Steps to Getting a Book Published

Close up of open book on counter
••• Chris Ryan/Caiaimage/Getty Images

Authors might think they've done the heavy lifting by writing the book, but getting it published is just as labor-intensive. And, although writing may seem like a lonely life, publishing involves the author in interactions with many people. The process may well take a year or more.

Finish the Novel or Proposal

Fiction writers, particularly first-time writers, generally produce a complete manuscript before it is even considered for publication. Authors of nonfiction usually write a book proposal first. In the publishing trade, this serves as a sales document that outlines the author's intention for the finished book.

Get a Literary Agent

If you want your book to be published by a traditional publishing house, your novel or proposal should be handled by a literary agent, not sent directly to a publisher by you.

Every publisher has stacks of unsolicited manuscripts that get a cursory glance from a junior person, or never get read at all. An agent has the contacts, credibility, and experience to get your manuscript read by the right publishers, and will sell it aggressively for you.

Sign the Contract

A book contract is a legally binding agreement between an author and a book publisher. It outlines the obligations and rights of each party in the agreement. It also details the financial arrangement between author and publisher.

Brace Yourself

Many hands will be touching your manuscript before it gets into print. If you're an author for one of the major book publishers, a whole team of people will be involved in preparing your book for publication. You will be involved in most of those processes, and it might be painful.

Get to Know Your Editor

You will work closely with an editor as your manuscript is read. This is a critical process and a collaborative effort. You may be asked to rewrite parts of your book, chop whole chapters out, make plot changes, correct factual errors, or clarify passages. You might even be asked to change the title of your book.

Work with the Editorial Team

Your editor is a key part of the editorial department and is your main contact through this process. But the department has a role in many other pieces of the project, like cover art, other artwork or illustrations, and fact-checking.

While all of these things might be going on, the author and editor will continue to shape the content into a final manuscript.

Now Production Begins

The ​book production department is responsible for the design, layout, printing, and e-book coding of the finished book. The book production process officially starts when the final manuscript goes to the copyeditor, whose job generally falls under the production department.

Meanwhile, In Other Departments...

In a traditional publishing house, the packaging team is working on the book jacket design as the editorial process continues.

The marketing, publicity, and sales departments are all strategizing, too. This is the nitty-gritty of the book business, figuring out how to promote the book to the public and sell it to the bookstores.

If you want your book to be a success, you'll be right at the center of that promotional and sales plan.

Finally, It's a Book

Well, maybe not immediately. Your book has been added to the publishing house's publication calendar. It will roll off the presses on a certain date. The publicity campaign starts, and advance copies are mailed out to book critics.

Then, finally, it will be shipped to bookstores, both brick-and-mortar and web-based.

Your job is far from over. Get ready for your publicity tour.