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Technical and commercial stages of a book publishing

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The technical sphere

At the production stage, many specialists (layout artists, compositors, graphic designers, proofreaders, printer, photoengraver, etc.) work successively, but also in collaboration, on the production of the work.

The designer carries out the layout and integrates, if necessary, the elements provided by the publisher (bibliography, index, summary, notes, etc.), respecting the style sheet of the publishing house or the collection in which the book is published (character size, font, foliation, etc.). In general, the publisher has provided the layout artist with a “flatplanning process”, that is to say a page-by-page plan of the work. In some cases, the responsibility for the model is entrusted to real artists who have great creative freedom.

Once ready, the book is proofread again by the author and a proofreader. The author then signs a print proof which validates the final version. At the same time, the publisher worked on the cover project, with a photographer or an illustrator, and a graphic designer. He also wrote the back cover (the text that appears on the back of the book).

If it is a paper publication, the publisher communicates the text to a printer by agreeing on the technical characteristics of the book and the number of copies to be printed. Upstream, the publisher and the production manager have together determined the quality of the paper, its weight, the process to be used for the binding, as well as the printer to be called upon, to whom an estimate, guaranteeing deadlines delivery, was generally requested. Once the print proof has been signed, the book’s computer file is sent to the printer, who produces a first copy (called a plotter, ozalid, or Cromalin). The PDF format has become, for the most part, the exchange format between the publisher and the printer. The last corrections are made in order to validate the final impression. The quantity of the print run and the printing choices (paper, cover, various materials and printing quality) are defined by the publisher according to the public concerned and the price of the book.

In the case of a digital publication, the editorial process remains quite similar. However, printing is replaced by the production of files that will constitute the digital book.

The commercial sphere

When the book is printed and shaped, the publisher entrusts it to the distributor, who themselves defer to the bookseller. The distributor is responsible for approaching the points of sale and taking their orders, and for delivering the books to the bookstores and honoring the orders taken by the former. These operations cost the publisher between 50 and 60% of the turnover generated by the book. Some major publishing houses, such as Gallimard, have their own distribution network, potentially accessible to other publishers.

Between three and six months before the release of the book, the publisher presents it to its distributor, a company specializing in canvassing and taking orders from booksellers and major book distribution chains. These operations are carried out through a team of representatives, commercial agents specializing in books. The publisher meets the distributor several times a year to present its program and convince the representatives to defend the books that is going to publish. Sometimes, the author is asked to come and present his work to the distributor so that he has the opportunity to make himself known, to talk about his book and to answer the questions of the representatives, who very often anticipate the questions of the booksellers. Once the booksellers have been canvassed and the orders taken, the books are transported by the distributor, by truck or by mail.

Note that some of the books placed by the distributor are not ordered. They are sent automatically by the distributor to the bookseller. This is called the office. This practice, widely used to force the launch of a book with a large circulation, is in decline, under pressure from booksellers. Orders from booksellers are called “noted”. The total of the office and the notes form what is called the “mise en place” of a book. Once the order has been taken and the book sent to the bookseller, it is placed on the shelves, where customers can buy it. But if the book does not sell, the bookseller has the option of returning the unsold books to the publisher within a specified period. All this gives rise to a very complex invoicing game and significant costs.

Another form of marketing is the book club where a publisher sends a catalog to the homes of known or potential members, offering them the purchase of a given number of books per month/quarter, which are addressed to them.

(Includes texts from Wikipedia translated and adapted by Nicolae Sfetcu)

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