Demystifying the Production Process: How a Book is Born

So, you find out that your chapter is accepted for publication and the book is in production, or maybe you’ve authored a book and you’ve finished your manuscript. You’re excited for the proofs! And then…there’s a big wait.

It can take anywhere from 4 to 6 months from the time you submit your chapter or manuscript to the time you get the finished book in your hands. What’s the hold up? It actually takes quite a lot of work—and quite a lot of people—to take the book from a submitted manuscript to a physical product you can hold in your hands. Let’s take an in-depth look at what’s going on behind the scenes to create the finished product.

Manuscript Assessment

First, the Technical Assessment (TA) team goes through each chapter to make sure all required elements have been submitted. Forgot to upload figure 5? Missing references? The TA team will let us know, so we can follow up and make sure we’ve accounted for all materials. The TA team will also provide us with what’s called a “cast off”, a tentative page count from the submitted manuscript. We compare this to the expected page count of the book that was set at the beginning of the project. For any major deviations, we may get in touch with you to add or reduce content or change the interior design or size of the book to get closer to the expected page count.

Generally, this step takes one week.

At this point, you’ll have heard from your book’s Production Manager (PM). He or she is the person who coordinates the whole production process, working closely with your Editorial Project Manager (EPM), the TA team, the typesetters, and the printers and suppliers to get the book made.

Copyediting

Next, each chapter is sent to a copyeditor, who will clear up any grammatical issues. On multi-contributed books, this step can be particularly important for chapters not written in native English. Our copyeditors take great care to ensure no changes alter the scientific meaning of the text.

Copyediting can take a while, especially for very large books! This step can take anywhere from three to six weeks.

Typesetting

This is the first step towards making the book look like a professional text. The original chapter files, which are usually submitted as Word or LaTeX documents, are reformatted to fit a particular interior design template. Each interior design has slightly different spacing, words per page, fonts and styling. Designs are chosen based on the needs of a particular book, and its size and color specifications.

The typesetter is also responsible for reformatting references, equations, and even redrawing figures where needed.

Typesetting usually takes about three weeks. Redrawing figures, reformatting tables, relabeling figures and other tasks can add additional time to this process.

Proofing

Now, it’s your turn to help the production process. The PM will either send you a PDF of your copyedited, typeset chapter, or you’ll receive a special link to access our online proofing system, called Proof Central. You may also see that the PM has left you some questions about your chapter, so now’s the time to answer them. This is also the last chance you’ll have to make any final changes to your chapter, so make sure you look everything over carefully.

It’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t the time to introduce any major changes unless you find a big mistake or error. Otherwise, making large changes this late in the process increases the likelihood of introducing unintentional errors at a time when there are fewer opportunities for these errors to be caught. So, look carefully, double-check your work, and save any new sections for the next edition of the book.

Our production team asks for proofs to be returned in two weeks, and it can take anywhere from four to six weeks to create the revised, final proofs.

Back Cover

Earlier in the publishing process, your EPM worked with you and Elsevier’s design team to create the front cover of the book. Now, it’s time to make the back cover and spine. Although relatively simple and straightforward in design, the back’s cover is where some of the most important information is contained. In addition to the title and authors/editors names and affiliations, we put a general description of the book on the back cover, along with some of its key features, all to attract readers and help them ensure that this particular book is what they need. The back sometimes includes a brief bio of the author/editor, or endorsements from experts who have reviewed the book in advance.

Book Printing and eBook Development

After you’ve reviewed your proofs and sent any changes back to the PM, they will be incorporated into the final pages. At this point, the index for the book is createdand will be sent to the author/editor to give them the opportunity to review and note any changes. Our team will double check to make sure all material that goes in the front or back of the book is finalized.

Once the pages are complete, the PM will send the digital files to the printer. Concurrently, the production team will create the eBook version of the work, which is highly-searchable and contains clickable links and bookmarks that make it easy to navigate in, and across, chapters with a simple click.

As for the print book, we use several different printers in different areas around the world who have been thoroughly vetted for their quality.

In general, it takes two to four weeks to officially publish a book after the files arrive at the printer. The difference in print time depends on the method chosen for the book – for example, print on demand books take about two weeks to publish, whereas digitally printed books need about four weeks to be printed and published.

What’s “Print on Demand”?

Many of our books are now POD, or “print on demand.” This means that instead of having many copies of a book printed in advance and stored in a warehouse for selling, books are printed only when they are ordered. Our suppliers are able to do this very quickly, so there’s no difference in the amount of time it takes for you to receive a book that’s literally “hot off the presses” rather than one that has been printed ahead of time.

Why did we decide to go POD? It really comes down to eliminating waste. POD ensures the most up-to-date version is always the one available for sale and allows us to make small updates if needed at any time. Not having existing stock also means that there is no overstock that may or may never get sold. It’s also important to point out that many of our books operate on a hybrid printing model – in that we may go ahead and print a certain number of copies right out of the gate, but any additional copies after this first batch is sold are printed on demand.

All in a Day’s Work

Surprised with how much work goes into making a physical book? We know it’s a lot, but the result is worth it. It’s also important to know that we’re constantly looking for new ways to shorten the time it takes to go from manuscript submission to publication as we know science moves fast and it’s imperative that your important work goes to market as soon as possible.

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