The Work of a Book Publishing House
Dr. Asangba Tzudir
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE word ‘publishing’ seemingly finds itself landed in a virgin territory in our state at a time when the world of publishing keeps constantly changing and evolving. While many may not be aware of the various processes that are involved in the publishing of a book, let alone book lovers and readers. This short write up intends to discuss the work processes involved in the publishing of a book. A publishing house is another name for a publishing company which takes the work of a writer/author and makes it available to the general public in book form. A person with a work for publication firstly gives the manuscript to the publishing house which is then reviewed. After the review process, if the publishing house finds it worth publishing, a ‘written agreement’ is made between the publisher and the author. The written agreement defines the terms relating to the contract, various other terms and conditions like nomination in the event of death of author, jurisdiction, copyright, royalty terms, etc. The discretion also rests on the publisher on matters relating to production which includes the cover, size, the type of paper to be used, whether it will be hard bound or paper back or both. It also makes crucial decisions relating to marketing and sales, such as advertisement and the targeted ‘market’ for the sales of the book. Another important decision is the number of copies to be printed because it reflects the expectation through sales. Unless, a publisher trusts that a book will sell well, huge quantities are seldom printed.
The manuscript goes through the various processes of editing like the general editing, copy editing, content editing, proof reading, which depends largely on the ‘written agreement’ on matters relating to who has the final say, whether it rests with the author or the editor. In cases where words usage, statements, truth claims, arguments, etc. are opened to different interpretations, there has to be a certain understanding where an author can review the editor’s suggestion, but the final say rests on the editor. Unless such specifications are clearly laid, the work of an editor might get diminished which will definitely get reflected on the quality and content of the book.
A copy editor generally improves the formatting, accepted stylistics etc. The content editing involves adding and formatting texts by looking at the themes, structure and discrepancies, if any. It is also important to see that claims, statements, arguments etc. are in agreement with the established ‘facts.’ Otherwise, it should be substantiated by a counter argument in case of disagreement. Most importantly, it is about giving substance to the book beginning with groundwork and structure while at the same time taking care of the flow of chapters and sub sections in order to maintain continuity.
The beauty of a book lies in crisp and lucid reading, thus is necessary to delete unnecessary bombastic words, clichés, slang and elaborations. With the completion of editing, the edited book is forwarded to the author and the editing suggestions are worked out subsequently incorporated.
Once the book is ready for printing, the publishing house then gives a legit ISBN to the book which then is printed in the book. The ISBN or International Standard Book Number is usually a 13-digit (since 1st January 2007) represented by a Bar Code. ISBN is a unique numeric commercial book identifier. Any registered publishing house is authorized to give ISBN to any book published by that publishing house. ISBN is the main tool to track any book. Being numbered by an ISBN is one of the distinguishing feature between a book published by a publishing house and a self published one besides the various processes of editing involved. Again when it comes to using a book as a reference, writers, authors and especially academicians only refer to books with a legit ISBN, without which it becomes ‘unauthentic’ and ‘questionable.’ There have also been instances where books without ISBN were not accepted for cataloguing in the library.
So that’s the lengthy process whereby the manuscript is converted into book form. Nonetheless, the success of a book can only be celebrated through its degree of sales and readership which depends on the ‘marketability’ as well as the level of reading culture of the masses.
The writer is the Assistant Editor of Heritage Publishing House & Signet Books