For first-time writers, publishing a book can seem like a daunting experience. If you are not familiar with the publishing industry, the process can seem overwhelming, scary, and even confusing.

If you’re wondering what happened when a book gets published, look no further. In this guide, we’ll delve into what really happens when a book gets accepted for publication, and all the little steps that take place before the book can be put up on a shelf.

So, let’s get into it. Here is how the publishing industry works.

What Is A Publishing House?

When you publish a book traditionally, your first step, as a writer, is to send your manuscript to a publishing house. This is where writers send their work and, potentially, get accepted for publication.

Publishing houses are responsible for three main actions:

  • Filtering through thousands of manuscripts a day, and accepting the ones that they deem worthy of publishing.
  • Editing the manuscripts and designing the final book.
  • Distributing the final product and marketing it to the masses.

In other words, it is the publishing house that turns your manuscript into a book. They handle all the finer details, including editing, designing, and marketing, and then publish the book for the world to see.

This is putting it briefly, however. There is a lot of work that goes into publishing a book, and it can often take up to two years for a manuscript to become an official paperback on a shelf. 

If you were to self-publish, rather than go down the traditional route, you would have to do all the aforementioned actions yourself. You would also have to pay for it all. When publishing traditionally, everything will be paid for upfront by the publishing house.

There are 5 major publishing houses that are known as the ‘Big 5’; every writer wants their book to be handled by one of these publishing houses. The Big 5 include:

  • Penguin Random House
  • HarperCollins
  • Hachette Book Group
  • Macmillan
  • Simon and Schuster

While there are hundreds of thousands of publishing houses all around the world, these are the five publishing houses that make the real money. If your manuscript gets accepted by one of these houses, you will have a much better chance of selling your books.

The Process Of Getting A Book Published

As we mentioned earlier, the process of publishing a book is fairly long and drawn-out. This is because there are so many things that need to be smoothed out and finalized before your book hits the shelves.

Below, we have listed a brief explanation of each stage that takes place once your book gets accepted by a publishing house. 

The Process of Getting a Book Published

Accepting/Rejecting Manuscripts

Any writer, regardless of experience, will be aware of the reality of sending away a manuscript to publishers. In an ideal world, every manuscript would get accepted right away, and we would all live happily ever after.

In the real world, manuscripts get rejected on the daily, and this is a common occurrence for most first-time writers. Even J.K. Rowling’s manuscript for the first Harry Potter novel got rejected 12 different times before being picked up by Bloomsbury.

Both rejection and acceptance letters will be sent out to the writers once a decision has been made. Publishers will only accept manuscripts that they see promise in, where that be due to current trends, recent events, or they believe they’ve found a truly original piece of art.

Signing The Contract

Once a manuscript has been accepted, the writer will be given a contract to sign. This contract states that the publishing house will be taking over and publishing the chosen manuscript.

Signing the contract will also mean that the writer no longer has any rights over their manuscript. 

Following the contract signing, the writer can set up a meeting with the publisher and editors. This is an opportunity for the writer to build on relationships with the people who will now be publishing their book.

Signing the Contract

The Editing Process

Arguably, one of the most important parts of the publishing process is the editing. While the manuscript in question will have, undoubtedly, already gone through several drafts and revisions, it is essential to make sure that everything is ready for publication.

The editor will mainly focus on any typos or grammatical errors; basically, they’ll polish the manuscript off to make sure it is perfect.

Nowadays, most manuscripts have already been edited to perfection before they have even been sent to the publishing house. An editor will still need to go through and double check, though.

Scheduling The Release Date

The next step is to decide on a release date, and plan what needs to be done before the book can be released. 

Deciding on a release date requires a lot of strategic thinking, as certain books will sell better at specific times of the year. Based on current trends, or seasonal themes, the publishing house will decide what date would be best for publishing this specific book.

Working Out The Budget 

When a publisher accepts a manuscript, they will already have a rough idea in their minds of how many copies of the book will need to be printed. At this stage, however, this needs to be finalized and acted upon.

The publishing house will know roughly how many copies will likely sell of each book, so they used that number – the ‘budget number’ – to make a decision. The writer is typically unaware of this process as it occurs.

The Production Process

The book will need to be designed and formatted before being printed. The most important part of the production process is creating the front cover, as well as the back.

The production process is, essentially, designing and creating the physical product itself.

The Marketing Process

The most critical part of selling any kind of product, following production, is marketing. Without marketing, no one will know that this book even exists.

Social media makes marketing both easier and more difficult; anyone can use it to promote a product, but that makes it harder for one specific book to shine through and catch attention. The publishing house will need to work hard to make the book stand out from the rest.

Unfortunately, some publishing houses won’t do a lot of marketing for first-time writers. More often than not, it will be up to the first-time writer to market the book themselves.

Selling the Book 

The final step is putting the book on the shelf. This will typically happen around a year or so following the initial acceptance of publication, although the process can take longer or shorter.

From this point, the book will officially be up for sale, and can be purchased by members of the public.


Final Thoughts

Publishing a book can be hard, and it can be an extremely tiring process for both the writer and the publisher. There are a lot of steps that need to be followed before the book can even be sold.

However, half the battle is knowing what each process is. Now that you know, roughly, what happens after your manuscript gets accepted, you can focus on what the next steps in your journey will be.

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