Independent Book Publishing: How a Manuscript Becomes a Book

As a literary publicist, the number one question I receive from first-time authors is “How does my manuscript become a book?”. A manuscript becomes a book through a series of decisions and actions called the publishing process.

The publishing process can be thought of as a length of chain. Each link that is added to the chain progresses the writer closer to the end of the chain and publication.

Link # 1
The first link in the publishing chain is a writer with a manuscript. The ideal candidate for independent publishing has a time sensitive message, is not afraid to go into business for herself, and is willing to promote as well as write the book.

Links # 2-5
The next four links in the publishing process chain are professional book editors. Book editors specialize in both the type of editing they do and the genres they accept. Experience matters when selecting an editor, as well as temperament and style. While some editors will intrude on your writing, others remain so detached that they only suggest what you might want to fix. So, it is important to select editors with whom you feel some comfort and rapport.

The second through fifth links in the publishing process are as follows:
The second link in the publishing chain is the developmental editor.
The third link is the substantive editor.
The fourth link is the line editor.
The fifth link is the proofreader.

Do not use an editor unless you know her given name. If editing is included in your indie publishing package, it is unlikely that you will have direct access to that editor and for this reason. It is best to hire someone whose work and reputation you know. Always use a proofreader who has never before seen your manuscript.

Link #6
The sixth link in the publishing process chain is the book designer. Book designers are not general graphic designers—they are specialists at turning manuscripts into books through artistically rendering its exterior and interior. The book designer will collaborate with your publicist to transform your back cover into a compelling marketing piece.

Some book designers can create your InDesign files that go to press, as well as formatting the files that produce eBooks.

Do not hire a book designer until you have viewed her portfolio. You want to know if she has experience with your genre, whether she has won awards for her covers, and whether she can meet your release date.

Link #7
The seventh link in the publishing process chain is the independent publisher. Publishing is considered independent when the author owns her ISBNs and has paid to have her manuscript published. A publisher converts InDesign files into print books and also eBook formatting into downloadable books.
Most publishers also offer book distribution with their printing services through vendors like Ingram or Baker & Taylor.

Link #8
The caboose in the publishing process chain is the publicist. The publicist joins the publishing team 4-6 months prior to release date. Publicists prepare the book for the marketplace and its intended audience.
Contrary to what most authors believe, the publicist works only one or two months post-release and then cycles off to a new pre-release project.

Today, an author wishing to publish and promote her own book is entering a mature industry. The industry has been recently renewed and made young again by dynamic changes in technology and business. This is the independent book publishing process, and it is the fastest way to get from manuscript to market.

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  1. I didn’t realize that a publicist’s job was finished two months after the book was out, to whom does an author turn at that point to support publicity efforts?

  2. A book publicist works primarily 3-4 months before the book comes out to position it well in the marketplace. Aftermarket sales services are what the author would buy after the book is a few months old. Lots of programs exist claiming to increase sales of post-pub books. Some programs work with social media, some with email marketing, and then there are virtual tours and bestseller campaigns.

  3. Thanks for this post, Stephanie.
    So the book designer would decide where to place images within the book?

  4. A book designer designs the exterior and interior of the book, including front cover, spine and back cover, and chapter heads.
    If a book were illustrated, the designer would be involved with formatting the pictures to fit and making sure the picture went where it made sense.
    Book designers sometimes format the manuscript for publication too, using a software called InDesign.

  5. Stephanie’s clarification of when the book publicist steps in is extremely helpful to me because I have multiple steps to take but it’s reassuring to know near the completion date I have someone knowledgeable and experienced to help me complete the project.

  6. Virginia Woolf believed that the diary is a new art form that can bring us in touch with our deepest roots. Most women have kept a diary at some point in their lives. I find diaries fascinating because so much material can be incorporated in them. They are a gold mine of information. I have worked on a diary called Christina’s Diary for thirty years but kept it under lock and key like so many women do. Tonight I gathered the courage to submit it for publication. So often women think their stories are just about themselves when indeed what they relate is universal to all women, surely those who live in the same historical time period and culture.

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