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What is publishing? A basic introduction to book publishing for new writers in 2020

“If there is a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” – Toni Morrison

Ask any published author, they’ll tell you a secret: Writing is the easy part.

You might have heard the stories of J. K. Rowling or Amish Tripathi and how they had been rejected multiple times by various publishers. For most writers, words come to them easily but finding a publisher, submitting the manuscript, getting copyrights for the work and then selling the book is a difficult job.

There is a lot of hullabaloo when it comes to publishing, especially regarding publishing in India. When a new writer wants to join the big league best-selling authors, they realize that they have to do a lot of research and put in hard work to get there. We are trying to make it a little easy for those writers. (And also for those who were previously cheated by big bad corps.)

So, let us come to the most basic question… 

What is book publishing?

Publishing is any activity that helps you make any type of content available to the public. The content could be information, literature, music, software, or something else. You could publish the content for sale or distribute it for free with others.

Traditionally, the term publishing was limited to printed content such as books, magazines or even newspapers. However, with the advent of the digital era, there have been multifold changes in almost every industry including the publishing industry. Ebooks, micropublishing, video games, websites, academic journals and even blogs like this one are said to be published when someone shares them online as content for people to consume.

The commercial publishing industry includes a lot of variety, starting from your free WordPress hosted blogs and leading up to multinational media companies such as Thomson Reuters.

When we talk about book publishing solely, there are many different big and small publishers who are printing numerous books every year. Let us understand them in detail.

Types of book publishing 

1. Traditional publishing

Traditional publishers are selective about the types of book they publish. However, if they select a manuscript, then you need to pay nothing. As the author of the book, you need to give the selling and publishing rights of the book and in exchange, you get free editing, design, publishing, marketing and distribution services. You also get a percentage of the profit as royalty for every book that sells.

However, such publishers get tons of submissions every year and they only select a handful of writers. The best bet for most writers is to go through a literary agent but even that does not turn out to be fruitful at times. The main source of income for these publishers is through the sales of the books. 

2. Self publishing

Self-publishing companies don’t really have any kind of selection process and they publish all books of authors who approach them. They follow a print on-demand system in which they keep printing a limited number of copies of your book as per your need. Some self-publishing companies also offer editing and other services at an extra cost to their clients. You have the complete freedom to choose (if any) which services you want along with the printing process.

The best thing about this method is that you will retain the complete rights of your book. However, you also need to be prepared to invest a good amount in publishing your book if you opt for this method since the author bears all costs here. 

3. Electronic publishing

With an increased use of ereaders and ebooks across the world, electronic publishing is the newest trend. There are several platforms where you can publish your ebook and get royalty in exchange, some of the most popular ones are Kindle, Wattpad, Google Play Books, Apple Books, etc.

In this type of publishing, you need to upload your manuscript and cover image with other details to these platforms. There is a fixed percentage of royalty provided by these platforms and you will receive the amount directly in your bank account.


Due to the increasing popularity of ebooks, many publishing houses also offer electronic publishing along with the physical publishing of your book. This helps increase the reach of your book on a global level even if your publisher is limited to a certain country or region. This was proven to be especially useful during the Covid-19 situation where many countries went under lockdown and ecommerce activities were suspended. Authors were able to continue selling their ebooks and readers could read the books from the comforts of their homes.

4. Crowd-funded publishing

Crowd-funded publishing seems like traditional publishing at first glance. What happens here is that when you approach a publisher, they ask you to sign a contract which states that you will sell a certain number of copies in a period of preorder for your book.

For example, you will be asked to sell around 500 copies of your book in the preorder period of 50 days. The money that comes in from this initial sale is then invested in the publishing and distribution of your book.

However, if you are able to sell only 250 copies, then you will need to pay the publisher for the rest of the 250 copies. This would be a big gamble for you if you do not have a big fan base already.

5. Hybrid publishing

Many people feel that there is a large gap between self publishing and traditional publishing. To bridge this gap, they have come up with a new type of publishing. On one hand, traditional publishing has a high barrier for entry and on the other hand, with a lack of support from the publishers, self-published novels often have poor sales and outreach. With the help of hybrid publishing, authors can get their book published through experienced publishers but they have to pay a price for the services they avail.

So while traditional publishers earn solely from the sales of the books and self-publishers earn through the service fees, hybrid publishers aim at earning from a mixture of both and also help the authors boost their outreach in a much better way. It takes the advantages of both types of publishing and creates a best of both worlds.

We hope this helps you distinguish between the different types of publishers or publishing. Now, if you are thinking about how exactly these publishers function then I guess we should talk a little bit about the stages of publishing. Ready? Yes? Alright, then.

Stages of publishing

While different publishers tend to follow different processes, the basic stages of publishing remain mostly the same everywhere. Of course, publishers need to alter the various stages of publishing based on the type of your book and requirements.

For example, if you are working on a book that is a compilation of poems and want to include illustrations in the book, then the process of creating illustrations and adding them with the content would be an added step. If you have written a novel which you decide to get published via hybrid or self-publishing and want to edit the book yourself, then the copyediting stage would be skipped for your book.

Hence, the stages keep changing based on what your book is about and what it requires. However, the standard process for book publishing includes the following stages.

  1. Content creation – which is the process of you writing your book. (and since you will also be battling writer’s block along with content creation, does this count as 2 stages?)
  1. Copyrights – as per the Copyright office of the government of India, the acquisition of copyright is automatic. What this means is that if you are creating any literary, artistic, dramatic or musical work, you will automatically get the copyrights of that particular work. However, the government also insists on applying for the copyright officially so that it can serve as evidence in any court of law in case of any problems related to the ownership of copyrights.
  1. Acquisition/contract signing – acquisition is usually a stage in the traditional publishing when the publisher acquires the selling rights of your work. In various other types of publishing, there is usually the contract signing stage in which you and the publisher negotiate a deal, and sign a valid and legally binding contract.
  1. Copy editing – in this, the editor works closely with you to ensure that the book is interesting for the readers and free of any grammatical errors. The editor also suggests changes in the manuscript to ensure that it is better-suited for the targeted audience of the book. This stage usually takes the second longest time in the entire process of publishing, after content creation, of course.
  1. Production – this stage involves multiple minor stages like cover design, typesetting, dust jacket composition, paper quality, binding, casing, ISBN, illustration creation and many others.
  1. Printing – this where the dreams come true.
  1. Marketing & promotions – and this is where we work to increase the outreach of your book.
  1. Distribution & sales – this is where the publisher ensures that your book is easily available to your audience.

Are you working on a book?

If you are working on a book, we have good news for you. Writer’s Pocket is a publishing house that started with the aim to provide a platform for new writers in India. All you need to do is reach out to us with your sample content at editor@writerspocket.com

If you are here just to know more about publishing in India, feel free to drop your email below and subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates in your inbox.

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