The Publishing Pipeline

Read something recently – a book, an article, a blog post, anything? Have you ever wondered how many hands came together – literally – to give life to an idea? Read on to know more.

What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm?

An idea. Resilient… highly contagious!

From the movie Inception

Everything starts with an exciting idea – a novel, a short story, a poem, or a scientific communication – all starts with the desire to communicate.

The desire to publish an idea.

Once there is an idea, it is time to pen it down. Who can do that?

The author themselves or a ghostwriter.

Once written, the next natural question is, “Where to publish?” So many options are available nowadays. Blogging is an easy and immediate option. Going with a publisher is the conventional method.

Now is the time to sign a contract.

The author/publisher relationship may happen through an agent or a commissioning editor (or someone similar). They know the market well and connect you to the right publisher.

If you are a Stephen King before Carrie, you wait anxiously for your agent’s call! If you are a Stephen King after Carrie, they await your next work.

(Hey, by the way, if you haven’t yet read King’s narration of his agent’s call about Signet Books buying Carrie‘s paperback rights, you should!)

A next major step is editing.

One rule of the road not directly stated elsewhere in this book: “The editor is always right.” The corollary is that no writer will take all of his or her editor’s advice; for all have sinned and fallen short of editorial perfection. Put another way, to write is human, to edit is divine. Chuck Verrill edited this book, as he has so many of my novels. And as usual, Chuck, you are divine.

Stephen King’s foreword to On Writing. Should we say more?

Graphic designing can and does add value to your written work. This is especially true in academic writing, comics, and many other cases. Designers bring life to your writing.

Sometimes considered to work independently, a designer works closely with the author and the editor and brings out the best of writing through illustrations.

Hey, they don’t say “a picture is worth a thousand words” for nothing.

Now is the time for pagination.

The job of a paginator is to typeset the page according to the specifications (shortly specs).

Fitting the text to the trim size, placing floats neatly, getting rid of orphans and widows, and many, many more responsibilities lie with the paginator. Paginators accomplish this wonderful goal using specialist software and create what is called the first proofs or galley.

If you will, the paginator is the person who sculpts the page.

Index pages with a lens over it

Indexing is an optional stage and may not be applicable to all types of publications. It is common in books and periodicals, especially academic. Now that the proof pages are available, the indexer would be able to use the page numbers to create the index.

A good reader would use the index at the end of the book as efficiently as she would use the table of contents in the front matter. An index provides easy reference to important keywords in the text.

The idea has been written, edited, and paginated. The quality assurance stage comes into play. The proofreader ensures that the pages are neatly laid and ready to meet the reader. Sometimes, a book undergoes editorial proofreading, who looks for inconsistencies across the book too. This is one last chance for the typesetter to ensure that all is well.

A smiling man looking at something on the desk

The author and the publisher now get to see the ready-to-print pages. Any last-minute changes may be made now. The changes are usually minimal and necessary. The suggestions are incorporated and a repagination is run. The proof pages are called revises pages (first revises if there are more revisions).

The revisions have been made. The pages are ready to be printed. And the printer and distributor come(s) into play. They print, bind, and distribute the book to the outlets, where thousands of fans standing in queues eagerly awaiting to get a copy on launch.

An intangible idea has evolved into a physical book, ready to serve the purpose – to bring about changes in our lives. In doing so, it has planted the seeds for so many other ideas that will keep changing our lives for good.

Somewhere during this journey, you and I would have contributed our bit. Isn’t it exhilarating?

Hat tip to Kamalesh Megha for the title and a big thanks to other members of the Indian Copyeditors Forum for their suggestions.

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