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Traditional Book Publishing

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Books are one of the most widely used media to enlighten and delight the human mind. The importance and credibility of the books have not been diminished with the popularity of the computer and the Internet. It is a general opinion that the gadgets used for reading cannot provide the experience of reading a physical book. People from literary, educational, and scientific fields often engage in book publishing. Nowadays, publishing houses hold dominance over the entire publishing process, from printing to sales. This chapter gives an overview of current trends in the field of book publishing.

The Various Stages of Book Publishing

Many ways authors get inspiration to write and publish books. Generally, a group of authors write themselves without any external motivation. Some start to write by accepting the request from peers or publishers. Publishers often invite leading experts on various subjects to write books.

Once the first draft of the book is ready, it is given to friends or experts in the same field for an expert opinion. The author makes changes in the text, based on the review by peers or experts. The next step is to find a publisher. For this, the author approaches popular publishers in the area of specialisation. If it is a literary work, the author approaches the publisher who handles fiction. If the publisher finds the work worthy to publish, they accept the manuscript for review. Publishers assign editorial teams for further examination. It is essential to get editorial opinion to publish a book. Often the editorial board includes staff editors and experts from outside. The editorial team gives the opinion regarding the appositeness of the book for publication after a detailed examination. If the first review meets the criteria laid down by the editorial team, the author gets the comments and suggestions regarding the content. The author then resubmits the book after making the necessary changes. It is impossible to predict how often the book will be subjected to review. The review is based on the policies of the publishing house. If the author is a beginner, the examination can take longer.

After the review process, the manuscript is sent to the design section. The layout and printing process are handled by this section. Layout and printing tasks are done either in-house or outsource. Often publishing houses outsource the layout and printing processes to reduce the expense and to get professional help. Various stages of book publishing are done in different countries.

Once the book is printed, the copies are made ready for the distribution and sales through bookstores and shopping websites. The publishing house organises the promotional activities for the book. Information on the book takes place in the publisher’s catalogue and website. Exclusive Facebook page for the book is also an added advantage for the promotion in social media. Quality of the content and the reputation of the author are the crucial factors that determine the success of the book in the market.

Financial Gain

The general public has little idea of how much the publisher benefits from book publishing. Like any other businesses, book publishing also has the potential for profit and loss. The financial gain for the author, from publishing, is called royalty. Royalty is a portion of the revenue from the sale of the book. Authors can expect other incomes from the book in many ways like translation rights, publishing rights, film rights, invited lectures, and the writing of articles. If the book has no demand and sales, it leads to loss for both the author and the publisher.

Let us take a look at the reward system for writers in India. The author receives a fixed percentage of the price of the book after-sales. Publishers follow various rates for calculating royalty; for example, 5%, 7.5%, 10% and 12.5%. Small differences can be seen in royalty rates among different publishers. Often publishers give 5% as royalty for beginners in publishing. Some publishers pay 7.5% as royalty for the books with average sales. Writers who pay between 10% and 12.5% are rare. Very few well-known authors receive a higher rate of royalty. Let’s compare the sales of 1000 books at different prices and royalty. Here we calculate the royalty of authors at 7.5%.

Estimation of royalty to authors@7.5%

Book Price (One copy) No. of books sold Royalty Income to publisher Total amount
100 1000 7,500 92,500 100,000
140 1000 10,500 129,500 140,000
200 1000 15,000 185,000 200,000
250 1000 18,750 231,250 250,000

The publisher gets the profit after deducting the expenses of DTP, printing, distribution, retailer margin and other expenses. Discount to customers also affects the author’s royalty. Twice in a year, the royalty is transferred to the author’s account after deducting the tax. Publishing houses charge the expense of publishing in advance from the beginners and the authors who are not in the limelight. Publishers also charge the advance amount from authors to cover the risk of not selling the books. The author does not earn a decent income through book publishing in India. Therefore, authors in India are not ready to accept book writing as a full-time profession and the primary source of income. Most of the writers in India rely on some other means for regular income. Popularity and respect from society are the prime factors that drive authors to write and publish books.

Bad Tendencies

The tendency to publish books for personal gain has emerged from the Academic community. Publication of books is considered as one of the benchmarks for recruitment and promotion of teachers in colleges and universities in India. A group of people in the Academic field misuse the situation and mechanically publish books without considering the quality. A group of publishing houses are active in this field to gain profit. The book will be ready as soon as one gives the manuscript publishing charges. Some publishing houses even arrange ghostwriters to prepare the book. The author gets a few copies, and the rest of the books will sleep on the shelves of the publisher. Relevant committees of Higher Education Institutions do not review the content of the book, and it affects the quality of academic publishing.

Merits and Demerits of Traditional Printing

Book published under the brand name of a reputed publisher is the main advantage of traditional book publishing. Traditional publishing houses manage the publishing work very professionally and it enhances the content and the quality of the book. They also manage promotion and sales of the book and authors can be free from such activities.

Publishing books through traditional publishing houses is a time-consuming process. Prominent publishers accept works for publication only after rigorous examination. Usually, the entire publishing process takes time from six months to twelve months. Besides, writers cannot expect a decent income from book publishing.


Book writing has become an essential part of educational and research activities. The number of books published today is much higher than those in the past. Majority of books other than literary works are published to meet the academic requirements. The book publishing industry is advancing in all aspects with the help of technology. Traditional book publishing does not give proper financial motivation to authors.

Source: Vimal Kumar V., An Introduction to Self-publishing, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license

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