Publishing Workflow

Updated 28-Jun-2024

In rough, this is the publishing workflow that gets books from conception/marketing to publishing and distribution.

Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

Publishing a book or journal is first and foremost a marketing decision. That is, it has to in some way reach and appeal to a readership, and that includes who are the distributors (electronic and print), who the competitors, and who the market, including market size and pricing considerations.

Commitment and Timeline

Once really good reasons for publishing are discovered, then there needs to be an identification and commitment to the resources needed to get the book written, composed, and typeset. This includes identifying writers, sources of material, editors, photographers and/or illustrators.

Collaborative Documentation and Process

At this point, when people agree verbally and by handshake (real or virtual) then the set of documents can be produced and the stages of conceptualizing and concretizing the book begins.

Brainstorming and Contract Drafts

In step 1 there are three usually parallel discussions:

  • Legal: This is the publishing contract, and includes who pays, when and how much, and who receives, when and how much, financial and intellectual property benefits
  • Content: This is the initial brainstorming document, which has content that are then organized into chapters and chapter outlines
  • Market: Contents and Scope has a marketing part and a finalized table of contents that comes out of the content brainstorming document

Contract Signing, Chapter Outlines, Style Guide, Progress Spreadsheet

At this stage contracts are signed. Next, chapter outlines are generated from the Contents and Scope document (each becomes an individual document for managing the writing/editing process), including pseudo-chapters such as the introduction, any indices, appendices, and glossary.

Next a style guide is finalized, which includes authorial voice, kind of English to be used (US English, UK English, etc.), capitalization and abbreviation rules, as well as formatting style.

A figures spreadsheet is created, to be filled in with any images, figures or tables to be deployed in the book. Some of these are known ahead of time, others are thought of as chapters and sections are completed, or as artwork is discovered or created. This spreadsheet also tracks the source of any images, drawings, tables (and table data) to be used.

A progress spreadsheet is created, including (at least provisional) due dates for chapter draft completion.

Publication Kickoff

The writing, researching and figure generation begins in earnest. I prefer meetings every two weeks, though once per week is much better and will move things along. Working with professionals it is possible to do once per month meetings, but less time between meetings usually spurs work along.

Publication Editing

There are of course several kinds of editing, including copyediting, fact-checking, and also layout and design editing. These should happen in an ongoing process rather that waiting until an endpoint. Memories fade and even written notes are neglected. Make changes as the need for changes arise.

Publication Finalization

A final approval of the document (preferably confirmed in writing/email) should signal the end of the writing and the clock starting on the publishing process. Getting a draft printed via Print-on-Demand is a good next step to see what kind of errors there are and read something physically in book form.

From here it becomes a matter of finalizing the product, getting it vetted by distributors and the submission process. Report milestones achieved on a weekly basis to keep everyone informed of the progress toward publication. Send out draft versions to reviewers.

Technical Aspects

I've left out a bunch of technical aspects in terms of tools. Partially because people and organizations can use different tools, this is not important. However, for good quality control and a beautiful product, the use of XeLaTeX for typesetting is vital.