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A brief guide to production

Resources for authors: Newsletter

It’s been a while since you sent that absolutely final final draft of your manuscript off to your publisher. They’ve confirmed receipt, and everything seems like it’s poised in stasis until finally you get that magical email to say that your manuscript has now entered production.

But what does that mean? What is ‘production’? This is a whole new world and you’ve been told by your commissioning editor that this involves schedules, copy-editors, proofreading – how does this all fit in and what should you expect? I’m a production editor and team leader here at Newgen Publishing, and I work with a wide range of publishers and authors so I know how confusing the world of publishing can be to a newcomer. Hopefully this guide can help to answer those questions!

Production, by and large, constitutes the final editing stages alongside the design for your book. It often runs on a fairly short schedule, which needs to be adhered to so that the book can be printed and ready for its publication date. Production typically has a few different stages:

Cover design. This varies from publisher to publisher. Sometimes you’ll have been asked to supply an image so that it can take centre stage in a cover that fits into a series; sometimes your publisher will already have an idea of how they’d like the cover to look; and sometimes you’ll have been sent a set of designs to choose from. Cover design often decided months before production starts, but sometimes it runs alongside the production process or even directly after it. Check in with your publisher if you’re not sure.

Copy-editing. This is when your manuscript is sent (usually still as a Word document) to a copy-editor. Copy-editors are those people at parties who wince when someone says ‘off of’ instead of ‘from’ and who take being called ‘grammar police’ as a compliment. They’re often subject specialists and their job is to read through your book and make sure you haven’t left any embarrassing typos, check that everything makes sense and make sure that your bibliography and references are in good shape. They’re usually working to a ‘house style’ set by the publisher and so your manuscript might undergo a few small changes to bring everything into line.

Typesetting. This is where your manuscript becomes a book! Typesetters transform your Word document into a PDF that replicates how your book will look when it’s printed. Typesetting design may have been something you’ve had some input on but most often the publisher will have chosen the design of your book based on their knowledge of what works best. Be warned – it will look entirely different from the Word document you’re used to seeing!

Proofreading. The PDF ‘proofs’ of your book are checked for formatting problems and any mistakes that might have slipped past the copy-editor. Often, the publisher will ask for a professional proofreader to look over your book, but that’s not always the case. Any corrections you spot at this stage in your own proofread should be limited to anything urgent – rewriting the text at this stage risks errors creeping in. Traditionally your index is also completed at this stage – check your contract to find out whether you’ll be responsible for compiling it yourself or whether your publisher will be hiring an indexer to do it for you.

Revised proofs. Sometimes you’ll be offered a look at the revised proofs for your book, or you might want to request them if there was something you were worried about at the previous stage. The end is in sight!

Printing. When all the corrections have been taken in, the production team’s job will have ended and it’s time for the book to go to print! Not long until you can actually hold a real, bound and printed copy of your own book. Your publisher might have outsourced the production for your book to a company like Newgen Publishing UK. In that case, you’ll have a dedicated project manager working alongside you, creating a schedule and organising the copy-editing, proofreading and typesetting. Everyone involved in the production process for your book is working towards the same end goal in making your book the absolute best it can be, so sit back and enjoy the journey!