A whistle-stop tour of the academic publishing process.
So you've signed a contract and now you can start writing your manuscript. Hurray! Your proposal will be your guiding light throughout the writing process, but you can always get in touch with your commissioning editor if you have any queries or if your circumstances change.
House Style Guidelines
Most academic publishers will have house style guidelines that they'll expect you to adhere to, in order to ensure consistency across books. It's worth implementing this from the outset to save you hassle later on.
Delivery Date & Length
The delivery date, agreed by yourself and your editor, will be in your contract. Publication schedules often run up to fifteen months in advance so it's important to keep your editor updated of any possible delays your end that might affect the publication schedule. Your contract will also include a maximum length for your manuscript, so do your best to keep to it and not overrun. Smaller changes in length (within 10%) aren't so much of an issue, but any significant changes will need further consideration.
If you use any third-party materials, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner that falls outside the remit of ‘fair use’ conventions. The Society of Authors is a great resource for writers needing further information on UK copyright laws.
Epigraphs always require permissions, as well as quotations of any length from letters, poems, lyrics and recipes. Artwork and images, including photographs, maps and line drawings will also need written permission. When you deliver your manuscript, be sure to include scans of permissions granted.
Cover Design and Book Title
Promotional copy and a cover design must be agreed ahead of publication. Designers usually start working on the cover design approximately 15 months before a scheduled publication date. Although the cover is created internally, your editor will ask you for your thoughts.
Also make sure that the title of your book is one you love as once it's been advertised it is very tricky to change it. If you're struggling with a book title your editor will be able to help you with suggestions.
Delivering Your Manuscript
Congratulations on finishing your manuscript! Before sending it to your editor, make sure it matches the house style, has been proof-read and contains as few typos as possible. Your manuscript will also be copyedited and proofread in-house, but it helps if you can make your manuscript as 'clean' as possible at an early stage. If you're the editor of a contributed volume, it's your responsibility to check through the entire manuscript.
Here's a handy checklist of every element that should be incorporated:
- Title page
- Table of contents
- List of contributors
- List of Illustrations
- Foreword or preface
Your manuscript must be delivered electronically as an email attachment or on a memory stick or CD. Each chapter needs to be saved as a separate document.
This is the bit where you, the author, can relax for a moment. Your editor will review the manuscript, check the word count and the illustrations, before next steps. Once your editor has made their own notes, your manuscript will be sent for external peer review. This process usually takes 6-10 weeks. All of the reviews will be collated and sent to you for a response. Any revisions will then be discussed with your editor and you'll decide a date for you to send the revised manuscript back for further review.
Once the final version of the manuscript has been approved, your editor will hand over to the production editor so that copyediting can begin. The stages to publication look a little like this: :
- Final file creation (including, among others, a press-ready file and an ePub file)
- All books are taken through this process by out-of-house Project Managers. Your Project Manager will be in regular contact and will send you information on the production process and what might be required from you
As a rough guide, a standard schedule from handover through to publication for a non-complex, project-managed book looks like this:
• Copy-editing (4 weeks, with author queries arising in the 3rd week)
• Typesetting (2 weeks)
• Proof checking and indexing (2 weeks)
• Proof revision (1 week)
• Revises check (1 week)
• Final correction (1 week)
• Final file creation (1 week)
• Printing (2-12 weeks)
• Delivery of bound copies to warehouse and distribution (12 weeks)
Your manuscript will be copyedited by a professional copyeditor. They will:
- Check grammar, spelling and syntax
- Make any further edits to the manuscript to align with house style
- Check references and bibliographies for omissions and inconsistencies of style
- Bring any errors or omissions to your attention
The copy-editor won't make any stylistic interventions other than checking for factual errors, suggesting rewrites/restructuring and aligning your manuscript to house style. These queries will be sent to you either by your Project Manager or the copy-editor themselves.
Once the copy-editor's job is done, the copy-edited files are tagged to create the XML from which the digital versions of your book will be produced. The book is typeset in InDesign and you'll be sent page proofs of the entire book electronically in PDF format. While you'll be able to read through these, the page proofs will also be reviewed by a professional proof-reader at the same time. This is the last chance to make any corrections before the book goes to press!
You should prepare your own index while reviewing your first proof. This is normally agreed in your contract. You are the most familiar with your work and have a good understanding of how the index can best meet your readers’ needs. Your Project Manager will supply you with detailed guidelines. Page numbers shouldn't be added until the first proof stage. You should already have a list of headwords and subheadings before the first proof stage, but it might be better to compile these while checking the proofs to ensure the main arguments are captured.
Printing & Publication
Once the revised proofs have been approved and are considered final, the Project Manager will supply digital and print-ready files to the Production Editor around six weeks prior to the stock date. The cover designer will also send final artwork for the cover at the same time. The Production Editor checks all files and sends them to the printer. Advance copies will be printed and checked by the Production Editor. Once approved, the books are delivered to the warehouse, and the gratis copies agreed in the contract are sent to the author and arrangements are made to ship the book to distributors around the world. As a guide, the publication date is approximately eight weeks after receipt of bound copies by the publisher, although this may vary according to where the book has been printed and what the key market requirements are.