Publishing is the activity of making information, literature, music, software and other content available to the public for sale or for free. Traditionally, the term refers to the distribution of printed works, such as books, newspapers, and magazines. With the advent of digital information systems, the scope has expanded to include electronic publishing such as ebooks, academic journals, micropublishing, websites, blogs, video game publishing, and the like.
Publishing may produce private, club, commons or public goods and may be conducted as a commercial, public, social or community activity. The commercial publishing industry ranges from large multinational conglomerates such as RELX, Pearson and Thomson Reuters to thousands of small independents. It has various divisions such as: trade/retail publishing of fiction and non-fiction, educational publishing and academic and scientific publishing. Publishing is also undertaken by governments, civil society and private companies for administrative or compliance requirements, business, research, advocacy or public interest objectives. This can include annual reports, research reports, market research, policy briefings and technical reports. Self-publishing has become very common.
"Publisher" can refer to a publishing company or organization, an individual who leads a publishing company or an imprint, or to an individual who leads a periodical.
Publishing in lawPublication is 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
- For copyright purposes, where there is a difference in the protection of published and unpublished works
HistoryPublishing 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 work. 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 widely available.
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.
Missionaries brought printing presses to sub-Saharan Africa in the mid-18th century.
Historically, publishing has been handled by publishers, although some authors self-published. The establishment of the World Wide Web in 1989 soon propelled the website into a dominant medium of publishing. Wikis and Blogs soon developed, followed by 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 publishingBook publishers buy or commission copy from independent authors; newspaper publishers, by contrast, usually hire staff to produce copy, although they may also employ freelance journalists, called stringers. Magazines may employ either strategy or a mixture.
Traditional book publishers are selective about what they publish. They do not accept manuscripts direct from authors. Authors must first submit a query letter or proposal, either to a literary agent or direct to the publisher. depending on the publisher's submission guidelines. If the publisher does accept unsolicited manuscripts, then the manuscript is placed in the slush pile, which publisher's readers sift through to identify manuscripts worthy of publication. The acquisitions editors review these and if they agree, send them to the editorial staff. Larger companies have more levels of assessment between submission and publication than smaller companies. Unsolicited submissions have a very low rate of acceptance, with some estimates as low as 3 out of every 10,000 being accepted.
Acceptance and negotiationOnce a work is accepted, commissioning editors negotiate the purchase of intellectual property rights and agree on royalty rates.
Authors typically sell exclusive territorial intellectual property rights that match the list of countries in which distribution is proposed. 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.
Where distribution is to be by CD-ROM or other physical media, the same rules are applied. However if distribution is offered electronically on the internet, national copyright can no longer be applied and this presents legal problems. These 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.
The parties must then agree on royalty rates,, and the advance payment. The publisher will estimate the potential sales and balance projected revenue against production costs. Royalties usually range between 10–12% of RRP. An advance is usually one third of the first print run's projected royalties. For example, if the first print run is 5000 copies at $14.95 with 10% royalties, potential royalties would be $7475. The advance would therefore be $2490. Advances vary greatly, with established authors commanding larger advances.
Stages of PublishingThe publishing process includes creation, acquisition, copy editing, production, printing, marketing, and distribution.
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.
The publisher may subcontract various aspects of this process to specialist companies and/or freelancers.
Editorial stageIt is likely the author will be asked to work with an editor to improve the quality of 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. Editing may also involve structural changes and requests for more information. Some publishers employ fact checkers, particularly regarding non-fiction works.
Design stageThis stage includes the visual appearance of the product. The design process prepares the work for printing through processes such as typesetting, dust jacket composition, specification of paper quality, binding method and casing.
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 PDF files.
Sales and marketing stageAs editing and design are underway, sales people may start talking about the book with their customers to build early interest. Publishing companies often send advance information sheets to customers or overseas publishers to gauge possible sales. 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 altogether.
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.
PrintingOnce editing and design are complete, the printing phase begins, starting with a pre-press proof, 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 correct errors. Some printing companies use electronic proofs rather than printed proofs. Once approved, printing – the physical production of the printed work – begins.
Recently new printing process have emerged, such as printing on demand and web-to-print. 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. Web-to-print enables a more streamlined way of connecting customers to printing through an online medium.