Book Publishing

What is book publishing business?

History and Present

The book publishing business began in earnest in 1440 with the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg. You’ve probably heard of the Gutenberg Bible, which was the first book ever produced in large quantities.

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Book Publishing History and Present

The book publishing business began in earnest in 1440 with the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg. You’ve probably heard of the Gutenberg Bible, which was the first book ever produced in large quantities. The few copies that remain today are exceptionally valuable, fetching well over $2 million in the rare instances where they’re auctioned off. It took hundreds of years for the book publishing business to come to represent what it is today, but the desire for books has only grown in the intervening centuries.

An author with a manuscript is the very first step in the process. Their greatest challenge is getting their book in front of someone at a publishing house so their dream of being published can be realized. This can be done through blind submissions sent to the publisher, through obtaining an agent, or, if they’re lucky, through a recommendation by someone associated with the publisher. Once the huge hurdle of getting a publisher to agree to publish the author’s book has been overcome it’s time to head to the editing department.

First time authors often make the mistake of believing they don’t need an editor, but in truth it’s one of the most important parts of the process. Having someone that’s been trained to make books better go over your writing, give you suggestions, and improve the quality of an author’s book can take it from good to great or great to legendary. Plus, no self-respecting publisher is going to print your book without an editor having gone through it with a fine tooth comb, so every author must have their book edited.

Once the author and editor agree that the book is ready for publishing it heads to the design department where elements such as the font and font size are decided on. A cover will have to be designed as well and the author is in on all of those meetings. Marketing comes next and can come in many forms. The author is often sent on a tour around the country to sign at bookstores, to read, and to do question and answer sessions. The publishing house will try to get reviews for the book in publications both large and small, and these days there’s a significant social media element to marketing a new book.

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In a traditional publishing setup the author receives a 15% royalty on all sales. Many assume that the publisher takes a hefty sum, but in truth they don’t. The retailer usually takes home close to half the sales price and the publisher is sitting at somewhere close to 30%, which needs to cover all their costs as well as help them turn a profit. One of the oft-misunderstood truths of the book publishing business is that most books lose money for the publishers. A fairly high sales volume needs to be achieved to actually make a great deal of money. Don’t cry for the publishers, of course, as they make boatloads of cash on something like the Harry Potter novels or on every James Patterson novel.

There are now five major book publishers that account for a huge percentage of all English language book sales in the world, not counting of course.

Amazon Self-Publishing

We can’t talk about book publishing without discussing the huge changes brought about by the incredible popularity of Amazon. First it was their drive to lower prices, which enraged publishers around the world. More importantly, their self-publishing system has made it incredibly simple for authors to put their work out into the world and make genuinely good money off of it. If you keep your price between $2.99 and $9.99 Amazon gives the author a 70% royalty, which means you can sell far less copies that would traditionally be necessary and still make a great deal of money.

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Fame, Popularity...?

Many authors have begun their career self-publishing (E.L. James of Fifty Shades of Grey fame is in that class) and moved on to a major publishing house once they’ve generated sales and popularity. Kindles and e-readers of other varieties are growing in popularity, which means it’s a great time to be an author. As long as you have some talent and the will to work you’ll find an audience and can carve out a career as a successful, published writer with greater ease than ever before.