It wasn't until I began working in publishing that I realized what a huge and complex industry it is. I think most people have an idea that book publishing consists mainly of a writer and an editor, duking it out over comma-placement in a battle of the wits. In reality, there's much more to the process, and many people are involved in the publication of a book.
Don't get me wrong, authors are incredible, and they put a mind-boggling amount of work into every project, but they just couldn't do it alone. If you take a peek at the acknowledgements section of any book, you'll get an idea about how many people help bring a book to life.
So, this article serves as a shout-out to all the amazing work that it takes to get a book from the author's pen into the reader's hand, and all the people who dedicate their lives to make it happen. If you're looking to go into publishing, I hope this post will help you realize that there are plenty of roles for you to find your place. And if you're an aspiring writer, understanding the process will only help you as you set forth to get your own book made. Publishing a book is a crazy ride, and these are the people whose hard work and talent make everything come together.
1. The first readers.
Before the writer sends out their work to agents, they send it to their first readers — often friends, family, and other writers who they trust to give them an honest opinion. Any author will tell you that without the generosity and encouragement of their first readers, their book would have never left their laptop.
2. The literary agent.
Once the author's manuscript is as good as they can get it on their own (or with the help of freelance editors), they begin sending it out to literary agents. The literary agent then pitches the book to publishing houses, secures an editor, and brokers a contract.
3. The editor(s).
Of course, books would be nothing without the tireless work of their editors. Often, we think of a one-to-one relationship between an author and editor, but the truth is, there are many people who put their red pen to a manuscript — from copy editing to larger-scale, developmental editing.
4. The translator.
Translators are the secret superheroes of publishing, and they don't get nearly as much credit as they deserve. They have to essentially rewrite the book in another language, catching the style and nuances of the author and the dialect, and ensuring that readers in that language are receiving the same effect.
5. The designers.
We obviously all judge books by their covers, and we wouldn't get that eye-catching cover without the hard work of the cover designer. But there are other designers too, tackling everything from the font to the dimensions to the materials. The designers are responsible for the visual and tactile experience of the book, which as any avid reader knows, is integral to the enjoyment of a book.
6. The publicists.
Publicists must get people talking about the book and the author. They arrange interviews and events, and secure press about the book. The publicist sends out hundreds of advanced readers copies, coordinates interviews and reviews with the media, and helps the author maintain their image and presence. Great publicity is essential for good books to be known and read.
7. The marketing team.
From ads to social media, the marketing team works tirelessly to get as many book sales as possible. Marketing associates have to balance creativity with practicality on an every day basis, and their work is essential to the book publishing process.
8. The interns and assistants.
Publishing houses would be nowhere without the hard work of their interns and assistants, who do all kinds of work (often unpaid or underpaid) to make sure the book gets made.
9. The reviewers and press.
Once a book has gone through the editing process, the publicist begins sending out copies to reviewers and press — like Bustle! The media has a huge amount of influence over how many people hear about the book, and thus, read the book. It's our job to help readers discover the books that stand out in all the best ways.
10. The booksellers, librarians, and teachers.
Booksellers, librarians, and teachers are the best. They put the right books into the hands of the right readers. These professionals read more than anyone, and if you've ever talked to a someone who holds one of these positions, you know that they have an extensive map of the literary canon in their head.