business operations including billing and collection, may be responsible for computer-based management information systems ( MIS ), prepares balance sheets, operating statements, etc. , For use by the general administration and department heads.
  6. General Administration Department ( Top Management ) : This department coordinates the activities of all departments, ensuring amicable communication and collaboration, provides leadership in establishing institutional goals and policies.

Author-Publisher Contracts

The agreement between author and publisher is the cornerstone of their relationship. Care taken by them together to ensure that the contract really reflects in detail the nature of the book they are discussing pays off time and time again, not only in focusing early attention on the points of real substance, not only in avoiding subsequent unsettling disputed but in giving the author the confidence he needs to let the publisher get on in equal confidence with his job to their mutual advantage.

Negotiating a publishing contract can be a baffling experience for an author who is new to the business. The legal jargon can be confusing and the terms themselves may surprise. Many of the clauses protect the publisher’s interest. Prior to signing a contract, an author must ask the publisher for a blank or unfilled in contract with the terms penciled in. If the terms are acceptable or if several terms are negotiated, the final agreement is prepared by the publisher for the author’s signature. Once the contract has been signed, it becomes legally binding and any changes made afterwards are very difficult to negotiate.

If an item is essential to an author and the publisher verbally agrees, the author has to be sure to get the agreement in writing or in contract. This removes uncertainty between the author and the publisher. Certain clauses especially those dealing with the financial aspect must be clearly understood by both parties. An author’s reaction to a contract may be unwillingness to accept the publisher’s terms, e.g. the percentage of the royalty. The author may be able to get a better contract if he/she has written a successful manuscript in the past, but if the contract is fair and the publisher is willing to make some compromises, the author should accept it.


There are too many variations on the contractual terms to discuss them all. Instead, we shall discuss standard clauses, which are common in most of the contracts.

  1. Grants of Rights: This clause specifies the geographical areas in which a publisher has the right to publish and distribute the printed books.
  2. Warranty and Indemnity: In this clause, the author affirms that he/she has the right to sell the book. In other words, the content has not been plagiarized. Plagiarism amounts to dishonesty in publishing and is a serious offence. All material that the author uses which is copyrighted must be submitted with a written statement of permission from the publisher at the time the manuscript is completed. This clause also guarantees to the publisher that nothing in the manuscript is scandalous or libelous or unlawful. It protects or indemnifies the publisher against any suits arising from this contingency. This provision has been one of the most controversial terms of the publishing contracts, to the extent that authors have joined forces to convince publishers that it is the publisher’s responsibility to provide protection in case of suits. According to the traditional contract, the author has to foot the bill or at least half of the bill against the suits. On the other hand, publishers argue that they do not want the responsibility of ensuring that an author’s book doesn’t contain anything libelous or unlawful. Some publishers contend that if this were no longer the author’s responsibility, authors would be more careless about weeding out such harmful material. In most contracts, this clause also means that the author must pay costs.
  3. Copyright: The new copyright law provides new rights for the author. With the new copyright law, the author can transfer some or all of the rights.
  4. Delivery of a Manuscript: This clause states the agreed date upon which the manuscript is to be handed to the publisher. This date is usually based on the author’s proposed date of completion. The publisher in a written statement or agreement can extend this. Most publishers will want additional 30-90 days although some are becoming stricter on the observed date. If the author fails to deliver the manuscript on the agreed date, the publisher is free to award the contract to someone else and has the right to cover money advanced in the form of royalty.
  5. Form of a Manuscript: This clause specifies the author’s responsibility to provide material other than the manuscript such as the index, illustrations or halftones ( photographs ). The author is usually responsible for either supplying the index and artwork or paying for their preparation. If an author doesn’t supply them, the publisher contracts a graphic artist but the cost will be borne by the author.
  6. Proofs: The publisher provides the author with galleys and page proofs, which must be corrected and returned to the publisher. An author may be tempted to rewrite large portions, adding and deleting some of them. In such a situation, if the amount of correction exceeds 12% of the cost of original composition or typesetting, the author has to pay for it.
  7. Revision