Few people outside of the book industry are aware of the amount of planning and work that goes into creating a finished book. If you don’t have experience in this area you are probably going to have to enlist the expertise of a good many professionals, or be willing to undertake the learning curve and dedicate the time necessary to adequately prepare yourself for the task at hand. You will need to learn about book design — interior and exterior — typography, editing, proof-reading, securing printer’s quotes, how to obtain ISBN and CIP information, how to obtain an EAN and bar code, and why it is required, and how to distribute your books once they come back from the printer. But that’s phase II of the process. First, you must make a few decisions about some very basic things, such as the look of the book, the physical size, the type of paper you envision the book being printed on, the number of colours the cover will have (and how many your budget will allow). Will your book have any photographs or illustrations? In other words, what is the personality and feel you want to convey with your book?
Areas of Expertise to Consider
The first thing to do is get your manuscript as clean and tight as you can. Even if you plan on filling the positions of author, editor, proof-reader and publisher of your book, it is advisable to have a couple of objective readers (not your friends) go over your manuscript. You are about to invest a good deal of money producing your book and it is worth including a professional critique or manuscript evaluation in your budget. There are professional organisations, such as The Writers Union and the Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC) that offer these services.
Book Designers are well paid individuals who earn their money by creating book covers that will capture the eye of the purchaser and encourage sales. They can also assist you with an interior design that is both appealing to the eye and also reflects the personality of the book. Good book design is most often recognised on a subconscious level — a book feels good or looks good; its elements complement one another, you want to read it, hold it, take it home with you.
There are a number of book printers in Canada that specialise in the production of books. They are not usually your “printer down the street” where you get your promotional flyers and business cards done, but large printers that are set up specifically for printing small, medium, and large press runs of books. They will require what is referred to as “camera-ready copy” — final output that is ready for the printer to place in their camera to make film and prepare plates for the printing press. Some printers are able to take your data directly from disk and produce film. Many printers are moving toward a total digitisation of the printing process, so be sure to ask your printer what format the final copy is required in, and what file formats they are able to read.
How many copies should I print? We all envision our book getting rave reviews and being displayed prominently in the windows of the best bookstores in town, but unfortunately, there are numerous stories of self-publishers receiving their books from the printer only to have the majority of them never leave the basement. Give some serious thought to the press run: how many copies of your book do you realistically think you can move, and do you have the distribution plan in place? At the very least, you want to try and break even in your endeavour. Figure out the unit cost on your project by dividing your total costs (printing, cover design, typesetting, editing, proofing) by the number of books printed. Then calculate how many units you would have to sell just to break even. To cover all expenses (and some unknowns like courier charges and postage for review copies etc.), most retail book prices are set at 3-4 times their unit cost. For example, if a book is costing you $4.10 to produce, you will want to retail this item for somewhere between twelve and fourteen dollars. This mark-up may seem exorbitant, but the reality of the book business is that most books have a shelf-life of less than 12 months. You have to produce, market, promote and — you hope — recoup your expenses in that given period. If you are lucky and your book does as well as you had hoped, then you may have a title that will continue to sell for years to come. Remember: if your title does well and you are close to selling out, you can always go to a second printing.
Pre-publication promotion or advance promotion is crucial. Securing an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and Cataloguing in Publication (CIP) data are two of the first things you should do to make sure your book receives attention in those journals, magazines and catalogues that regularly list or publish news of forthcoming titles. A good source of information about ISBNs and CIP information can be found at the National Library of Canada’s website or at the Library of Congress’ Cataloguing in Publication Dvision. The importance of ISBN numbers and CIP data is twofold: the ISBN is like a book’s social insurance number and without it your book is virtually invisible to the general book purchasing system, and some bookstores will not stock books that do not have ISBN and CIP information. You must have an ISBN to receive CIP data and this enables many libraries to use this information for cataloguing within their individual library. This saves them the cost of cataloguing and can often be a deciding factor when an acquisitions department with a tight budget is selecting new books for purchase. A publisher who completes the Legal Deposit process has the additional benefit of their books being discoverable in the Canadian library.
Other areas of promotion to consider: catalogues or promotional flyers and bookmarks, brochures, mailing lists (libraries, media, bookstores), readings, book signings, mailing sample/review copies, trade fairs, publicity, press releases, print ads.
Okay, you’ve struggled through the process of producing your book — dealt with designers, printers, typographers, editors, proof-readers (or you have worked your way through the whole process on your own) and are now ready to get your book out there to your researched and targeted reading audience, and you rails you are in great need of a system of distribution (hopefully, you have investigated distribution long before this point). Generally, distributors will take 55-65% of the cover price (40% of which is going to the bookseller). Make sure your pricing formula has taken this into account.
* From the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia (ABPBC) website.
Books have been around in one form or another for centuries, and despite the recent dramatic increase in the use of electronic media, the word as printed on paper shows no signs of disappearing. In fact, publishers continue to print far more books than the market can completely and successfully absorb.
Early books were hand-written on papyrus, a plant, or vellum, treated animal skin. Hand papermaking processes were developed around the 7th or 8th centuries, and paper became the vehicle of choice for print. Throughout the middle ages, bookmaking was an exclusive, almost divine art, and great pains and care were devoted to making the final, hand-written copy beautiful, with special lettering, gold foil, and elaborate design. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century created a marked rise in the number of books published and the number of copies circulating. Literacy rates also rose, and by the end of the 15th century, approximately eight million books had been printed. Techniques, machinery, typefaces, and efficiency of the systems continued to expand and improve with time. Until the last few decades, the printing process remained basically unchanged over the last few hundred years.
By the end of the 19th century, nearly all the steps in the process of bookmaking were mechanised. Also during this period, the printer became a separate entity from the publisher and the bookseller, allowing each to specialise and focus on their particular task. In the mid 20th century, high speed printing allowed for the expansion of books into the mass market. The cultural elite was not pleased at first, but soon came to accept that everyone was reading. The literate population began to demand more books of an even wider variety, and of sophisticated design. The general affluence of the population allowed for more leisure time, which increasingly was devoted to educational and literary pursuits. In the 1960′s and 1970′s, many publishers merged into large corporations; at the same time, new small presses came into being, some lasting only short periods, some more permanent. The industry continues to expand, in the areas of titles produced, retail sales, wholesaling, and numbers of publishers.
Book publishing encompasses many types of books. Some publishers limit themselves to one or two categories, others publish broader, more extensive lists. In describing these book categories, there is a set of terms in common usage, but unfortunately each term does not always have a strict definition. The following descriptions are loose guidelines and are not intended to be all-inclusive. Trade books are for the general public, and include such types as fiction, non fiction, popular science, cookbooks, travel and art books, etc. Professional books are directed towards specific professions, such as scientific, technical, or medical publications. Books are also geared towards elementary, secondary or post-secondary education; these include textbooks, workbooks, manuals, maps, etc. Mass market paperbacks are sometimes hard to distinguish from trade books, and in fact, some are reprints of hard cover trade books. They aim to appeal to mass audience, and often sell through supermarkets, news-stands, etc. University presses, as non profit organisation, are often less concerned with the commercial aspects. They will publish a book because of its literary merit or other such criterion; often it is a scholarly book or textbook, but can also be a general trade book. Religious books handle spiritual and conventional religious material (bibles, hymnals, etc.), although also may apply themselves to humanitarian causes and more general issues.
Books can always be found at bookstores, but are available through other channels as well. Sometimes they can be found at grocery and convenience stores, airports and bus stations, etc. Most publishers will sell their books through direct mail as well as to booksellers. Often, ads are placed in the back of other books by that publisher with order forms, and the books will be sent directly to the purchaser. There are also mail order publications, which produce books only available by subscription. They are intended for mass audiences, are often marketed through direct mail, and may be in series or multi-volume sets. Book clubs are another mail order division. Unlike mail order publications, the book clubs do not usually produce the books they sell, but buy them from publishing houses. They will often prepare separate editions, however.
Publication itself can be achieved in one of several ways. The process a large publishing house or a small press go through are fairly similar. Often, smaller presses are more likely to use freelancers, adapt to new technologies such as desktop publishing easier, and with their smaller staff, may achieve a more personal contact with their authors, who will in turn be fewer in number than a large press will maintain. Vanity presses are not strictly considered publishing houses, and quite a bit of caution is required in dealing with them. Here, the author effectively pays the “house” to publish her book; this includes all the production costs associated with printing and binding, and then a mark up on top of that of the press’s profit. Such publication does not usually help and may in some cases hinder the writer’s reputation. As well, there are few guarantees with these firms, and it is not uncommon that the press will not complete the order, or never deliver all of the books supposed to be printed. Self-publishing is a safer way of seeing a rejected manuscript in print, and there are many resources to help and instruct the self-publisher. She can take the manuscript to a professional typesetter, a printer, a binder, and then market it herself. Alternatively, she can do nearly all the production herself with the help of desktop publishing system, saving herself substantial costs, and retaining tight control over the project through each phase.
With the continual refinement of computers and printers, desktop publishing has in fact become very popular among smaller publishers. Prohibitive prices are no longer an issue; an average computer, word processor/publishing program, and laser printer are now accessible to many. Technology will continue to improve, bringing down production time and costs, and with them the price for the consumer. Typeface options, graphics quality, and availability of colour are just some of the things now easy to obtain. As this new branch of the industry grows, traditional printing methods may fall into disuse. Currently, however, both systems have certain unique features that continue to make their coexistence feasible.
Although publishing must be run as a business on order to survive, it cannot be forgotten that books are a cultural industry as well. Creativity plays an important part, involving art, aesthetics and intuition. The whole process begins with the writer. There are as many styles and work techniques as there are writers; each is different, and highly dependent on the type of book being written. The quality of the work produced varies with the skill, inspiration and interest of the author. Her writing must provide the foundation, without which the editors, printers, etc. would have no purpose.
Many writers choose to enlist the professional help of literary agents when trying to get their work accepted by publishers. Agents must know the market very well, keeping up on what is currently successful and what might be the next trend. Some agents focus on only a few publishers, others work with dozens. They must know the publishers’ various strengths and preferences, in order to refer manuscripts as accurately as possible. An agent’s job is to read through the manuscript and, if it has enough potential to warrant further work, decide which publishers would be most interested. If the manuscript is at this point deemed unsaleable or extremely poorly written, the agent may refuse to take the author on. The agent usually does not act in an editorial capacity, but rather screens work and advises the writers to some extent. Editors prefer to receive manuscripts through agents rather than unsolicited from individual writers because if a work has received an agent’s attention at all, it can be considered to have passed a certain amount of “testing”. Writers enjoy using agents because they usually have better negotiating skills when it comes to contracts and rights, and more extensive resources for contacts and marketing.
The publisher must balance commercial and artistic objectives. She must know the book market, and try to improve the house with respect to both quantity and quality of titles produced. Obviously, as a business, financial potential for each project must be considered. However, these motives should never completely supersede the pursuit of the art of writing. The publisher also needs courage and have faith. Investing in as yet unknown authors, opening new literary paths and maintaining high standards of quality are difficult but extremely worthwhile pursuits.
Publishing houses come in various sizes, although no matter what the number of staff, the same sorts of jobs are performed at all. Large houses will have an editor in chief, who often oversees the other editors and plans schedules, but does not usually read the initial manuscripts. Sometimes there will be a separate editor whose sole task is to go through the manuscripts and choose which ones are suitable, interesting, and well written; this person is the acquisitions editor. Once the selections are made, each manuscript will be assigned to another editor, the substantive or concept editor, who will work intensively with the writer on polishing the manuscript. Occasionally, these first steps are done by committees or groups of editors. All three positions can be done by the same person, it depends on the particular house.
Eventually, though, there will be one editor who is working on the piece. The author must try to develop a rapport with the editor for a few reasons: the editor is in control of the project, having bought the rights; the working relationship will span many months; ultimately, the editor is the person who must “sell” the book to the sales reps. Often, she will be simultaneously handling other works as well, all in various stages of development. This editor (sometimes called the manuscript editor) will read the work over carefully and note any problems, questions and ameliorative suggestions. None of this is necessarily done rationally; editing, like writing, is an art and depends on a fair bit of intuition. When the author receives the edited copy of the manuscript, she may not agree with any of the editor’s suggestions. Usually, however, first reactions are not the best reactions, and the author is well advised to consider them for at least a week before concluding the editor knows nothing. In actual fact, the editor knows far more than the writer about what that house likes to publish, what will succeed on the market, or what makes good and saleable writing. The editor reads many more books than most writers ever do. That is her job, and she must make it her area of expertise; the writer should realise that. For the writer-editor relationship to work out, it is important that a mutual understanding is reached about goals and expectations. If the editor is asking for changes so substantial that the book will be unrecognisable, the writer should consider carefully before proceeding. In the end, it is her name that will be on the book. However, both parties want the book to be the best polished product possible, so the reasons for such changes should be examined.
The editor them goes on to the “line of edit”, a second reading in which rhythms, facts, and whether particular passages slow the action or need to be expanded on are examined. Again, the writer should consider the inevitable suggestions carefully. Not all of them will be bad, even if they at first seem that way. A few may be disagreeable, but most should be tolerated. The editor will explain her decisions, the writer should do the same. The next step is copy editing, often done by another editor. It involves checking spellings, grammar, factual informaion, and consistency throughout the book as far as style or choice of convention. The copy editor goes back and checks everything intensively, to catch anything the other editors or writer missed. One change early on in the book may necessitate further changes a hundred pages later which no one previously noticed. Any other sorts of changes, such as altering scenes, attitudes, or characters, are not really supposed to be suggested by the copy editor, although some take it upon themselves to do it anyway. After the copy editor finishes the work, it is returned to the writer and editor, who then go over it again. The new suggestions are accepted or rejected. This is also the time to make any further changes, because after the book is typeset changes are more difficult.
By this point, the art director will have spoken to the manuscript editor about the cover. The editor likely already formed the beginning of an idea, and now an artist may become involved, as well as a designer. The cover is extremely important, especially in the eyes of the publisher, because it is important in the eyes of the consumer: the public must be attracted to the book somehow, and the cover is the first thing they will see. The more appealing it is, the better the chances for a sell. Copy must also be written for the outside covers or book jacket. This may consist of quotations from reviewers or celebrity endorsements, plot synopsis, attention-grabbing excerpts, and information about the author (biographical notes, photograph, etc.) This copy may be written by the original editor, if applicable. The author will not be expected to provide any relevant information or material.
The interior of the book will be designed as well. Illustrations, if there are any, must be integrated and indicated in the text. All art is made camera-ready for the printer, which means it will be rephotographed through a halftone screen. This creates a representation of the picture as varying densities of dots, which can then be transferred easily into the printer for mass production. Depending on the number of dots per inch, the reproduction is either recognisable but obviously done in half tone, or virtually indistinguishable from an original photo. Any front or back matter must be arranged; this includes dedications, acknowledgement, introduction or forewords, table of contents, appendices, index or anything else considered relevant. Placement of any notes is decided, and typefaces, headings, the finished size of the book, the print area on each page and the kind of paper are confirmed. A cast-off, or character count, must also be done. This is most precise when each character is counted; each letter, number, space and punctuation mark counts as one unit. Alternatively, an average number of characters per line can be multiplied by the number of lines per page and then by the total number of pages. This method does not take into consideration quotations or extracts, which are indented, or various headings, all of which alter the number of characters on that page. If the text is typed on a computer, there may be an automatic character count function. It should then be checked that, in the chosen typeface, the number of characters will fit in an appropriate number of pages, because this is partly dependent on the binding method (particularly the use of signatures). If the type does not fit well, the “leading”, or space between the lines must be changed. It should be decided what kind of binding — edition, perfect or mechanical — will be used. Production and design details should be finalised, and now a more accurate estimation of cost can be made.
As far as choice of typeface, there are many options to be considered. There are roughly four classes of type: roman, classical letters with serifs and thick and thin strokes (this type is roman); abstract, letters with uniform thickness of line, without serifs (sans serif) or with square serifs (block serifs); cursive, slanted letters of more or less continuous line, including italics; and decorative, exaggerated versions of any of the other three classes, or letters with odd or unusual characteristics. Generally, text with serifs is preferable as it is easier to read for long periods of time. Within these parameters, many variations on our alphabet have been developed, each one differing in the precise shaping of letters – the “warm” (casual) or “cold” (formal) feel, and other such details. Each typeface, be it old style types (Garamond, Caslon or Jenson), or more recent additions ( Bodoni or Fortune), can be printed in different forms. Italics are an option, and the weight of the type can vary from light to extra bold. Type can be condensed or expanded as well. Type size also offers many options. Type is measured in points; there are almost exactly 72 points in an inch. A pica contains 12 points, so approximately 6 picas go in an inch. The “em” of a type (the space taken by the letter “m”) is the square of the type size, meaning the em of a 10 point type is 10 points. Point size really has no limits, but in books usually ranges from 8 point, for notes, to 18 points for children’s books, or larger for headings.
Until recently, the book was then typeset by a typesetter or compositor. This person prepares the book for the printing machine. Care is taken that spacing, line justification and positioning were aesthetically pleasing and readable. There were several ways of doing this. Handsetting each letter is rare these days, although may occasionally be done for special display type. Linotype machines use keyboards, and prepare molds of each line of text. The line is then cast in hot metal and placed in a tray called a galley, from which the text is printed. The letters from the mold are returned to the machine for the next line to be made. Monotype is similar, but instead of each line being molded and cast in hot metal, each word is. Subsequently, it is a more costly process, although different fonts, such as a combination of roman and italic, can be on the same line without posing any difficulty. Changes in the galleys are easier to perform as an individual word can be changed without always affecting the following text. These methods are collectively known as letterpress because the ink is applied to the metal plates and pressed against the paper.
Offset lithography came into prominence after W.W.II. Photographs are made of the type and illustrations, and these are etched into thin metal plates, which are then bent over cylinders. This cylinder rolls across a rubber cylinder, on which the images are printed, or offset. The rubber cylinder then rolls against sheets of paper, making the finished product. This method is more effective than letterpress for the faithful reproduction of photographs.
Gravure printing, also known as intaglio, is even better for its treatment of halftones and colour printing. Here, the printing surface is indented, not raised or merely etched. The plates are made by engraving into the metal. The paper must then absorb the ink out of the indentations. This method stretches back to the engraving art of the Middle Ages. Offset printing continued to replace this method, as it became more refined at halftones and colour work.
These days, desktop publishing is replacing the old processes. In its early stages, it was costly to set up, although relatively inexpensive to operate once all the equipment, software, and hardware were procured. There were many disadvantages along with its benefits. However, technological progress being what it is, desktop publishing continues to become a more feasible option. Here, the text is not typeset with individual blocks, each consisting of one letter. The book is typed into a computer word processing program. Appropriate spaces are left to insert illustrations and photographs, or the pictures can be drawn on another computer program and then imported into frames or blocks left textless for that purpose. A decent word processing program will have several typefaces to choose from, and point size is also very easy to adjust. Layout is fairly straightforward, and with some skill in design, very professional looking results are possible. When high resolution equipment is used, the results are excellent. High resolution refers to the number of pixels across and down a screen. Desktop published products used to look somewhat inferior to their typeset equivalents, but this was more due to the fact that people working in the former method did not consider their layout and design as well as a typesetter. Along with ease of use, there are considerable cost savings to desktop publishing. Editing is also extremely simple. All programs automatically adjust text following a change. Line justification, while not always perfect, can be achieved with minimal effort. Spacing between lines is set with the click of a button. The difficulties in changing text in the galley proof stage has no equivalent in desktop publishing; all one has to do at any time is advance to the appropriate place in the document, retype the mistake, and save the corrected copy. Large blocks of text can also be moved without having delete and retype, an especially useful feature if illustrations, figures, headings or other accompaniments to the text are needed. It is easy to experiment with layout without wasting excessive time retyping.
Generally, a reader will not be able to tell the difference between typeset text and text produced with a non-impact printer. Non-impact printers are laser, thermal, ink jet, light emitting diode (LED), or liquid crystal system (LCS) printers. Laser printers are the most popular and best known variety. Dot matrix printers, on the other hand, print with lower resolution or print density; small dots, individually distinguishable with these models, form the letters. The characters are usually not very sharp because the dots per inch (dpi) of a typical dot matrix printer is about 72 to 144. The human eye can theoretically distinguish up to 1000 dpi, although 300 dpi is generally visually acceptable. True camera ready art requires a minimum resolution of 1000 dpi. Non-impact printers have output resolutions of 150 to 1000 dpi, so they will usually be adequate if not perfectly will suited. In comparison, though, a typeset character has a resolution of 1200 to 2500 dpi. Therefore, while a good laser printer will produce readable, attractive copy for most purposes, art books, coffee table books, and the more high quality publications may be more successfully produced with traditional typesetting methods.
Whatever the printer uses, colour printing will involve additional steps and costs. Laser printers are now capable of producing any combination of colour tones, and these options must simply be input so that the printer has the information. With the other printing machines, each colour involves a separate printing, from separate plates. Obviously, the cost is directly proportional to the number of colours. Colour density can be adjusted throughout the printing, so yellow, magenta (red tone), cyan (blue tone), and black inks can, in their different combinations, create most shades and graduations of any colours.
When the text, illustrations and any other accompanying material is laid out by the typesetter (the person who inputs the book into a desktop publishing system is also referred to as a typesetter), galley proofs are sent out to the author and editor. This term comes from the several foot long pages run off from the galley trays (the trays in which the lines of metal type are laid). Since these are just proofs, page divisions are not noted and the text simply runs straight through. Proof-reading customs are fairly will established, although publishing has no hard and fast rules regarding anything, another reason it is hard to make it into a successful “business”. Proofs must be read very carefully, several times, out loud, and with different people (fresh eyes are particularly useful; the editor and author have both seen the words so many times, they can gloss right over a significant amount of errors). Blue and green pencils should not be used, as they do not show up very well on copying machines, but the pen or pencil should be a different colour than any other on the proof. The correction’s placement is indicated in the text by caret (a small wedge like so: “^”), a diagonal slash, or a circle. The instructions for the correction are written in the margin, which in galley proofs is wider than usual. If traditional printing is being used, the errors caught here will be of two types: printer’s error (PE) or author’s alteration (AA). PE’s will be changed at no charge, but changes made by the author other than spellings or typographical errors will be charged to the publisher, who in turn will charge part if not all of the cost to the author who insists on making these last minute changes. Further editing, i.e. scene additions or deletions, are not usually a good idea. Once all the alterations are dealt with, the printer can then proceed to print the finished copies. If computer typesetting is being used, a “proof” copy is printed for everyone who needs it, although no special process will be used to differentiate the proof print from the finished print. Changes are easy and incur no additional costs, other than the typesetter’s hourly wages. After this simple step, the manuscript is ready to be turned into finished copies.
Meanwhile, the cover art and relevant material have all been prepared. The decisions about binding are now put into effect. Hard and soft covers each involve different processes. The outside may need foil or embossing, or simple ink stamping may be all that is requested. With paper covers, there is an option of die cutting, too, which has a shaped opening cut into the outside cover. A second cover is found on the next page, and some central portion of it is allowed to show through the hole. This is sometimes an effective device, although it does require two separate pictures to be drawn and prepared. These holes are also highly subject to wear and tear, which renders books less saleable. If the book is to be a hard cover, the cardboard, paper, and cloth used must all be chosen.
The binding of the pages themselves must be done first, before the cover is attached, but usually the covers are ready before or simultaneously, to facilitate the meeting of deadlines. Pages are printed not individually, but in large sheets which are folded in such a way as to produce an uncut booklet of pages. This group of pages is called a signature, and is generally printed in 8- 16- or 32- page groupings. Care must be taken that the pages when folded are in the proper order, and that the two sides of the sheet line up with each other (page three on the flip side of four, etc.). This of course means that unfolded, some pages will be upside down and that page two could very well be next to page twelve. After the signatures are printed, they are folded and arranged in proper order. The binding is accomplished either by stitching (edition binding) or adhesive (perfect binding). Smyth sewing uses a special machine which sews the pages of each signature together and then the signatures to each other. This is the traditional method which is no longer used exclusively, but is of high quality and is used for art and reference books or books that will receive hard use. Books sewn this way can be opened to lie flat. Side sewing does not allow for this. The thread is passed through the entire book from the side; usually it is used for shorter books. It is very strong and less expensive than smyth sewing. If the book is bound with metal staples, it is called saddle wire stitching. The staples can go through the backs of the signatures, or through the side.
Perfect binding, in its varieties, is a common process today. The backs of the signatures are ground off, making for individual leaves, made coarse, and a highly elastic adhesive is applied to the edge. Alternatively, the backs may be ground off superficially, thus leaving the signatures more or less intact. The adhesive is applied and penetrates the pages through small holes created in the folding. The book can nearly lie flat. These adhesives now result in bindings as lasting as sewing.
With edition binding, the books must be smashed. The backs are slightly thicker from the thread, and extremely powerful presses flatten the books and squeeze out the air. The backs of the sewn signature are then glued together to hold them in place. The next steps apply to perfect bindings as well. The signatures are trimmed. This reduces the pages to their final size and opens up the top, bottom and front folds. Sometimes the front and/or bottom is left uneven, for a rough but attractive look. If the top of the book is to be coloured (stained), this is done now. Any colour of dye can be brushed, sponged or sprayed on for a clean, dust resistant finish. The following steps apply only to hard covers. The back of the book is rounded by a set of rollers, which ensures that the front edge will not protrude from under the covers. It also has its back slightly widened and spread. Gauze, called crash, is glued to the back for reinforcement, and head and footbands can be attached if desired (coloured threads which are now used only for decorative purposes).
Paper covers are trimmed to the same size as the inner pages and glued to the signature backs. With hard cover books, the boards are slightly larger than the pages. A separate piece makes up the spine. They are covered with cloth or treated paper, which are folded and glued. The books are cased-in, meaning the pages are attached to the cover. Sometimes the necessary cover material is printed onto this outer material before it is glued on; often any information is stamped on after with ink or foils. Then the outsides of the endpapers are coated with glue, the spine is slightly rounded, and the whole piece is pressed together until the adhesive dries completely, This prevents warping. Finally, the jacket is put on, which has been printed with any artwork and blurb material.
Another binding option, used particularly for smaller books and publications such as cookbooks, handbooks, etc. is mechanical binding. This term refers to the use of plastic or metal coils which run through holes punched down the side of the pages, which have been cut into individual leaves. The cover is always paper. It is an inexpensive though less attractive binding method. The book can lie perfectly flat, and the binding is fairly strong except that the pages themselves may tear and come off the coil.
The books are now finished, and it is certainly many months after the author’s manuscript was accepted. The publisher will have timed the release schedule in such a way as to benefit the book’s prospective sales. This means checking competing houses’ upcoming titles and their release schedules, planning what other books to release that month or time period, choosing how to best publicise the titles. It is very undesirable to have more than one book dealing with the same subject released at one time. Often, the publisher will wait to receive orders from the retailers and wholesalers before the book goes to press, so as to judge how many copies are needed. All of this is done to prevent having to store unsold books for long amounts of time, which is inefficient and expensive. The book will have been presented at a semi-annual sales meeting. Sales representatives are given cover or jacket proofs, information sheets, sell points and catalogues; they then head off to canvas the booksellers of their respective regions. Advance copies should be sent to reviewers, newspapers, television or radio talk shows that are considered worthwhile. Again, timing is important. Reviews should ideally be published in conjunction with any advertising campaign, so as to maximise product visibility, and not before the book is fairly widely available. Interviews and publicity will only be effective if the public can then go to their local bookstore, see a copy, and remember the previous encouragement to buy.
Generally, publishing houses have their own marketing departments which handle promotion, advertising and publicity for the books under that imprint. Promotion includes preparing sell material like brochures, bookmarks, or posters that are given to sales reps or mailed to bookstores. Advertising is either trade or consumer oriented. The former is directed to the bookseller, wholesaler and library markets through trade magazines or journals. The latter is often done via newspapers and occasionally magazines, this being truly effective for genre novels advertised in genre magazines. Sometimes books may be advertised on radio. Publicity is like free advertising, but of course the “advertiser” then has less or no control over the message given out. It includes reviews (free copies of the book are supplies to the reviewer), store-sponsored signings, or having the author appear on local television or radio.
After the initial printing, the book’s success will be evaluated over the year or so following release. If it is selling, reprints will be made to fulfil additional orders. If new material comes up over time and the book is still in demand, other editions may be prepared; future printings may change format (from soft to hard cover or vice versa, introducing reworked art, etc.). The book may be released in other countries, bought or leased by other publishers, picked up by book clubs, translated or made into a movie. How these changes and developments will be implemented depends on how subsidiary rights were arranged in the initial contract between the writer and publisher. Often, first look at the author’s next manuscript will have been signed to the publisher as well, in case a new book is probably being worked on.
The process described above has been in use for quite some time now, and will continue to be in general usage for at least a little longer. Electronic publishing is a rising form. Making information accessible is easy to do on the Internet, and many people choose to publicise their opinions this way. As yet, Internet material is mostly factual, informational, or discussion oriented; people tend not to type their literary masterpieces and send them to one of the many newsgroups. Bulletins and newsletters are common, though. Generally, layout and design are non-considerations for these publications, or are at least overlooked. The product is not as visually appealing. Whatever the future may hold, books will be printed, bought, and enjoyed for quite some time.
** From the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers.