What Is Book Publishing?

What Exactly Does A Book Publisher Do?

An overview of what happens inside a publishing company as they acquire and publish a book.

“Why does it take so long for my publisher to get my book in print after I’ve delivered my manuscript?” is a common question from writers eager to become published authors.

To answer this question, we must look at the book publishing industry and discuss what legitimate publishing companies do.

Company Mission

Each book publishing company must decide what kind of books they will publish.  Once this is clear, it drives virtually everything that happens within the publishing house.


Editors select and acquire titles that fit in with their publishing program as mandated by the house’s over-arching theme and direction. Prior to making an offer to an author, meetings are held to determine the book’s viability, to predict the probable sales for each title and to decide how much money to pay the author to publish the book.


A timetable is set up for each title singly and for the publisher’s over-all offerings collectively. Included in the schedule are things like the author’s deadlines, when the text is handed off to others to do their jobs, when the artist must complete the cover designs, when the printer will create the books, and when the catalogue copy must be ready.


One or more editors work with the author’s manuscript, in terms of content as well as grammar, punctuation and spelling.

NOTE: this step does not excuse the author from delivering a clean, well-written text.


Professionals design the book’s exterior and interior elements, select the type, lay out the pages with the sidebars and illustrations, and choose cover art.

Marketing and sales

Specialists seek book reviews and cover quotes, prepare cover blurbs, promotion materials, news releases and announcements. Sales personnel solicit orders from bookstores and other outlets.

Other details

The publisher registers the copyright, obtains a unique ISBN barcode for each book, decides how many copies to order for the first print run, sets the cover price, gets the printed books shipped to wholesalers and/or distributors, and handles the arrangements for any special orders.

Footing the bill

These are but a few aspects involved in legitimate book publishing. The publisher pays these expenses, not the author. It all adds up to a considerable financial outlay with no guarantees of a profit. The upfront advance payment to the author is non-returnable to the publisher, even if the book does not go on to sell well in stores.

Considering the book publisher’s responsibilities, a more appropriate question might be, “How can they publish a book in such a short time?”

Copyright 2007 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.

Book Publishing Scams and Writer, Beware! warn writers about the perils of fake book publishing companies. Self-publishing can be a viable option if you learn what it is and what it isn’t.

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