Publishing is the dissemination of literature, music, or
information—the activity of making information available to the
general public. In some cases, authors may be their own publishers,
meaning originators and developers of content also provide media to
deliver and display the content for the same. Also, the word publisher
can refer to the individual who leads a publishing company or an
imprint or to a person who owns/heads a magazine.
Traditionally, the term refers to the distribution of printed works
such as books (the "book trade") and newspapers. With the advent of
digital information systems and the Internet, the scope of publishing
has expanded to include electronic resources such as the electronic
versions of books and periodicals, as well as micropublishing,
websites, blogs, video game publishers, and the like.
Publishing includes the following stages of development: acquisition,
copy editing, production, printing (and its electronic equivalents),
marketing and distribution.
Publication is also important as a legal concept:
As the process of giving formal notice to the world of a
significant intention, for example, to marry or enter bankruptcy;
As the essential precondition of being able to claim defamation; that
is, the alleged libel must have been published, and
For copyright purposes, where there is a difference in the protection
of published and unpublished works.
There are two basic business models in book publishing:
Traditional publishers: Do not charge authors at all to publish their
books, for certain rights to publish the work and paying a royalty on
Self-publishing: The author has to meet the total expense to get the
book published. The author retains full rights. This is also known
as vanity publishing.
2 The process of publishing
2.1 Acceptance and negotiation
2.2 Pre-production stages
2.2.1 Editorial stage
2.2.3 Sales and marketing stage
Publishing as a business
4 Industry sub-divisions
4.2 Periodical publishing
4.4 Directory publishing
4.5 Academic publishing
4.7 Independent publishing alternatives
5 Recent developments
7 Legal issues
9 See also
12 External links
Publishing became possible with the invention of writing, and became
more practical upon the introduction of printing. Prior to printing,
distributed works were copied manually, by scribes. Due to printing,
publishing progressed hand-in-hand with the development of books.
The Chinese inventor
Bi Sheng made movable type of earthenware circa
1045, but there are no known surviving examples of his printing.
Around 1450, in what is commonly regarded as an independent invention,
Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type in Europe, along with
innovations in casting the type based on a matrix and hand mould. This
invention gradually made books less expensive to produce, and more
Early printed books, single sheets and images which were created
before 1501 in Europe are known as incunables or incunabula. "A man
born in 1453, the year of the fall of Constantinople, could look back
from his fiftieth year on a lifetime in which about eight million
books had been printed, more perhaps than all the scribes of Europe
had produced since Constantine founded his city in A.D. 330."
Eventually, printing enabled other forms of publishing besides books.
The history of modern newspaper publishing started in Germany in 1609,
with publishing of magazines following in 1663.
Historically, publishing has been handled by publishers, with the
history of self-publishing progressing slowly until the advent of
computers brought us electronic publishing, which has been made
evermore ubiquitous from the moment the world went online with the
Internet. The establishment of the World Wide Web in 1989 soon
propelled the website into a dominant medium of publishing, as
websites are easily created by almost anyone with
Internet access. The
history of wikis started shortly thereafter, followed closely by the
history of blogging. Commercial publishing also progressed, as
previously printed forms developed into online forms of publishing,
distributing online books, online newspapers, and online magazines.
Since its start, the World Wide Web has been facilitating the
technological convergence of commercial and self-published content, as
well as the convergence of publishing and producing into online
production through the development of multimedia content.
The process of publishing
Book and magazine publishers spend a lot of their time buying or
commissioning copy; newspaper publishers, by contrast, usually hire
their staff to produce copy, although they may also employ freelance
journalists, called stringers. At a small press, it is possible to
survive by relying entirely on commissioned material. But as activity
increases, the need for works may outstrip the publisher's established
circle of writers.
For works written independently of the publisher, writers often first
submit a query letter or proposal directly to a literary agent or to a
publisher. Submissions sent directly to a publisher are referred to as
unsolicited submissions, and the majority come from previously
unpublished authors. If the publisher accepts unsolicited manuscripts,
then the manuscript is placed in the slush pile, which publisher's
readers sift through to identify manuscripts of sufficient quality or
revenue potential to be referred to acquisitions editors for review.
The acquisitions editors send their choices to the editorial staff.
The time and number of people involved in the process are dependent on
the size of the publishing company, with larger companies having more
degrees of assessment between unsolicited submission and publication.
Unsolicited submissions have a very low rate of acceptance, with some
sources estimating that publishers ultimately choose about three out
of every ten thousand unsolicited manuscripts they receive.
Many book publishers around the world maintain a strict "no
unsolicited submissions" policy and will only accept submissions via a
literary agent. This policy shifts the burden of assessing and
developing writers out of the publisher and onto the literary agents.
At these publishers, unsolicited manuscripts are thrown out, or
sometimes returned, if the author has provided pre-paid postage.
Established authors may be represented by a literary agent to market
their work to publishers and negotiate contracts. Literary agents take
a percentage of author earnings (varying between 10 and 15 percent) to
pay for their services.
Some writers follow a non-standard route to publication. For example,
this may include bloggers who have attracted large readerships
producing a book based on their websites, books based on Internet
memes, instant "celebrities" such as Joe the Plumber, retiring sports
figures and in general anyone a publisher feels could produce a
marketable book. Such books often employ the services of a
For a submission to reach publication, it must be championed by an
editor or publisher who must work to convince other staff of the need
to publish a particular title. An editor who discovers or champions a
book that subsequently becomes a best-seller may find their reputation
enhanced as a result of their success.
Acceptance and negotiation
Once a work is accepted, commissioning editors negotiate the purchase
of intellectual property rights and agree on royalty rates.
The authors of traditional printed materials typically sell exclusive
territorial intellectual property rights that match the list of
countries in which distribution is proposed (i.e. the rights match the
legal systems under which copyright protections can be enforced). In
the case of books, the publisher and writer must also agree on the
intended formats of publication —mass-market paperback, "trade"
paperback and hardback are the most common options.
The situation is slightly more complex if electronic formatting is to
be used. Where distribution is to be by
CD-ROM or other physical
media, there is no reason to treat this form differently from a paper
format, and national copyright is an acceptable approach. But the
Internet download without the ability to restrict
physical distribution within national boundaries presents legal
problems that are usually solved by selling language or translation
rights rather than national rights. Thus,
Internet access across the
European Union is relatively open because of the laws forbidding
discrimination based on nationality, but the fact of publication in,
say, France, limits the target market to those who read French.
Having agreed on the scope of the publication and the formats, the
parties in a book agreement must then agree on royalty rates, the
percentage of the gross retail price that will be paid to the author,
and the advance payment. The publisher must estimate the potential
sales in each market and balance projected revenue against production
Royalties usually range between 10–12% of recommended retail
price. An advance is usually 1/3 of the first print run total
royalties. For example, if a book has a print run of 5000 copies and
will be sold at $14.95 and the author is to receive 10% royalties, the
total sum payable to the author if all copies are sold is $7475 (10% x
$14.95 x 5000). The advance in this instance would roughly be $2490.
Advances vary greatly between books, with established authors
commanding larger advances.
Although listed as distinct stages, parts of these occur concurrently.
As editing of text progresses, front cover design and initial layout
takes place, and sales and marketing of the book begins.
A decision is taken to publish a work, and the technical legal issues
resolved, the author may be asked to improve the quality of the work
through rewriting or smaller changes and the staff will edit the work.
Publishers may maintain a house style, and staff will copy edit to
ensure that the work matches the style and grammatical requirements of
each market. Editors often choose or refine titles and headlines.
Editing may also involve structural changes and requests for more
information. Some publishers employ fact checkers, particularly
regarding non-fiction works.
When a final text is agreed upon, the next phase is design. This may
include artwork being commissioned or confirmation of layout. In
publishing, the word "art" also indicates photographs. Depending on
the number of photographs required by the work, photographs may also
be licensed from photo libraries. For those works that are
particularly rich in illustrations, the publisher may contract a
picture researcher to find and license the photographs required for
the work. The design process prepares the work for printing through
processes such as typesetting, dust jacket composition, specification
of paper quality, binding method and casing.
The type of book being produced determines the amount of design
required. For standard fiction titles, the design is usually
restricted to typography and cover design. For books containing
illustrations or images, design takes on a much larger role in laying
out how the page looks, how chapters begin and end, colours,
typography, cover design and ancillary materials such as posters,
catalogue images, and other sales materials. Non-fiction illustrated
titles are the most design intensive books, requiring extensive use of
images and illustrations, captions, typography and a deep involvement
and consideration of the reader experience.
The activities of typesetting, page layout, the production of
negatives, plates from the negatives and, for hardbacks, the
preparation of brasses for the spine legend and Imprint are now all
computerized. Prepress computerization evolved mainly in about the
last twenty years of the 20th century. If the work is to be
distributed electronically, the final files are saved in formats
appropriate to the target operating systems of the hardware used for
reading. These may include
Sales and marketing stage
The sales and marketing stage is closely intertwined with the
editorial process. As front cover images are produced, or chapters are
edited, sales people may start talking about the book with their
customers to build early interest.
Publishing companies often produce
advanced information sheets that may be sent to customers or overseas
publishers to gauge possible sales. As early interest is measured,
this information feeds back through the editorial process and may
affect the formatting of the book and the strategy employed to sell
it. For example, if interest from foreign publishers is high,
co-publishing deals may be established whereby publishers share
printing costs in producing large print runs thereby lowering the
per-unit cost of the books. Conversely, if initial feedback is not
strong, the print-run of the book may be reduced, the marketing budget
cut or, in some cases, the book is dropped from publication
After the end of editing and design work, the printing phase begins.
The first step involves the production of a pre-press proof, which the
printers send for final checking and sign-off by the publisher. This
proof shows the book precisely as it will appear once printed and
represents the final opportunity for the publisher to find and correct
any errors. Some printing companies use electronic proofs rather than
printed proofs. Once the publisher has approved the proofs, printing
– the physical production of the printed work – begins.
A new printing process has emerged as printing on demand (POD). The
book is written, edited, and designed as usual, but it is not printed
until the publisher receives an order for the book from a customer.
This procedure ensures low costs for storage and reduces the
likelihood of printing more books than will be sold.
Main article: Bibliopegy
In the case of books, binding follows upon the printing process. It
involves folding the printed sheets, "securing them together, affixing
boards or sides to it, and covering the whole with leather or other
The final stage in publication involves making the product available
to the public, usually by offering it for sale. In previous centuries,
authors frequently also acted as their own editor, printer, and
bookseller, but these functions have become separated. Once a book,
newspaper, or another publication is printed, the publisher may use a
variety of channels to distribute it. Books are most commonly sold
through booksellers and through other retailers. Newspapers and
magazines are typically sold in advance directly by the publisher to
subscribers, and then distributed either through the postal system or
by newspaper carriers. Periodicals are also frequently sold through
newsagents and vending machines.
Within the book industry, printers often fly some copies of the
finished book to publishers as sample copies to aid sales or to be
sent out for pre-release reviews. The remaining books often travel
from the printing facility via sea freight. Accordingly, the delay
between the approval of the pre-press proof and the arrival of books
in a warehouse, much less in a retail store, can take some months. For
books that tie into movie release-dates (particularly for children's
films), publishers will arrange books to arrive in store up to two
months prior to the movie release to build interest in the movie.
Publishing as a business
Eslite Bookstore in Taiwan.
Derided in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica as "a purely commercial
affair" that cared more about profits than about literary quality,
publishing is fundamentally a business, with a need for the expenses
of creating, producing, and distributing a book or other publication
not to exceed the income derived from its sale.
Publishing is now a
major industry with the largest companies
Reed Elsevier and Pearson
PLC having global publishing operations.
The publisher usually controls the advertising and other marketing
tasks, but may subcontract various aspects of the process to
specialist publisher marketing agencies. In many companies, editing,
proofreading, layout, design, and other aspects of the production
process are done by freelancers.
Dedicated in-house salespeople are sometimes replaced by companies who
specialize in sales to bookshops, wholesalers, and chain stores for a
fee. This trend is accelerating as retail book chains and supermarkets
have centralized their buying.
If the entire process up to the stage of printing is handled by an
outside company or individuals, and then sold to the publishing
company, it is known as book packaging. This is a common strategy
between smaller publishers in different territorial markets where the
company that first buys the intellectual property rights then sells a
package to other publishers and gains an immediate return on capital
invested. The first publisher will often print sufficient copies for
all markets and thereby get the maximum quantity efficiency on the
print run for all.
Some businesses maximize their profit margins through vertical
integration; book publishing is not one of them. Although newspaper
and magazine companies still often own printing presses and binderies,
book publishers rarely do. Similarly, the trade usually sells the
finished products through a distributor who stores and distributes the
publisher's wares for a percentage fee or sells on a sale or return
The advent of the
Internet has provided the electronic way of book
distribution without the need of physical printing, physical delivery
and storage of books. This, therefore, poses an interesting question
that challenges publishers, distributors, and retailers. The question
pertains to the role and importance the publishing houses have in the
overall publishing process. It is a common practice that the author,
the original creator of the work, signs the contract awarding him or
her only around 10% of the proceeds of the book. Such contract
leaves 90% of the book proceeds to the publishing houses, distribution
companies, marketers, and retailers. One example (rearranged) of the
distribution of proceeds from the sale of a book was given as
45% to the retailer
10% to the wholesaler
10.125% to the publisher for printing (this is usually subcontracted
7.15% to the publisher for marketing
12.7% to the publisher for pre-production
15% to the author (royalties)
There is a common misconception that publishing houses make large
profits and that authors are the lowest paid in the publishing chain.
However, most publishers make little profit from individual titles,
with 75% of books not breaking even. Approximately 80% of the cost of
a book is taken up by the expenses of preparing, distributing, and
printing (with printing being one of the lowest costs of all). On
successful titles, publishing companies will usually make around 10%
profit, with the author(s) receiving 8-15% of the retail price.
However, given that authors are usually individuals, are often paid
advances irrespective of whether the book turns a profit and do not
normally have to split profits with others, it makes them the highest
paid individuals in the publishing process.
Within the electronic book path, the publishing house's role remains
almost identical. The process of preparing a book for e-book
publication is exactly the same as print publication, with only minor
variations in the process to account for the different mediums of
publishing. While some costs, such as the discount given to retailers
(normally around 45%) are eliminated, additional costs connected
to ebooks apply (especially in the conversion process), raising the
production costs to a similar level.
Print on demand
Print on demand is rapidly becoming an established alternative to
traditional publishing. In 2005,
Amazon.com announced its purchase of
Booksurge and selfsanepublishing, a major "print on demand" operation.
CreateSpace is the Amazon subsidiary that facilitates publishing by
small presses and individual authors. Books published via CreateSpace
are sold on Amazon and other outlets, with Amazon extracting a very
high percentage of the sales proceeds for the services of publishing.
printing and distributing. One of the largest bookseller chains,
Barnes & Noble, already runs its successful imprint with both new
titles and classics — hardback editions of out-of-print former best
sellers. Similarly, Ingram Industries, the parent company of Ingram
Book Group (a leading US book wholesaler), now includes its
print-on-demand division called Lightning Source. In 2013, Ingram
launched a small press and self-publishing arm called Ingram
Spark. Payment terms are much closer to those of Amazon and less
favorable than those they offer to more established publishers via
Lightning Source. Among publishers, Simon & Schuster recently
announced that it will start selling its backlist titles directly to
consumers through its website.
Book clubs are almost entirely direct-to-retail, and niche publishers
pursue a mixed strategy to sell through all available outlets —
their output is insignificant to the major booksellers, so lost
revenue poses no threat to the traditional symbiotic relationships
between the four activities of printing, publishing, distribution, and
Main article: Newspaper
Newspapers are regularly scheduled publications that present recent
news, typically on a type of inexpensive paper called newsprint. Most
newspapers are primarily sold to subscribers, through retail
newsstands or are distributed as advertising-supported free
newspapers. About one-third of publishers in the United States are
Main article: Periodical publication
Nominally, periodical publishing involves publications that appear in
a new edition on a regular schedule. Newspapers and magazines are both
periodicals, but within the industry, the periodical publishing is
frequently considered a separate branch that includes magazines and
even academic journals, but not newspapers. About one-third of
publishers in the United States publish periodicals (not including
See also: History of books
Book publishing company" redirects here. For the publisher named Book
Publishing Company, see The Farm (Tennessee).
The global book publishing industry accounts for over $100 billion of
annual revenue, or about 15% of the total media industry.
Book publishers represent less than a sixth of the publishers in the
United States. Most books are published by a small number of very
large book publishers, but thousands of smaller book publishers exist.
Many small- and medium-sized book publishers specialize in a specific
area. Additionally, thousands of authors have created publishing
companies and self-published their own works.
Within the book publishing, the publisher of record for a book is the
entity in whose name the book's
ISBN is registered. The publisher of
record may or may not be the actual publisher.
Approximately 60% of English-language books are produced through
the "Big Five" publishing houses: Penguin Random House, Hachette,
HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan. (See also: List of
English-language book publishing companies.)
Directory publishing is a specialized genre within the publishing
industry. These publishers produce mailing lists, telephone books, and
other types of directories. With the advent of the Internet, many
of these directories are now online.
Main article: Academic publishing
Academic publishers are typically either book or periodical publishers
that have specialized in academic subjects. Some, like university
presses, are owned by scholarly institutions. Others are commercial
businesses that focus on academic subjects.
The development of the printing press represented a revolution for
communicating the latest hypotheses and research results to the
academic community and supplemented what a scholar could do
personally. But this improvement in the efficiency of communication
created a challenge for libraries, which have had to accommodate the
weight and volume of literature.
One of the key functions that academic publishers provide is to manage
the process of peer review. Their role is to facilitate the impartial
assessment of research and this vital role is not one that has yet
been usurped, even with the advent of social networking and online
Today, publishing academic journals and textbooks is a large part of
an international industry. Critics claim that standardised accounting
and profit-oriented policies have displaced the publishing ideal of
providing access to all. In contrast to the commercial model, there is
non-profit publishing, where the publishing organization is either
organised specifically for the purpose of publishing, such as a
university press, or is one of the functions of an organisation such
as a medical charity, founded to achieve specific practical goals. An
alternative approach to the corporate model is open access, the online
distribution of individual articles and academic journals without
charge to readers and libraries. The pioneers of Open Access journals
BioMed Central and the Public Library of Science (PLoS). Many
commercial publishers are experimenting with hybrid models where
certain articles or government funded articles are made free due to
authors' payment of processing charges, and other articles are
available as part of a subscription or individual article purchase.
Main article: Tie-in
Technically, radio, television, cinemas, VCDs and DVDs, music systems,
games, computer hardware and mobile telephony publish information to
their audiences. Indeed, the marketing of a major film often includes
a novelization, a graphic novel or comic version, the soundtrack
album, a game, model, toys and endless promotional publications.
Some of the major publishers have entire divisions devoted to a single
franchise, e.g. Ballantine Del Rey Lucasbooks has the exclusive rights
to Star Wars in the United States; Random House UK
(Bertelsmann)/Century LucasBooks holds the same rights in the United
Kingdom. The game industry self-publishes through BL Publishing/Black
Library (Warhammer) and Wizards of the Coast (Dragonlance, Forgotten
Realms, etc.). The BBC has its publishing division that does very well
with long-running series such as Doctor Who. These multimedia works
are cross-marketed aggressively and sales frequently outperform the
average stand-alone published work, making them a focus of corporate
Independent publishing alternatives
See also: Alternative media
Writers in a specialized field or with a narrower appeal have found
smaller alternatives to the mass market in the form of small presses
and self-publishing. More recently, these options include print on
demand and ebook format. These publishing alternatives provide an
avenue for authors who believe that mainstream publishing will not
meet their needs or who are in a position to make more money from
direct sales than they could from bookstore sales, such as popular
speakers who sell books after speeches. Authors are more readily
published by this means due to the much lower costs involved.
The 21st century has brought some new technological changes to the
publishing industry. These changes include e-books, print on demand,
and accessible publishing.
E-books have been quickly growing in
availability in major publishing markets such as the USA and the UK
since 2005. Google, Amazon.com, and
Sony have been leaders in working
with publishers and libraries to digitize books. As of early 2011,
Amazon's Kindle reading device is a significant force in the market,
along with the Apple iPad and the Nook from Barnes &
Noble. Along with the growing popularity of e-books,
some companies like Oyster and
Scribd have pursued the subscription
model, providing members unlimited access to a content library on a
variety of digital reading devices.
The ability to quickly and cost-effectively print on demand has meant
that publishers no longer have to store books at warehouses, if the
book is in low or unknown demand. This is a huge advantage to small
publishers who can now operate without large overheads and large
publishers who can now cost-effectively sell their backlisted items.
Accessible publishing uses the digitization of books to mark up books
XML and then produces multiple formats from this to sell to
consumers, often targeting those with difficulty reading. Formats
include a variety larger print sizes, specialized print formats for
dyslexia, eye tracking problems and macular degeneration, as well
as Braille, DAISY, audiobooks and e-books.
Green publishing means adapting the publishing process to minimise
environmental impact. One example of this is the concept of on-demand
printing, using digital or print-on-demand technology. This cuts down
the need to ship books since they are manufactured close to the
customer on a just-in-time basis.
A further development is the growth of on-line publishing where no
physical books are produced. The ebook is created by the author and
uploaded to a website from where it can be downloaded and read by
An increasing number of authors are using niche marketing online to
sell more books by engaging with their readers online. These
authors can use free services such as
Smashwords or Amazon's
CreateSpace to have their book available for worldwide sale. There is
an obvious attraction for first time authors who have been repeatedly
rejected by the existing agent/publisher model to explore this
opportunity. However, a consequence of this change in the mechanics of
book distribution is that there is now no mandatory check on author
skill or even their ability to spell, and any person with an internet
connection can publish whatever they choose, regardless of the
literary merit or even basic readability of their writing.
Refer to the ISO divisions of ICS 01.140.40 and 35.240.30 for further
World Intellectual Property Organization, Geneva
Main article: Publication
Publication is the distribution of copies or content to the
public. The Berne Convention requires that this can only be
done with the consent of the copyright holder, which is initially
always the author. In the Universal
"publication" is defined in article VI as "the reproduction in
tangible form and the general distribution to the public of copies of
a work from which it can be read or otherwise visually perceived."
In providing a work to the general public, the publisher takes
responsibility for the publication in a way that a mere printer or a
shopkeeper does not. For example, publishers may face charges of
defamation, if they produce and distribute libelous material to the
public, even if the libel was written by another person.
Privishing (private publishing) is a modern term for publishing a book
in such a small amount, or with such lack of marketing, advertising or
sales support from the publisher, that the book effectively does not
reach the public. The book, while nominally published, is almost
impossible to obtain through normal channels such as bookshops, often
cannot be special-ordered and will have a notable lack of support from
its publisher, including refusals to reprint the title. A book that is
privished may be referred to as "killed". Depending on the motivation,
privishing may constitute breach of contract, censorship, or good
business practice (e.g., not printing more books than the publisher
believes will sell in a reasonable length of time).
Concentration of media ownership
Lists of publishing companies
List of book distributors
Open access publishing
Serials, periodicals and journals
Publishing on specific contexts:
Books published per country per year
List of best-selling books
Document management system
Web publishing tools
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Schiffrin, André (2000). The Business of Books: How the International
Conglomerates Took Over
Publishing and Changed the Way We Read.
Ugrešić, Dubravka (2003). Thank You for Not Reading.
Abelson et al. (2005). Open Networks and Open Society: The
Relationship between Freedom, Law, and Technology
Leonard Shatzkin (1982). In Cold Type: Overcoming the
Boston, Mass.: Houghton-Mifflin. xiii, 297 pp. ISBN 0-395-32160-3
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