Editing Course: Inside Publishing

When we talk about publishing, most people think of printed books. However, that is only one sector of the publishing world. There is also newspapers, magazines, the education sector and business.

Publishing is not limited to printed material either. E-commerce is also part of publishing. This includes ebooks (a fast growing sector), web pages, e-newsletters, ezines and e-journals.

The Birth of the Manuscript

Long before typesetters came into existence a manuscript was a handwritten work by an author. Manuscript is a Latin term: “manu” means “hand” and script comes from “scibere” meaning “to write”.

The printed version of the manuscript is never referred to as a manuscript. It is the completed work, the book. Only the author’s work is given the term manuscript.

The first “books” to be published date back to the seventh century when religious manuscripts first came into creation. However, it wasn’t until the thirteenth century that book production spread to manuscripts that were not religious in nature.

The Crusaders, returning from their fighting, brought with them books that told about worldly and historical matters. Some of the early writings came from the Greeks, especially the two Greek historians, Herodotus and Thucydides, who wrote in-depth accounts of the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars.

It wasn’t until the fifteen century that the first actual printed books came into being. That’s when the printing press and the development of mass-market technologies were introduced and used. Yet the term “mass-market” is a bit misleading. Many average people could not read and the books produced were very expensive. Only the wealthy could afford to buy them. Also, the church frowned upon non-religious books so it took a few more hundred years for the present-day book publishing industry to evolve.

Modern-Day Editors and Proofreaders

Editors and proofreaders play an important role in preparing a manuscript to become a book. However, the chain starts with the author and ends with the publisher. And it must be remembered that the author wrote the words to be read and the publisher printed the words to make money. The author and the publisher want the book to sell. If it doesn’t then months and even years of work can be lost and neither the author or the publisher will benefit financially. The editor’s and proofreaders’ roles will help make for a better investment.

Literals in Published Documents

The word “literal” means typo. These can be made simply because the typesetter is typing too fast or because their fingers are hovering over the wrong keys. Typos are also due to transposing characters (such as “hte” for “the”).

Often literals can be indirectly caused by the use of spell checkers too. Some writers rely heavily on spell checkers to do their proofreading for them but this is a practice they should not get in to as they are not reliable. Authors should always print out the manuscript and proofread it themselves.

Publishing Stages

Preliminary Assessment is when the publisher assesses submitted manuscripts for possible publication.

Editing the Manuscript is done once an accepted manuscript has been contracted and signed by both parties (author and publisher). A structural edit is performed. The editor and author should work closely together to ensure the story is the best it can be.

Copyediting the manuscript is done once the changes are made after the structural edit. The copyeditor will check for literals, consistency and correctness.

Proofreading may be done now, or at any stage during the publishing process as long as it’s done prior to the final print run. The proofreader may do a standard proofread or a comparative proofread to check the newly typeset copy.

Designing and Typesetting is when the copy is typeset for publication. This will include illustrations, photos, table of contents, front matter, etc.

Page Proofs used to be called galley proofs but this term is beginning to fade now. Laser printed on plain paper, the editor, proofreader, author and publisher will generally all check the pages for errors.

Artwork Proofs are run off and checked by the editor, the designer and the author.

Final Proofs are checked for errors by the editor and designer one final time before going to print.

Advanced Book Copies are not always printed, but if they are they will be used to be distributed and checked. If a major error is found, the error can be fixed prior to the full print run being done.

Marketing is undertaken to varying degrees by the publisher depending on the size of the company and the budget available. The author will also be expected to market their own books.

Distribution is important as it is essential to make the book available to the public otherwise sales will be low to non-existent. Bookshops and distributors will not sell your book for free and their margins must be factored into the price of the book. Bookshops generally ask for 40% of the recommended retail price (before GST). Distributors can vary between about 15% and 25%.

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